Food cravings are the dieter’s worst enemy. One minute, you’re going about your day—the next, you have an intense and uncontrollable desire for specific foods. The types of foods that people crave are often processed junk foods that are high in sugar and fat.
Cravings are one of the biggest reasons why people have problems losing weight and keeping it off.
Here are a few tips to prevent or curb your cravings:
1. Crash Dieting
If you’re eating less than 1,200 calories a day or restricting an entire food group (like carbs), you’re putting your body in prime craving mode. Even just three days of crash or strict dieting decreases levels of the appetite-reducing hormone leptin.
People who severely limit calories or certain foods from their diet are more likely to experience cravings and to overeat the “forbidden” food when given the chance.
Instead, don’t ban or restrict a food group. Plan ways to enjoy your favorite foods in controlled portions such as getting a slice of pizza instead of a whole pie, or sharing your favorite dessert.
2. Reduce your Stress
When you’re under pressure, your body releases the hormone cortisol, which signals your brain to seek out rewards. When you reach for comfort foods such as foods loaded with sugar and fat, it blunts this hormone and creates a powerful connection in your brain. Play some music from your favorite playlist to reduce the stress, have a bath with some epsom salts, go for a massage or get your nails done.
3. Wait it out
Most people give in to cravings because they think they’ll become more intense and overwhelming. Cravings are in fact like waves: they build, crest, and then disappear. Wait it out by choosing an activity that creates distraction. Call or text a friend, go for a walk or run, take the dog out, or respond to emails.
A few sleepless nights can drop levels of the hormone leptin (which signals satiety), and boost your appetite trigger. Those two changes alone can cause appetite to kick into overdrive, leaving you craving for starchy foods like cookies, donuts, and bread.
Make sure you get enough sleep, and if you are having trouble sleeping at night, try daytime naps. I know, easier said than done, but at least try!
5. Break the Habit
The brain loves habit. Innocent routines, such as snacking while watching TV, create powerful associations.
Breaking a habit takes some work but you can do it!! Divert your attention to something else. If you can’t distract yourself, grab something healthy instead such as an apple, some raw veggies, and of course, a big glass of water.
6. Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail
If possible, try to plan your meals for the day and week. By already knowing what you’re going to eat, you eliminate the spontaneity and uncertainty factor.
If you don’t have to think about what to eat at the following meal, you will be less tempted and less likely to experience cravings.
Eat smaller meals throughout the day and keep your portion sizes small. Never go to the grocery store hungry!