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Forget Eating—Just Smelling Food May Satisfy Hunger Cravings

Forget Eating—Just Smelling Food May Satisfy Hunger Cravings

Researchers tempted hungry middle schoolers with three different scents—here's what they found.

Smelling food instead of actually eating seems like a ridiculous celebrity-induced weight-loss hack—but according to new research, it may actually satisfy some cravings.

In a new study in the Journal of Research Marketing, researchers from the University of South Florida found that a few minutes of simply smelling an unhealthy meal—like deep-dish cheese pizza, for example—seems to signal satisfaction to the brain as much when you actually eat it.

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The study tackled a sales tactic where scent is used to sell products, otherwise known in the industry as ambient scent: It's used by restaurants and supermarkets to get shoppers to buy ready-to-eat products. One particular example illustrated in the study is at the high-end Chicago restaurant, Alinea, where fresh cinnamon sticks and rosemary are burned as an actual appetizer.

To see exactly how scent plays a role into what we actually order and eat, the team of researchers decided to test both shoppers in a supermarket and hungry teens in a middle school cafeteria.

On three different days, students at the school were exposed to ambient scents. On one day they smelled freshly baked pizza (which served as an indulgent food). On another, they experienced the scent of an apple. And on the third day, there was no scents, to provide a control. Researchers used a high-tech nebulizer to waft the scents into the criteria before recording whether or not students chose more indulgent meals at the checkout line.

Surprisingly, researchers noted that students purchased fewer "unhealthy" meals when the pizza was wafted into the air.

More surprising health research to read up on:

At the supermarket, the team filled the store with smells of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies—followed by strawberries, with an hour in between to let aromas fade. They surveyed receipts of purchases made in that time to see how many healthy staples (things like veggies and fruits) were purchased, versus indulgent items (like cakes from the bakery).

Here, researchers also discovered more healthier items were purchased when cookies were in play—they also noticed the inverse was true for the strawberry experiment. Their conclusion was that just two minutes of being exposed to a scent was enough to influence the "reduced purchase of unhealthy foods."

“We propose that this occurs because scents related to an indulgent food satisfy the reward circuitry in the brain, which in turn reduces the urge for actual consumption of indulgent foods,” the authors wrote.

The study makes it clear that the results are limited, because it focused on the food that was purchased and not actually eaten—and that further research is needed to see how other factors, including how long people can stave off their cravings, could influence results. Furthermore, it's unclear if the scents used in this experiment were actually enticing to participants, as quality of the scents themselves weren't discussed.

The bottom line: While it may sound ridiculous, smelling a favorite indulgent meal could signal as much pleasure and satisfaction to the brain as actually eating it. But these findings need to be replicated and observed in different settings before a solid link is proven, so take this news with a hint of salt.

8 Surprising Reasons You're Always Hungry

If you're eating frequently, but can't seem to tame your appetite, these weird things could be to blame.

Ever have days where you just can&apost seem to get full? Sometimes the reasons are easy to trace back to diet: maybe you&aposre not eating enough calories, or you&aposre getting too little protein or fat, which can leave you feeling empty.

But what if you can&apost find a logical reason for hunger? Here are eight surprising reasons for why you&aposre always hungry (and how to fix it).

The difference between hunger and appetite

By now, you already know that your energy levels depend on the foods you are eating throughout the day. The first who can tell us we ran out of energy is not the stomach, but the brain.

In a study from 2008, it was explained that: „The brain detects alterations in energy stores and triggers metabolic and behavioral responses designed to maintain energy balance. Energy homeostasis is controlled mainly by neuronal circuits in the hypothalamus and brainstem, whereas reward and motivation aspects of eating behavior are controlled by neurons in limbic regions and cerebral cortex.”

Appetite = the desire for food triggered by senses (seeing, smelling, or thinking about food).

Hunger = a normal sensation triggered by the brain when the stomach is empty.

