Reasons for midnight cravings and how to manage them.
Midnight cravings are no joke. We all at some point had cravings, especially when stressed or emotionally low. Food cravings are related to our emotions or sometimes even nutritional deficiencies can make one crave processed food items like fried, salty snacks or sweets.
With our rapidly changing lifestyles, we tend to prioritize everything besides giving time to ourselves and body. We continue to give in to our cravings and this impacts our health, and of course, our weight. Worldwide obesity has nearly tripled and we need to understand what and how we can take control of our health and weight. Frequent cravings are one of the top concerns for the over-weight category and clinically speaking- cravings are normal and once in while even enjoying your favorite snack is, in fact, advisable. However, giving in to a craving for junk food now and then can cause severe health damage.
In some cases, it may not be in our control and that could be due to habit, stress or hormonal imbalance. To break the cycle and completely get rid of the habit, we need to understand the reason/trigger and accordingly work on reducing frequent cravings.
Here are some common reasons behind the cravings and what can we do to reduce them:
- Improper Nutrition:
Not prioritizing a balanced diet. Consuming high amounts of refined carbohydrates in our diet leads to blood sugar fluctuation and that leaves one feeling hungrier and fewer satiety levels with food. Lack of protein & good fats in your meals can leave you feeling unsatisfied with what you eat. Some tend to even exclude veggies from their diet completely and that makes it worse, as fibers are a key nutrient to keeping us fuller.
- Lack of sleep:
Ghrelin & leptin are two hormones regulated during sleep. When we don’t get enough sleep, the ghrelin levels shoot up and leptin levels reduce – Ghrelin is a hormone that increases appetite and leptin reduces hunger. When this happens, we end up consuming more calories and that leads to weight gain and discomfort in our gut.
- Hormonal changes:
Hunger & cravings are largely influenced by hormones. When there is hormonal fluctuation in the body due to stress, menstruation, pregnancy, environmental factors, and some medical condition, we tend to feel hungrier or retort to finding comfort in food like ice cream, chocolate, chips, or aerated drinks. In most cases, it is sugar cravings and we tend to confuse emotional hunger with physical hunger and end up eating a large quantity.
- Lack of physical activity
Exercising not only keeps our physical health in check but also our mental health. When you increase physical activity – our hormones are regulated better, our mood improves and there is more blood circulation in the body. When our overall physical activity levels decrease, we tend to eat more, and especially the cravings increase. This leads to overconsumption of food.
Your brain confuses thirst with hunger, the signals for thirst & hunger often get mixed, and hence, many times, we end up eating when actually what you need is water. Staying hydrated is the key to throwing off unnecessary cravings in middle meals or in night.
- Balanced diet
Include more protein in your diet- Nuts, seeds, pulses, legumes, lentils, tofu, cottage cheese, eggs, chicken & fish.
Add more vegetables – Add veggies to all your meals, including salads for lunch & dinner.
Include good fats in your diet – Ghee, coconut, butter, avocado, olives, seeds & nuts.
Have a minimum of 3- 4 liters of water a day. If you do not prefer having plain water, you can include more water in your daily consumption by adding infused water, soups, coconut water & fresh lime water.
- Physical activity:
Staying active and including at least 20- 30 mins of exercise, 4- 5 times a week can have a drastic effect on how you feel and your appetite. It gets you past cravings and helps you stay motivated and on track. You feel have a natural appetite from time to time for foods nourishing your body.
- Plan your meals in advance:
Keep your meals ready for time-to-time. This way when you are hungry, you have your healthy meal around you and this ensures that you do not end up binge eating unhealthy snacks when hungry.
Getting a minimum of 6-7 hours of sleep is extremely crucial when it comes to reducing hunger pangs or cravings. Ensure you maintain the same time every day and ensure the room is pitch dark for deep sleep.
Simple lifestyle changes can bring about a big change in your physical as well as mental health. Nourishing and treating your body right is extremely important.
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