Within a few minutes, a food craving can sabotage your willpower, impair your judgement, and kick you off track of your nutrition goals. The bigger problem is, cravings don’t feel like they are within our control. They just seem to sort of sneak up on us, leaving us feeling helpless and then guilty after we’ve caved.
The good news is cravings can absolutely be within your control, as long as you spend some time understanding why you may be having those cravings.
Understand What Your Craving May Be Telling You
Contrary to popular belief, cravings aren’t necessarily a sign of mental weakness. Yes, sometimes we get stressed and look for immediate gratification to the pleasure centers of our brain. Other times though, cravings are our bodies way of telling us that they need something — whether that’s a particular nutrient, more stomach acid, or even just more food in general.
For example, if you’re craving chocolate, you may be deficient in magnesium and need to add more nuts, seeds, fruits, and veggies in your diet. Or, if you’re craving fats, that may be your body’s way of telling you that you need to eat more food overall.
Check out this more comprehensive list of what your cravings may be telling you here!
Figure Out If It’s a Craving or a Habit
For a long time, I made it routine to have a coffee and chocolate at 1:30pm everyday. It became so routine, in fact, that I was convinced that I needed that coffee and chocolate every single day. The thing is that I wasn’t actually craving the coffee or the chocolate. I craved the ritual of a 1:30pm break. So, to break that habit (more so just to prove to myself that I didn’t need it), I replaced the ritual with one that better served me, like having a big glass of water and some blackberries. By the end of the 1:30pm break, I felt just as satisfied as I did with the coffee and chocolate.
So take some time to be honest with yourself — are you craving that glass of wine or does it just feel like a craving because you always pour yourself a glass after the kids are in bed? Are you craving those chips or do you just want them because you always like to munch on something when you’re watching a movie?
Drink Enough Water
Oftentimes food cravings are actually misinterpreted for dehydration. In fact, most people are drinking well below the amount of water they should be (at least half your body weight in ounces) so this is pretty common. If you feel a craving come on, first try drinking a big glass of water and see if it’s still there. Chances are, it won’t be.
Catch Up On Sleep
I can’t stress how important it is to get enough sleep…not only for your health, but for your fat loss and performance goals as well. In fact, sleep deprivation has a direct impact on hunger hormones like leptin, the hormone that tells your brain that you’re satisfied, and ghrelin, the hormone that tells your brain when it’s hungry. When those two hormones are out of whack, it might manifest itself as cravings when in fact your body just wants sleep. It’s also very common to “crave” high-glycemic carbohydrates like bread and cereal when you’re sleep deprived because your body is looking for a spike in blood sugar.
Eat for Volume
If your lunch is a healthy balanced meal, like steak, rice, and broccoli, chances are you’re going to leave that meal pretty satisfied. But, if your lunch is comprised of some chips and jellybeans, you won’t. So, you’ll feel like you need more chips and jellybeans to help you feel satisfied, when in fact your body just wants more food. It’s much easier to fill our stomach with healthy, whole foods than it is to get the same amount of volume in junk food. So, always leave desserts and guilty pleasures for when you’re not hungry anymore. You should never try to satiate hunger with junk food.
Don’t Restrict Yourself
There are caveats to this, of course. Some people are abstainers and do really well when they completely restrict themselves from certain things. But, most people really love the freedom to eat whatever they want and when they try to restrict themselves, develop serious cravings for that thing. So, if you really love “The Tonight Dough” from Ben & Jerry’s (🙋♀️ guilty), have it within reason. Otherwise, all you’ll think about is what you can’t have. It’s human nature.