In the hypothalamus, there are 2 main hunger hormones localized that we need to take into consideration:

  • leptin: hormone made by fat cells that decreases appetite.
  • ghrelin: hormone released in the stomach which signals hunger to the brain in order to increase appetite.

Now that we know how to distinguish between hunger and appetite, let's dive deeper into the first one.

How to Curb Your Appetite

If you practice intermittent fasting, you may find that you tend to eat more than you need to during your eating window. After fating for, say, 16-20 hours, you may find yourself reaching for food during your eating window even when you are not hungry. Simply because you are in your eating window, you want to eat! Here are some practical tips to help you curb your appetite:

  • Eat more healthy fats.
  • Eat enough protein (enough to fill the palm of your hand).
  • Eat plenty of fiber (eating tons of vegetables is the best way to do that).
  • Drink water before your meal (I like to drink my Power Shake and follow it with a large salad).
  • Exercise or go for a walk before your meal.
  • Eat mindfully and chew slowly.
  • Don’t stress about it! If you are practicing intermittent fasting and eating whole foods, a bit of overeating during your eating window is not a big deal! It will not nullify all your efforts!

Learn more about how I used intermittent fasting to kick the food cravings and lose 20 lbs in my Intermittent Fasting 101 Workshop.

18 songs about food that will make you hungry

Music can make us many feel many things: happiness, sadness, melancholy or joy. After listening to this list, you’ll agree a good tune can also make you feel pangs of hunger. From burritos to buttered popcorn, just try to walk away without considering how to satisfy your new cravings.

There are countless songs out there that mention food. What others do you think should make the list?

Hot Burrito #2 — The Flying Burrito Brothers (1969)

If you’re going to name your band “The Flying Burrito Brothers” you had better write a song about burritos.

Mango Tree — Zac Brown Band (Feat. Sara Bareilles) (2015)

This easy, breezy tune transports you to a place where the tropical fruit is plentiful and delicious adult drinks flow freely.

Buttered Popcorn — The Supremes (1961)

The Surpremes give a fun ode to when Buttered Popcorn could be the highlight of your night out. But don’t judge their dietary decisions. Sadly, that buttered popcorn probably had less calories than the entire take-out containers of Chinese food we’re likely to take down while watching Netflix this weekend.

Cheeseburger in Paradise — Jimmy Buffett (1978)

You know you know it. “I like mine with lettuce and tomato, Heinz 57 and french fried potatoes.” If you’re not going out to buy a big juicy burger today, you have incredible will power.

Red, Red Wine — UB40 (1983)

Who wouldn’t want a little red after this catchy tune. The literally lyrics sing the praises of red wine, and its ability to make you forget all your woes.

Banana Pancakes — Jack Johnson (2005)

This just may be the cutest, most romantic darn food song ever written. Guys: take note.

Banana Boat Song (Day O)— Harry Belafonte (1956)

While the song is actually about a hard working Caribbean man harvesting bananas, Harry Belafonte’s 1956 calypso-style song has become recognized as a song celebrating the culture of the Caribbean — among it, its delightful sunshine and foods.

Cherry Pie — Warrant (1990)

When hair-metal band Warrant released Cherry Pie in 1990, no one actually thought it was about a fruit-filled baked good. None-the-less, it became one of the all-time most famous songs named after foodstuffs — and ignoring the extremely obvious double entendre — you might actually want a cool, sweet cherry pie after getting the catchy chorus stuck in your head.

Eat it — “Weird Al” Yankovic (1984)

Weird Al celebrates eating in general. Basic, but you have to respect it.

Mashed Potatoes — James Brown (1959)

The Godfather of Soul croons a classic carol about carbs.

Just like Honey — The Jesus and Mary Chain (1985)

The song moves at the pace of honey, but that’s a good thing.

Apple, Peaches, Pumpkin pie — Jay & The Techniques (1966)

You can always count on an oldie for a cheery song about some wholesome foods.

