7 Ways to Conquer Midlife Food Cravings

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That piece of chocolate or bag of potato chips is calling to you. You know that indulging your food craving will make you happier, feel more satisfied — even if it’s just for a little while. 

Many women point to menopause as the root of these cravings — and of the subtle or significant weight gain that follows.

J. Scott Bembry, MD, with Premier Ob-Gyn doesn’t disagree that weight gain occurs more easily in midlife for both men and women. He does clarify, however, that there’s no scientific evidence that declining estrogen and progesterone during menopause increase food cravings.

He explains, “What’s going on with men and women in midlife are changes with the adrenal gland and the production of cortisol [hormone released by the adrenal gland that increases appetite]. These hormones contribute more to metabolism and midlife weight gain than any sex hormone.”

That doesn’t mean that food cravings in midlife aren’t real. They’re just not a direct result of hormone changes from menopause.

Don’t deprive yourself of everything you like, but take it in moderation.

Dr. Bembry notes some common causes of food cravings for people at midlife:

  • Steroids and other medications that increase appetite
  • Mistaking thirst for hunger
  • Boredom
  • Stress over career, finances, aging parents or children leaving home
  • Depression
  • Sadness

7 Solutions You Can Use Now

Dr. Bembry’s advice for conquering food cravings at any age, including menopause, is to eat sensibly:Menopause and Food Cravings small

  1. Stay away from refined processed foods, like cakes and cookies. Keep healthy alternatives like almonds or fruit in your house. Complex carbohydrates satisfy you more in the long run than refined sugars. They still have calories, but you’re not just putting junk into your body,” he suggests.

  2. Drink lots of water. Avoid sugar drinks. “They’re all empty calories that aren’t helpful,” Dr. Bembry says.

  3. Remember those calories you haven’t been counting. If you ask for skim milk and no whipped cream for your caramel macchiato, you’re still getting a lot of calories from the caramel syrup.

    “I like apps like My Fitness Pal that help you record everything you put into your body and everything you do,” Dr. Bembry says.  “This plays to the point that there’s no free energy in the universe. If you eat less and do more, you’ll lose weight. If you eat more and do less, you’ll gain weight.”

  4. Ask yourself if you’re really hungry or if you’re bored or sad. Instead of going to the cupboard, go to the treadmill or take a walk, he advises.

  5. Don’t deprive yourself of everything you like, but take it in moderation. Try savoring a few bites of a favorite dessert rather than eating a large serving. Calorie-tracking apps allow you to portion your calorie intake to make way for something you really want.

  6. “I may look at the calorie count on a candy bar and think this equals a two-mile run,” Dr. Bembry comments. “Is it worth it? For me, it generally isn’t.”

  7. Learn new behaviors: Talk about feelings instead of eating them. Find a hobby that engages you. Exercise more. Try sugar-free versions of your favorite sweets.

  8. Don’t skip meals. That can lead to unhealthy snacking. When you do want a snack, have some fruit or a small handful of nuts.
Small Steps: Talking Can Help.
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