Admittedly, I’ve had my ups and downs with cravings. I’ve had times where they weren’t much of an issue and then I’ve had times where I got lazy and fell back into old habits. When I first started working from home, I really struggled with them. I would crave stuff when I was procrastinating or when I couldn’t figure something out and I wanted to quit. I’ve struggled with the nightly sugar cravings. I’ve felt like they were so strong I simply could not resist. So honestly, this is still a practice for me as well.
I know they have a purpose. It’s one of the ways your body communicates with your brain on how it’s feeling and can be a window into deeper issues such as hormonal imbalance or vitamin deficiency. However, the body also doesn’t like change and will resist it just because it has become accustomed to a certain way of eating. So sometimes cravings can feel very real, but are more about your body being conditioned to intake a certain amount of food or a certain kind of food at a certain time of day (i.e. sugar in the evenings.). Either way, they often just feel like another obstacle on the journey to healthier eating habits and especially fat loss. So how do we deal with them?
First, it’s important to learn how to decipher if they are a physical or mental craving. When you first start paying attention to this, it can be hard to distinguish which is which. Physical cravings are the actual feelings of hunger or low energy levels. Mental cravings are what Joel and I like to call mouth hunger. That’s when your mouth is craving the taste of something even though your stomach is not hungry. Mental cravings can also show up when your mind is drained and feeling like it needs a break.
Of course, you can make sure you’re drinking enough water and give yourself a cut-off time in the evening. I actually use both of those, but I wanted to give you a couple you might not have heard of yet. Some of the newer things that are really working for me.
Keep in mind, I put them in categories but some of these work for both mental and physical cravings….
*First and foremost, make sure you’re eating and drinking enough!!
For most of us, breakfast and lunch tend to be our healthier meals because we’re more mentally fresh and awake. Make sure you are eating enough here! Because as the day goes on and we use up our limited amount of willpower, we grow more mentally and physically tired. So if you’re ravenous by the time dinner rolls around, you’re either not eating enough or at least, not enough of a certain food group.
–Always have healthy snacks available to take the edge off. I like to keep a protein bar in my purse. Some other great options are a handful of nuts, veggies with a little bit of hummus, rolled lunch meat and cheese, or fruit.
— Get enough protein. Protein helps keep you full. About a palm size for women (that’s about 20-30 grams) and 2 of those for men at each meal.
This was introduced to me by my coach, Jill Coleman. These are foods that won’t help or hurt your goals, but they take the edge off. Things like dark chocolate, wine, or nut butters are great at this…as long as they’re eaten in moderation. My personal summertime favorites are watermelon and frozen dark chocolate-covered bananas.
*A little bonus one: Mint. Mint is actually a natural appetite suppressant and can be very helpful in dealing with cravings. Mint tea, sugar-free mint gum, or brushing your teeth have all been shown to help!
*Distract yourself! Often times, our minds are just bored and/or tired and are looking for something to do. Usually this occurs while we’re sitting in front of the tv, so the best thing to do is get up! Go for a walk, take a bath, read a book, or just go to bed.
I’m always amazed at quickly my cravings fade when I get outside with some fresh air. It’s like my head clears and everything snaps back into focus. I realize I really am fine and I really don’t need that sweet.
*Give into it…but just a little.
This is something I’ve started practicing more recently. If you’re really craving something, allow yourself a small handful. Really enjoy and savor each bite and then be done with it. That’s it. I know this might sound silly but it works for 2 really good reasons:
1) It allows for nothing to be off limits. What can I say, we always want what we can’t have! It’s actually been proven that when something is off limits you will crave it even more. This makes it so nothing is off limits, but gives us practice in how to control our cravings. This helps us avoid going all in and feeling pretty good about it….until afterwards that is. 🙂
2) It builds up your willpower. Willpower is like a muscle. It has to be consistently worked to get stronger. It may not feel like it at first, but it will get stronger. As you build it up, you’ll start seeing it as a challenge. Can I eat just 1 french fry? Can I be good with 3 bites of ice cream?
How nice would it be to able to really enjoy one small dessert and then just be done with it?!? No more waging a mental war in your head over if you should or should not have more.
Ultimately, to conquer cravings there needs to be a mindset change. Sometimes you have to be willing to sit with it and work through the uncomfortableness. Don’t let food and cravings own you, especially the mental ones. Remember that just because you’re craving something doesn’t mean you have to act on it. With some patience and practice, most cravings really will lessen and go away.
This doesn’t mean you have to white-knuckle your way through it. Try some of these out and see which ones work best for you. Make small changes and make them easy enough that you know you can do it. Add in someone to hold you accountable. Know that you will probably not do it perfectly, but that ain’t no thang…