Peaches – Presidents of the United States of America (1996)

Every millennial remembers this 1996 oddball summer smash sit. Presidents of the United States of America lead singer Chris Ballew has said that he wrote “Peaches” after waiting under a peach tree in the yard of a girl he had a crush on to tell her he liked her.

Ham n Eggs — A Tribe Called Quest (1990)

Tribe gave us this excellent jam and put cholesterol concerns on the map for millions of young fans.

Lollipop — The CHORDATES (1958)

Almost unthinkable this could have been a top hit for adults back-in-the day. Now it’s mostly favored by children who love the catchy tune and memorable “Pop!”

One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer (1984)

There are a million drinking songs, but this one can definitely claim to be the coolest.

Tupelo Honey — Van Morrison (1978)

The most beautiful ballad to honey ever created.

Coconut — Harry Nilsson (1971)

Just try not to taste the pina coladas being passed and the smell of SPF in the air.

Eat a Healthy Snack

When blood sugar levels drop, the urge to smoke can seem stronger than ever.   It can even be hard sometimes to distinguish between the craving for sugar and the craving for tobacco. If faced with the urge to smoke, take the healthy choice and grab a nutritious snack like a piece of fruit, a cup of yogurt, or a tablespoon of peanut butter on a couple of saltines.

On the other hand, avoid baked goods, chips, and candy bars that are often packed with saturated fats, high-fructose corn syrup, or refined carbohydrates. Not only will these cause you to pack on the pounds, but they can also send your blood sugar on a rollercoaster ride and make cravings worse.

Cravings 101

On Facebook, I asked about your cravings, and when and why you crave certain foods.

Not surprisingly, you tend to crave sweets, carbs (specifically mentioned were bread and pasta), and salty foods. Some of you have very specific cravings for very specific reasons. Barbara craves Gianduja, a paste made of cocoa, sugar and piemontese hazelnuts – as her “reward after a hard day.”

Several people mentioned cravings (especially for sweets) at certain times of the day, like mid-afternoon when, as Genevieve said, your blood sugar is low and you need a reward. Others crave something sweet after a meal, which Pat says may be “ a habit left over from childhood.” Two people crave ice cream in the evenings–make that three counting me!

Connie likes cold, sweet food when it’s hot (we’ll count that as another vote for ice cream) and Nicole has cravings for chocolate during her period (although that was only comment about that, I’m certain she’s not the only one!).

It’s not just sweets people crave though. Cristina says, “I crave raw meat like coppa or prosciutto” and Liz wants “a grilled steak or pork chop at times.” Wanja in New Zealand craves salty foods – crackers, potato chips, cheese – or a salty meal.

You are sometimes very specific about the textures you crave. Jane in Australia sometimes craves “crispy, crunchy, salty, fatty chippies” (potato chips) but says she’s not quite sure why. Um Jane? Could it be that they are crispy, crunchy, salty, and fatty?

But seriously, let’s explore cravings further.

What Causes Cravings?

Hunger and cravings are different hunger is the need for fuel while cravings are an intense desire for a specific food—with or without hunger. Learning strategies for handling cravings is essential! So let’s break this down into two main parts, beginning with what causes cravings.

Hunger – Whenever you feel like eating, pause to ask, “Am I hungry?” You can be hungry and crave a specific food to satisfy that hunger. If you do have symptoms of hunger, assess how hungry you are by giving yourself a hunger and fullness number. Being overly hungry can make it harder to think rationally and eat mindfully.

Stress – Most people are aware of the correlation between increased stress and cravings. People commonly crave foods like chocolate, cookies, chips, and other foods high in fat, sugar, and calories because they stimulate the reward center of your brain. These foods cause your body to release endorphins—“feel good”—chemicals.

