Are food cravings rearing their ugly head and threatening to ruin your diet? There may be some unexpected causes behind your urge to snack. To help prepare yourself for weak moments and resist those cravings, check out these 10 surprising things that make you snack.
We all know that replacing workouts with sedentary activities such as browsing the internet can lead to weight gain, however did you know that using Facebook can also cause you to indulge on unhealthy snacks? According to the results of a study by researchers from Columbia and Pittsburgh Universities, socialising with close friends online temporarily raises your levels of self esteem, which in turn lowers your self control, making you more likely to snack immediately afterwards.
Watching the news
According to research by scientists at the University of Miami, hearing bad news on the TV can cause our survival instinct to kick in, which leads to us craving high-calorie snacks. The survey found that contemplating economic hardship and being subconsciously primed with messages to 'live for today' makes us seek out higher calorie foods, and that even watching or listening to depressing news stories has this effect on our appetite.
According to research results published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, your environment can be a powerful trigger for food cravings. In fact, a study by researchers at the University of South Carolina revealed that moviegoers who typically ate popcorn at the cinema ate the same amount of popcorn whether the popcorn they were given was fresh or stale, showing that your environment can be even more important in triggering snacking than the food itself.
According to researchers for the Atkins Diet, 62% of people break their diets mid-afternoon, with 3.23pm being the time when we are most likely to snack. It is believed that the main reasons for this are stress and boredom, combined with a dip in energy levels. To get through this risky time without giving into cravings, make sure you eat a low-GI lunch containing protein to sustain energy levels and try to leave interesting and enjoyable tasks for the afternoon to help prevent mid-afternoon boredom or stress.
Going cold turkey
While giving up your favourite junk foods may seem like the perfect weight loss solution, a study published in the journal Appetite has suggested that many people crave the foods they most attempt to resist. Rather than going cold turkey on your junk food addiction, ward off snack cravings by having a little of what you fancy every now and then, which should help to reduce the temptation to binge on your favourite treats.
Many of us juggle heavy workloads, meaning that stress is a common part of everyday life. However, feelings of stress can not only cause snack cravings, they can also influence the types of food you crave. Research suggests that low levels of the happy hormone serotonin (which can become depleted during long periods of stress) can trigger cravings for carbohydrates. Furthermore, research from the University of Cincinnati has shown that the sodium in salt blunts the body's natural responses to stress by inhibiting stress hormones, meaning that cravings for salty foods could be your body's attempt to deal with stress.
While many of us opt for diet soft drinks to help stay trim, drinking diet drinks could actually cause you to snack. Research by the Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio found that those who consumed diet drinks daily experienced a 70% greater increase in waist circumference than those who drank none, and it is suggested that this is because artificial sweeteners trigger appetite and may also inhibit the brain cells that make you feel full, leading to food and drink cravings.
Research has indicated that being overweight can be contagious amongst friends, with research results published in The New England Journal of Medicine indicating that having an obese friend increases your chance of obesity by 50 per cent. Experts believe this is because of a change in norms over what is an appropriate weight, with people believing that, as those they associate with are bigger, it is OK to be bigger also. This causes people to relax their diet and more easily give in to cravings.
Had a late night? Watch out for snack cravings the next day. Not only does not getting enough sleep reduce your self control and willpower, lack of sleep stimulates the production of our hunger hormone and lowers levels of leptin; the hormone that makes you feel full. In fact, a study by researchers at Columbia University found that those who are sleep-deprived eat almost 300 more calories than those who get enough sleep.
The colour red
While the colour blue is thought to act as an appetite suppressant, the colours red, yellow and orange are thought to stimulate your appetite. Research results published in Contract magazine showed that participants who ate in a blue room consumed 33% less food than those who ate in rooms that were red or yellow.
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