As women, we know food cravings. Listen in on our conversations once and you’re undoubtedly going to hear us threatening murder for that piece of chocolate cake when “aunt flow” makes her week-long visit. Worse yet, try getting between us and the refrigerator six months into our pregnancy, hormones raging, and we know Ben and Jerry are just on the other side of that door waiting to hear our latest problems. These might be the extremes, but food cravings can make us feel out of control.
Our brains become our worst enemy each time we lose control and give in to those high carbs and sugary treats. Feel good chemicals like dopamine and serotonin keep us coming back for more. It’s a vicious cycle that goes like this:
- Cravings strike
- We indulge (grab our go-to candy, drive-thru burger, a bag of potato chips or carbonated beverage)
- Feel-good chemicals are released
- Our bodies interpret this endorphin release as good and crave the food more each time.
We crave food because our bodies lack certain nutrients, our hormones are imbalanced, or because we’ve become addicted to the rush of serotonin and dopamine that hits us after we’ve eaten (this one’s especially true for emotional eaters). It’s obvious then, that the chocolate cake or pint of Ben & Jerry’s isn’t going to satisfy the food craving. It might make us feel better temporarily and that’s the danger. Our favorite candy bar or drive-thru burger sometimes makes us feel good at the moment. Then our body interprets the endorphin response as relief, which leaves us coming back to those same candy bars and burgers again and again.
So listen up ladies. We are in control! Our goals will not be mocked by food cravings. We will not be derailed by some misguided choices when the next urge hits us. We will conquer our cravings once and for all. How do I know? Because I’m about to show you how to fight cravings!
We’re about to unpack 10 proven ways to cut your cravings.
- Drink Water
When our body begins to dehydrate it signals the brain that it’s hungry. Often times this signal can be misinterpreted as a craving. We think we are hungry, when in reality we are just thirsty. Instead of eating right away when hunger strikes, try the LadyBoss® “10 Gulps” rule. It’s as simple as it sounds. Grab a glass of water and drink. Don’t put it down until you’ve taken 10 BIG GULPS. Then wait and see if the craving dissipates.
2. Stop Dieting
Food restriction often follows the word “diet” and chances are you’ll be cutting out or significantly reducing whole food groups in order to lose weight, fast. We talked about this, food cravings hit when your body is missing certain nutrients. Cutting whole food groups is going to inevitably create nutrient deficiencies somewhere.
3. Eat Protein
You don’t have to go all cavewomen and lay half a chicken on your plate for every meal. But there is great evidence to support that a diet high in protein comes in handy when you are looking to learn how to fight cravings. According to an article published in the National Institute of Health, a diet considered high-protein includes 25% of its daily calories from protein. A normal protein diet gets just 14% of its calories from protein.
In a study on the effects of a high-protein diet in comparison to that of a normal protein diet, we found that eating a high-protein diet helps to alleviate thoughts of food (cravings, urges) and also late-night desires to eat.
4. Set a timer
Delaying immediate gratification takes practice. Setting a timer can help. By practicing self-control with the help of a timer we can begin to undo the long-time effects of years of dopamine responses to our immediate gratification we’ve become accustomed to when satisfying our food cravings by eating the moment they strike.
An easy way to delay gratification is to set a timer for 20 minutes and wait before giving in to temptation. Chances are, when that timer goes off you’ll have decided on a healthier option because you rock!
Chances are if you are sleep deprived you’re not on your “A” game. It’s going to be more challenging to determine real hunger from food cravings when you aren’t well rested. The Clinical Sciences Research Institute, at the University of Warwick Medical School in Coventry, UK found that sleep deprivation makes you 55% more likely to become obese compared to people getting in enough zzz’s.
6. Revisit your goals
Know your WHY. Chances are you have heard this before, but it’s necessary to say again here. You’ve got to know WHY you want to live a healthy life. The more you can articulate your goals and why you want them, the easier it will be to avoid giving in to temptation when hit with cravings. When your goals are more powerful than your need for immediate satisfaction of a sweet treat, it’s going to be easier to fight the urge and stay focused on what you really want.
7. Exercise/change your surroundings
Sometimes overcoming the urges associated with food cravings can be as simple as changing your environment. Take a quick walk (you’d be spending this time finding the food, prepping it or consuming it anyway…so don’t say you don’t have the time!), get out of the kitchen, or draw a bath and grab a book!
8. Keep a Journal
Data is your friend. Keeping a food journal can help you to identify patterns in your eating habits that may be opening you up to food cravings. Additionally, a journal can also help you to identify if you are eating a balanced diet. When using a food journal to help stop cravings, be sure to write it ALL down. The food, the time, your mood, the amount…any information that could be helpful in uncovering eating patterns down the road.
9. Plan to eat, and eat your plan.
Meal planning is a great way to eliminate food temptations. At the beginning of the week, decide what you are going to eat at each meal and each snack. I recommend 3 healthy meals and 2 snacks evenly spaced throughout your day and strategically consumed in anticipation of or after your workouts (learn more here). When cravings hit, refer to your planned meals and snacks. You can also consider eating what comes next on the plan early if necessary, rather than going off the plan.
The Health Sciences Dept. at Tufts University acknowledges that our bodies may not actually be craving the carbohydrates after all. In fact, we may be craving calories. In order to be sure we are adequately fueling our bodies each day, we count on meal planning so that we can incorporate each necessary food group and in the optimal amounts each day and at incremental times.
10. Lower stress
Stress is known to leave us reaching for high-sugar, high-chemical, and calorie-dense foods that will give us that quick endorphin release our body craves when it’s feeling anxious or stressed. Instead, give the body what it needs and loves. Try some cleansing breaths, a guided meditation, strike a yoga pose. Best of all, laugh!
Food cravings are sabotaging your healthy lifestyle and you are not alone. Women everywhere are scouring the internet trying to figure out how to stop cravings. Craving food more common than you think! The best way to cut your cravings is to gain awareness of them and understanding how to fight back when these food cravings hit. If you can learn how to stop cravings, you’re more likely to avoid weight gain, food addictions, and binge eating.
Cravings are common, but they can be conquered.