Associations and memories – Remember Pavlov’s dogs? Pairing certain foods with certain places, events, or people creates a link in the brain. In the future, similar circumstances—or a need for the feeling you had in those circumstances, such as pleasure or comfort—can trigger a craving for that particular food.

Deprivation – This is an often overlooked cause of cravings. Dietary restrictions can lead to cravings for the foods you aren’t “allowed” to have. (Just look at the list at the beginning of this article! Not a stalk of broccoli in sight!) As you resist those “forbidden” foods, the cravings may increase, eventually leading to eating—then overeating—those foods. The ensuing guilt reinforces the belief that you must restrict those foods so the “eat-repent-repeat” cycle continues!

How to Handle Cravings

Now that we’ve explored some basic causes of cravings, let’s talk about how to handle cravings mindfully. Mindfulness—awareness of the present moment—puts space between your cravings and your response, giving you an opportunity to gather information and choose how you’ll respond.

Pause for a Body-Mind-Heart scan. Pause to notice what’s going on when you’re craving a particular food.

  • Body: Focus on your physical sensations including hunger, thirst, fatigue, discomfort, or pain.
  • Mind: Notice your thoughts. Besides the food you are craving, what other thoughts do you have? For example, “I’ll never get this all done!” might be driving the desire for an escape into a bag of potato chips.
  • Heart: Next, focus on your emotions. What are you feeling right now? For example, could feeling stressed out be the reason you’re craving homemade chocolate chip cookies—a treat that reminds you of a simpler time in your life?

Get curious! See if you can connect the dots to figure out where your craving came from. For example, had you recently seen a commercial, billboard, or ad for that particular food. (There’s a reason companies spend billions of dollars on advertising!) Do you have an association with this particular person, place, or event? Does your craving give you any clues about what your needs are right now? (Think comfort food!)

Is there some other way to meet your need? We have a saying: When a craving doesn’t come from hunger, eating will never satisfy it. Often, that nagging desire to eat something even though you’re not hungry is a hint of an unmet need. By identifying what you’re feeling, you’ll be better able to identify the underlying need. For example, if you feel lonely, you may need connection. If you feel overwhelmed, you may need help, prioritization, or a break. What small step can you take to meet your need? Ultimately, meeting your true needs will be more satisfying than eating.

Eat mindfully. There is nothing wrong with eating a food that you’re craving! Granted, you’ll enjoy it more when you’re hungry, but either way, eat it mindfully without distractions. After all, if you wanted it that bad, then it deserves your full attention.

Don’t feed the Eat-Repent-Repeat Cycle. What you resist persists—and insists! If you are experiencing guilt and telling yourself that you shouldn’t be eating that food, you may paradoxically find yourself eating more of it! Allow yourself to enjoy it fully, mindfully, and without guilt. (Read Got Cravings? Three Words to Eliminate from Your Vocabulary.)

Remember balance, variety, and moderation. All foods can fit into a healthy diet so there are no good or bad foods. There’s plenty of room for eating the foods you love using the simple principles of balance, variety, and moderation to guide you.

Practice self-care. By taking care of yourself consistently, you are less likely to crave food to fill the holes in your life!

The Top 10 Foods To Stop Hunger and Cravings for Hours:

Cayenne Pepper

Cayenne pepper can not only speed up metabolism but it is an effective appetite suppressant. The hotness factor of cayenne pepper comes from capsaicin, a compound found in many hot peppers. Capsaicin causes the body to produce extra heat and burn more calories for fuel. The body’s metabolism can increase 15 to 20% for up to two hours after ingesting foods with capsaicin.

Turkey is loaded with Tryptophan, an amino acid that when it enters the brain, it is converted to serotonin, the feel-good neurotransmitter that not only makes you feel good, it turns off the appetite and hunger or cravings are a distant memory.

Oatmeal contains insoluble fiber that will help you reduce your appetite so you can experience weight loss. This fiber slows down the digestive process, balances blood sugar so you can feel fuller, longer. The key is to use non-instant oatmeal. Instant oatmeal is processed and is not as effective as it spikes blood sugar levels leading to hunger and cravings.

