Food cravings are like weeds in your lawn: they pop up out of nowhere, and you’ll stop at nothing to kill them, stat.
But there’s a quicker, healthier way to tame your raging appetite than a trip to the office vending machine. Follow these four tips to instantly eliminate a craving.
1. Chew a Piece of Gum
When you chew gum, the repetitive motion sends signals to the part of your brain that controls appetite and satiety, says dietitian Dr Wesley Delbridge, a spokesperson for the US Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. If your brain thinks you’re actually eating, you’ll start to feel full.
Sweet tastes also activate the release of the feel-good brain chemical serotonin. Low serotonin levels cause cravings to pop up in the first place, Delbridge says.
2. Make Your Dentist Proud
Store a travel-size tube of toothpaste and a brush in your desk drawer, and polish your pearly whites if hunger strikes. “The minty flavour of toothpaste alone makes food seem less desirable,” Delbridge says.
Mint is a sneaky appetite suppressant: in a study at Wheeling Jesuit University, people who sniffed mint throughout the day ate 12,000 kilojoules less that week.
Just don’t attack your chompers every hour, since excessive brushing can wear down your tooth enamel, Delbridge says. As an alternative, buy a few bottles of mint-infused water and keep them handy to guzzle in starving situations.
3. Go Talk to a Friendly Colleague
When you’re under pressure at work, your body releases the stress hormone cortisol, which tells your brain to seek out rewards, Delbridge says. Enter fat- and sugar-loaded comfort foods, which blunt cortisol and temporarily stop stress.
“But what you’re really craving,” Delbridge says, “is to feel better.” Any distraction to stimulate happiness will help curb high-kilojoule hankerings for junk food, he says.
Find a co-worker with an open door and kill a few minutes trading weekend plans and Netflix recommendations. The quick chat will trigger a stress-busting emotional release – and you’ll have something awesome to watch tonight.
4. Play a Round of Tetris
Hankering for a junk-food fix? Fire up Tetris on your phone. Playing the classic block game for just three minutes is enough to slash food, caffeine and nicotine cravings by 24 per cent, researchers at Plymouth University and Queensland University of Technology found.
The bright colours and moving shapes in the game scramble your brain’s ability to visualise whatever it is you’re craving, the researchers say. And the effect lasts even after you quit the game.