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5 Guaranteed Ways To Curb The Mid-Afternoon Munchies

And then there’s the other thing. The real reason you live 3pm. You know what I’m talking about, don’t you? It’s candy time! I mean, c’mon – isn’t that what the mid-afternoon so-called ‘coffee break’ is really for? You can admit it – I won’t tell anyone. After all, it’s not as though that one teeny-weeny candy bar is going to do you any damage. And of course you need some extra sugar in your decaf – you’ve worked hard. All that thinking and blog-hopping must’ve burnt up absolute VATS of calories!

Besides, everyone knows you can’t beat the 3pm cravings. It’s a known fact that mid-afternoon is munchie time. So you might as well just give in. Right?

Of course there is another way of looking at it – and it’s just a thought, mind you. But maybe, just maybe, I can show you a few smart tricks to outwit that devilish chocolate monster lurking inside of you. And who knows? You just could save yourself the calories, the guilt-trip, and the buck or two you outlay at the vending machine every day. Worth giving a go?

The only problem with this is that your body won’t forgive you for having a busy life – it’ll punish you. Afternoon and evening cravings are nothing more than an urgent signal for nutrition, a sign that you’ve left things too late when it comes to quality food intake for the day. I don’t have to tell you that sugar is typically the first thing you reach for as a source of instant energy. Shame that it causes weight gain and a host of health problems. Not to mention an annoying desire for more of the darn stuff!

The truth is that if you haven’t laid a good foundation early in the day then you’re setting yourself up for disaster. In fact, regularly skipping breakfast is directly linked to your risk of obesity. I’d say that’s worth getting up 10 minutes earlier for, wouldn’t you?

According to Charles Poliquin, creator of the BioSIgnature hormone assessment system, and coach to Olympic gold medal holders in over 10 different sports, the first 50 grams of protein you eat each day is used to stimulate your natural detoxification pathways. This not only keeps you nice and clean on the inside, it ensures you get that metabolic kick-start first thing in the morning. So why leave something so important until lunchtime or even later?

When it comes to breakfast, it’s important to include some protein along with some good fat. Not only will this keep you full far closer to the lunch hour, I guarantee you’ll notice a reduction in cravings come mid-afternoon. My favorite choices are poached or boiled eggs with spinach, mushrooms, and avocado. If you’re an oats or cereal person, try adding a soft-boiled egg on the side. You’ll be amazed how this simple addition dramatically changes your satisfaction levels over the day. Organic full-fat yogurts are also a good breakfast choice, but try to add fresh fruit rather than buying the flavored versions, which are typically full of sugar.

The truth is that your gut instinct is always to ensure survival. Seeing as stress is a reaction that evolved to help us deal with life-threatening situations (such as war or lack of food), it makes sense that it programs us to eat. What better way to up your chances of survival than to have you stock up on calories?! The scary thing is that your stress response is so effective that it actually starts up just at the thought of stress. And it’s not as though you start reaching for the green vegetables. Quite the opposite, in fact, because stress causes an instant ‘need’ for high-sugar and high-fat foods. Carbohydrates and sugars have the added benefit of causing serotonin (the feel-good hormone) to be released into your bloodstream, which is one reason why sugar binges tend to incite the desire for yet more sugar.

With all that in mind I’d say you’ve never had a better reason to take time out for yourself. Managing the stress of an endlessly busy life is no easy task, but – like anything – it’s one you can achieve if you invest regular effort and thought. Why not start with just 5 minutes for yourself today? It could be as simple as taking your morning coffee outside and leaving your cell phone behind.

This is particularly relevant given that there’s absolutely stacks of studies showing that junk food cravings are an unavoidable response to negative emotions and poor moods. In theory this is easily fixed (Smile! Dance around! Act happy and you’ll be happy!), but the truth is it’s just not that simple.

Low moods are often a combination of two things. Firstly, they tend to become a habit, a way of thinking that we can’t escape. And secondly, they’re a response to poor dietary and lifestyle habits. When you don’t take time out for yourself, when you forget what home-cooked food tastes like, and when exercise just seems like a long-ago dream then you really are setting yourself up for a tough ride emotionally. It takes quality nutrition to build hormones, and it’s your hormones that control your moods. Exercise, sleep, and waking relaxation all play a part as well. So you can imagine how easily a busy life and poor diet leads to a cycle of negative thinking and the constant need for instant gratification. Food cravings are a common outcome of this pattern, and can be difficult to break. Especially if you see the food as a treat, as something you’ve earned for having a tough day.

One of the simplest ways I’ve found to brighten your day and turn a bad mood is to take action in a meaningful way. If you can get to the end of the day and know that you at least achieved one important thing, then you can go to bed feeling good about yourself. Do this day after day for enough days and you’ll spark a chain-reaction of higher-quality living. It doesn’t have to be something huge either. It could be a phone call to a loved one, 10 minutes of journaling or study, a donation to a charity, lending a helping hand to someone who needs it, a long-awaited investment in your health and fitness, or anything at all that puts a smile on your face or a sense of achievement in your mind.

Why not schedule these meaningful tasks for 3pm? It just might be an effective distraction technique!

I see nothing wrong with the occasional instant energy of naughty processed foods, but it sure isn’t a great recipe for everyday health. From now on, nine times out of ten when you decide to give in, I want you to start thinking high-class indulgence. None of that cheap’n’nasty sugar that leaves you feeling bad but still wanting more. Try indulging with a small piece of quality cheese, some avocado with sea salt on thinly sliced sourdough, or some natural nut butter with celery sticks. I’d suggest going for fat or protein based snacks if you’re goal is still beating sugar-cravings. If you do choose something sweet, why not try some fresh berries or other seasonal fruit. Combine it with some organic dark chocolate and you’ll really be living. The best part is that all of these treats are actually good for you! It’s a myth that cravings can only be satiated with junk food.

From here on out the choice is yours. You have the knowledge and you now know what it takes. The 3pm slump might be a given in most workplaces, but it doesn’t have to suck you in every time. And wouldn’t it be a great feeling to cruise right through the afternoon and into the evening ahead without even thinking about sweet relief? Get started on these craving busters today and who knows? You might just find out you’re actually one of those annoyingly energized people after all!

Do you have any other tricks for curbing the cravings? Let’s hear ‘em in the comments section below.

Written on 7/16/2009 by Kat Eden. Kat is a Personal Trainer from Australia. Visit her blog Body Incredible to be inspired with the latest nutrition tips, weight loss advice, and motivational thinking. Photo Credit: Michael (mx5tx)
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