“An apple a day can keep your fat away” Eating an apple before or after meals will help you feel full in a hurry and this fullness will last longer. The pectin in apples will help keep you full 1-2 hours after you eat one. Apples are one of the best snacks that will help balance blood sugar and this means it will help prevent you from making poor snack choices.

Almonds contain phenylalanine, an essential amino acid that triggers the release of Cholecystokinin (CCK), a hormone that acts as an appetite suppressant. It slows down the digestive process that allows the brain to recognize your tummy is satisfied. Just a handful of almonds, about 15 almonds, is all it takes.

Just sniffing the smell of peppermint (which is calorie free) can stop cravings and turn off your appetite. The scent hits nerve receptors in the nose that in the end, triggers hormones to be released that tell the brain you are satiated.

Try chewing on the leaves or adding a couple drops of pure peppermint oil to your drinking water to help quell your cravings.

Foods rich in unsaturated fats such as avocados send the message to your brain to stop eating. An unsaturated fatty acid called oleic acid stimulates production of OEA, which in turn decreases appetite by creating a feeling of fullness. Avocados are also rich in fiber which further helps tamp down the hunger pangs.

Whey Protein

Whey protein increases the hormone cholecystokinin (CCK), the hormone responsible for appetite regulation and that quells hunger or cravings and reduces levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin better than other types of protein, which helps improve hunger control. The body requires more energy to digest protein than other food, which causes an increase in metabolism. This in turn, results in a higher potential to burn calories than either fat or carbohydrates. Whey protein also helps build muscle and boost your immune system.

An egg has only sixty calories and its high protein content makes it a natural appetite suppressant. Studies have shown that people, who eat eggs for breakfast, lose twice as much weight as those who don’t have eggs. High protein foods such as eggs increase secretion of an appetite suppressing hormone known as PYY which helps to suppress hunger naturally. Whether they’re scrambled, boiled, or poached, eggs are a good choice for breakfast or even a mid-day snack to help prevent nagging hunger and cravings for hours.

Beans will fire-up your fat burn and keep you full for hours. They will not only keep your metabolism primed, but will also reduce blood sugar, and create the fatty acid butyrate, which may burn fat faster. Enjoy beans in a salad, in a dip or as a side dish.

Okay..water is not a food but is critical. Drinking just two eight ounce glasses of water before meals will help you not only to feel fuller, but to lose weight as well. Water is very effective because it fills up the stomach allowing people to by-pass the calorie laden foods, make healthier food choices and not want to eat as much. The brain confuses thirst with hunger as well, so a glass of water is really what you need..not food. Also, even more weight loss will result if water is swapped for soda.

These foods will enable you to not only stop hunger and cravings and allow you to be in control of what you choose to eat, but to create optimal health as well…a win-win.

©2015 DLS HealthWorks, LLC. Lori Shemek, PhD health expert and weight loss expert. Author of How To Fight FATflammation! and the best-selling author of ‘Fire-Up Your Fat Burn!’

The New Way to Conquer Cravings

The latest research says you can actually rewire your brain to keep temptation at bay. Here's how to do it.

Todd HuffmanYou&aposre sitting at your desk going about your workday when suddenly, out of nowhere, you&aposre overcome with the desire—no, need is more like it—to devour a giant sticky bun. Your mouth is watering just thinking about the gooey-sweet glaze, the ribbons of butter and cinnamon. Is it your imagination, or is your heart beating faster?

Willpower, shmillpower
That&aposs when the bargaining begins: I&aposll have just a bite and freeze the rest. Or maybe I&aposll eat half of it—I&aposve been good today—no, all of it, but I&aposll skip dinner tonight.

