If you’re too hungry, your gut will signal the reward system in your brain, so you start craving the worst foods first. Respond to feelings of hunger with healthy snacks to help keep these feelings and hormones in check.
However, if you eat too little, your brain will not signal the release of hormones that help you feel satiety. Therefore, you’ll continue to feel hungry. Smaller meals do not cause enough hormonal response to turn off hunger. You’ll still be hungry and end up eating more than you should.
While overeating food is the most prominent cause of weight gain, eating too little can be one of the easiest ways to fail at weight loss. Your body has an instinct to protect itself. When you don’t eat enough food and nutrients, your body will automatically go into starvation mode when deprived of such nutrition, causing the metabolism to slow down and the body to store any food eaten as fat. As a result, it will become much more difficult for you to lose weight.
Smell Your Food first
Eighty percent of the flavors we taste come from what we smell, which is why foods lose their flavor when we have a stuffy nose.
Smelling fresh-baked donuts can trigger you to start craving donuts, but it can also help you satisfy the urge to eat one. Studies show that participants exposed to an aroma will have a stronger desire for that food in the first 30 seconds, but after two minutes, they’ll habituate and no longer crave the food. Many of the participants started craving fruit instead.
When you smell a fragrant but unhealthy food, pathways in your brain become excited by the new scent. As your senses habituate to the aroma, the neurons in your brain stop firing with the same frequency. Like the first bite of something delicious being the best, your senses get used to the taste and smell, and it doesn’t elicit a strong response.
All five of our senses use habituation to adapt to our environment. Habituation is used by your body to calm itself. Another example would be walking into a room with a noticeably pungent odor. But, after being in the place long enough, the smell gradually becomes less noticeable. By the time you exit the room, the scent may not register at all.
You can use habituation to help yourself lose weight by narrowing down food options you eat every day, so you aren’t tempting your nose and taste buds with too many novel stimuli. People eat more when exposed to more food options. That’s why buffets cause you to gain weight because it’s hard to habituate when there are various new foods to try.
Food aromas can also affect you in a good or bad way psychologically by triggering memories associated with certain foods. For example, smelling fresh-baked pumpkin pie could bring back memories of childhood and a parent who baked delicious comfort foods that made you feel safe. The craving you have for a piece of pumpkin pie isn’t real hunger but the need to feel comforted.
That’s what distinguishes cravings from real hunger. When it’s true hunger, you’ll eat anything. In contrast, desires are for specific foods, often unhealthy ones, and often triggered by stress. One of the best ways to distinguish a craving from real hunger is to ask yourself if you’d be satisfied with an apple. If the answer is yes, you’re hungry. But, if only a chocolate brownie or chocolate chip cookie will suffice, it’s a craving.
Scents of certain foods like extra-virgin olive oil suppress cravings and help you feel fuller. Smelling dark chocolate can lower levels of the appetite hormone ghrelin and suppress your appetite. The aroma of fresh green apples, bananas, and pears can help curb appetite and lessen cravings for sugary desserts. Scented lotion can also help decrease your desire to eat.
When I used to eat meat, fried fish, and chicken were my favorite dishes.
When I walk into a dinner party and smell a meat dish that triggers a craving, I’ll grab a leftover piece and smell it for a minute or until it no longer smells delicious or makes my mouth water. This strategy has helped me erase urges for meat dishes whenever they arise and has kept me a vegetarian for over sixteen years.