Cravings. Research is only just beginning to shed light on why so many of us succumb to them. Although scientists are still piecing together the puzzle of what exactly happens when you&aposre in the throes of a craving, this much they know for sure: Every craving begins with a cue. The cue for a sticky bun may be something as simple as getting a whiff of its buttery aroma as you walk past your favorite bakery, or catching a glimpse of a TV commercial featuring one.

"Any cue that&aposs repeatedly associated with high-fat and/or sugary foods can trigger a craving," explains Ashley Gearhardt, PhD, a psychologist and food addiction expert at the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University.

In other words, if you like to celebrate the end of a workweek with margaritas and Tex-Mex, eventually a craving for those things will automatically kick in every Friday afternoon. If you grew up equating, even subconsciously, your mother&aposs homemade chocolate layer cake with comfort, you&aposll likely crave some version of that whenever you have a bad day.

The cue activates your brain&aposs pleasure center, causing it to release dopamine, a neurotransmitter that pushes you to seek out the very thing you&aposre lusting after, explains Gearhardt. Over time, this feel-good experience rewires the brain so that you&aposre more likely to crave the food again in the future.

What&aposs more, when you&aposre in full-on craving mode, your brain convinces you that you are famished, making the food more difficult to resist. "Your brain starts pumping out the hunger hormone ghrelin, and your insulin levels drop, making you even hungrier than usual," Gearhardt says. As a result, it&aposs very difficult to satisfy the craving with just a taste.

It almost seems unfair that cravings can increase feelings of hunger. You assume you&aposll satisfy a longing for sticky buns by eating one, but research suggests just the opposite will happen: Instead of paying attention to the physical cues of hunger and fullness, you&aposre driven by the rush of dopamine that&aposs telling you to find and scarf down a sticky bun (now!). And then another.

This also helps explain why you may be powerless in the presence of a dessert tray𠅎ven if you polished off a steak, two sides, and a roll only moments before. "The dessert tray, as well as the spoons and forks that are put in front of you, are all cues that you should eat," says Mark Gold, MD, chairman of the department of psychiatry at the University of Florida and a specialist in addiction medicine research.

It doesn&apost help that the dopamine signal occurs immediately when you come up against a cue, while the satiety signals—those telling you to stop eating𠅊re much slower, taking 12 or more minutes after you eat to kick in. "Your brain can always find more room for food, and for a while after eating, so can your stomach," adds Dr. Gold.

Next Page: Your brain on brownies [ pagebreak ] Your brain on brownies
Believe it or not, cravings originally served a useful purpose, namely to keep our loincloth-clad ancestors alive. "They had powerful urges for energy-dense foods and were driven to get their hands on them in order to survive and reproduce," says Eric Stice, PhD, a senior scientist at the Oregon Research Institute.

Of course, our predecessors didn&apost face high-cal temptations at every turn. Today, we&aposre bombarded by food cues (we view, on average, 7,000-plus food and beverage ads on TV per year). And we don&apost need to put our lives on the line every time a craving strikes. We just open our pantry, hit up the office vending machine, or take a lap around our favorite drive-thru.

It&aposs not just that these high-fat, sugar-filled, sodium-laden foods are convenient—it&aposs that they&aposre actually engineered to make us crave them. "These foods have an effect on the brain that&aposs much stronger than those produced by foods that you could hunt or grow," Dr. Gold says. "Eating fast food french fries, for instance, yields a greater dopamine release than if you were to eat a tomato picked fresh from your garden."

The complexity of tastes, flavors, and textures in processed foods is simply more stimulating for the brain than something that comes from the earth, he explains. Plus, you get a hit of dopamine each time you try a different flavor—making you crave not just one, but a variety of treats so you&aposll get that feel-good experience again.

Todd Huffman"The fact that you could have a burger one day, a burrito the next, and orange sesame chicken the day after that means we live in a sea of dopamine-releasing triggers," says Dr. Gold.

Born to love chips
That explains part of the puzzle, but not all of it. New research suggests that your food preferences𠅊nd thus your cravings—may be formed not just in childhood, but in utero. "One theory is that pregnant women begin teaching their children what&aposs safe and good to eat while they&aposre still in the womb," says Annie Murphy Paul, author of Origins: How the Nine Months Before Birth Shape the Rest of Our Lives. So if your mom ate lots of potato chips and cheesy fries, you may be programmed to crave the same kinds of fatty, salty foods.

What&aposs more, if you equate certain foods with feel-good moments from your childhood, you&aposre likely to turn to them for an emotional pick-me-up. That&aposs because often it&aposs not the foods that we crave as much as the emotions we associate with them. In other words, it isn&apost just your mom&aposs chocolate cake you&aposre wanting, but the warm feeling you had whenever she gave you a slice.

"Pairing foods with particular feelings or situations can imprint an association between an experience and a food," explains Michelle May, MD, author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat. "What you might really want is to feel safe or to remember a time in your life when things were simpler."

Emotional cravings tend to sneak up on us since we&aposre often not aware of the correlation between what we&aposre eating and what we&aposre feeling. For instance, if you experience a longing for a glass of wine and a bowl of pasta in the middle of a hectic workday, you may not realize or even care that what you really want is to feel relaxed and carefree—the way you do on a girls&apos night out at your favorite Italian bistro.

Todd HuffmanManage your munchies
If you can identify the emotions behind the craving, you can try to find ways to fulfill those needs that are more productive than sinking your teeth into a 500-calorie sugar bomb. For instance, you might send an email to schedule a meeting with your boss to discuss your workload and the unrealistic deadlines you&aposve been given.

"If that seems impossible, then maybe what you really need is a vacation to look forward to in order to make the work more bearable," Dr. May says. "In some small way, take steps toward meeting that need, such as making a list of the top 10 places you&aposd like to visit, putting in a request for time off, or taking 15 minutes to browse websites of locations you want to travel to. Even closing your eyes and taking a mini beach vacation in your mind while you breathe deeply can help short-circuit the emotions𠅊nd the craving."

A smart strategy
No matter the source of your craving (whether it began with an environmental cue or an emotional need) there&aposs another tactic that helps derail the chemical cascade: Focus on your short- and long-term health goals.

In a recent study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers examined participants&apos brains in an MRI scan during a craving and found that paying attention to a goal, such as getting in shape, activates the prefrontal cortex𠅊 part of the brain that can inhibit the reward region.

The technique provides a one-two punch. In addition to dulling the craving, it also increases your ability to resist temptation. It may even keep you from rationalizing or bargaining with yourself.

Here&aposs how to make it work for you: Write down a detailed list of health goals you&aposd like to achieve. If you&aposre trying to slim down, list your current weight and how much you want to lose. "Being specific is crucial because it offers you more details that help you to say &aposno,&apos " Dr. Gold says.

For instance, when you know you need to cut 500 calories a day in order to lose a pound a week, and that eating an ice cream sundae will prevent that from happening, you&aposre already engaging the prefrontal cortex and dampening the dopamine release. As soon as a craving strikes, think back to those numbers in order to fight off the urge to give in to that sundae.

Also important: Jot down everything you eat throughout the day in a food journal𠅎specially if you&aposre trying to lose weight. Often when we&aposre motivated to eat by cravings, we tend to inhale the food and quickly forget about it, adds Dr. Gold.

Knowing that you&aposll have to come back to that food journal may reduce your desire to eat it in the first place. "With practice, your ability to resist temptation becomes stronger over time—like a muscle," Gearhardt says. Your prefrontal cortex will kick in more quickly to disrupt the dopamine release and, of course, your craving. Sweet.

Here’s what your food cravings are really telling you

Picture this: it’s 3pm and you’ve sat down for a breather. But into your head pops the idea of toasted banana bread, dripping with butter. You can almost smell it. You can definitely see it – and yes, you want to taste it.

It might be 3pm, 10am or even 9pm, it doesn’t matter what time of day it is, because cravings are real – and different from hunger. They’re usually for something specific. Like milk chocolate, a brownie and cappuccino, a cheesy pizza and coke, chicken schnitzel and chips or peanut butter.

The thing is, sometimes rather than just something your head has told you you have a hankering for, they’re actually a way of your body signaling it needs something extra.

If your cravings are making you feel out of control around food and like you need some extra direction, check out my online program to end binge and emotional eating, Keep It Real.

But if you’re just curious about what your cravings could be pointing to, behold…

Craving something sweet like chocolate

Chocolate is the most commonly craved food, and women are more likely to crave chocolate than men. We crave chocolate because of how it impacts our brain chemicals, making us feel better – particularly if we are stressed or tired – like in the afternoon and after dinner at night.

Many think craving chocolate is a sign of magnesium deficiency but, sorry, this isn’t correct. It’s a myth. I wish it was that easy to cure our obsession with chocolate with a magnesium supplement. We’d all be doing it.

Step away from the screen and see if a piece of fruit will do the trick. Image: Lyndi Cohen

The thing is, we condition ourselves to crave foods at certain times and in certain places. If you can break the pattern, you can break the craving. For example, if you crave chocolate, the best thing to do is to switch off the TV or step away from your computer. See if you can opt for a healthy sweet food like a piece of fruit. But another option is to simply eat the chocolate mindfully, away from screens.

SOLUTION: Don’t eat in front of the TV or computer. Find the patterns to you cravings (location, time) and then you can break them.

Craving sugar and soft drinks

There are two main things that cause sugar cravings.

1. Eating a lot of sugar means you’re going to be less sensitive to sweet things and be able to have – and crave – them more.

2. Not getting enough sleep is a major contributor to sweet cravings. And almost 60% of Australians have trouble sleeping and staying asleep and as a new mum, I feel you.

SOLUTION: Get more sleep. Take yourself to bed 30 minutes earlier a night as a starting point.

Craving carbs like bread and pasta

First up: a sure fire way to increase cravings for carbohydrates is to cut them out of your diet. Research shows that people who crave carbohydrates the most, are those who have dieted.

Your body naturally loves to eat carbohydrates as it’s the body’s preferred energy source. And the good news is, pasta and bread can be a healthy part of your diet. If you’re craving pasta, eat pasta but add as many vegetables into the sauce as possible.

Healthy fats like avos are your friend. Image: Lyndi Cohen

Craving bread? Opt for wholemeal then make sure you swap for healthier toppings that include healthy fats like avocado, salmon and even peanut butter. Adding in healthy fats into your diet may help reduce cravings for unhealthy carbs.

SOLUTION: Don’t cut out carbohydrates. Eat them mindfully.

Craving oily and fried foods

Your body is programmed to crave fat, as it’s an essential nutrient to being able to live and absorb nutrients. We learned from the 90s (the hard way) that cutting out all fat isn’t a good idea. We need to include healthy fats into our diet.

Swap bacon for smoked salmon. Swap butter for avocado. If you want food to be crispy, get an air fryer or bake them, for a healthier take on fried foods.

SOLUTION: Swapping to healthy fats instead of cutting them out.

Craving salty foods

Newsflash: most Aussies eat way too much sodium. The more salt you eat, the more you crave. Now, the highest sources of sodium in our diet are processed foods, fast food like chips and surprisingly sauces and bread. Eating too much salt isn’t healthy for our hearts – and heart disease is the number one killer in Australia.

The best thing to do is to cook at home more, so you’re eating more vegetables and naturally have less sodium in your diet. Plus, going cold turkey is the fastest way to reduce salty cravings. It doesn’t take long for your body to become used to less sodium, reducing your cravings.

SOLUTION: Cook more at home and eat more vegetables (which contain potassium).