Food Cravings

How to Stop Food Cravings

chocolate-craving

The most common craving? Chocolate!

It is commonly said that maintaining a healthy weight is achieved through ” 80% diet and 20% exercise” – Whether or not that math is accurate, we can be sure that what we eat has a great impact on our health and weight just as does the exercise we do.

Okay, eat healthy foods – got it…until a craving comes along at least. Everyone experiences food cravings, sometimes so strong that it seems impossible to resist. So how do we win? Or, are we doomed to fail every time that cravings for sugar/salt/fat/{insert your own craving here} raises its ugly head?

We’ve got some very effective strategies that will help you beat your cravings, but first let’s examine why you get cravings at all and why they can be so powerful.

What’s Up With Food Cravings

Food cravings are powerful and they seem to impact women more than men. Some of our cravings are developed based on the culture we live in. For example, chocolate is the most commonly report food craving amongst women in the US whereas Egyptian women often crave meat-filled eggplant.

Food cravings are also tied to our instinct for survival. Today we can pretty much eat whenever and whatever we want but historically this was not the case. Hunters heading out for a long hunting mission may have experienced cravings for high-caloric foods as a survival mechanism. They would stock up on calories before a hunt that could leave them many hours or days without much to eat.

Eggplant

Egyptians crave meat-filled eggplant. It does look tasty!

There is also a strong physiological reason we crave certain foods. Foods laden with fat and sugar release chemicals called opioids into our bloodstream, giving us a euphoric sensation. We literally get high from eating foods that are often on our “do not eat” list.

To make matters worse, our cravings generally strengthen with age. First, we are being conditioned to cave into our cravings (thanks opioids, hello food high!). Second, it is impossible to crave foods that we have never tasted so it only stands to reason that our cravings will increase as we expose ourselves to new, tasty foods throughout our lifetime.

To recap: We are born with food cravings. Our environment reinforces certain ones. Cravings are physiological, mental, historical, and they are getting worse as we age. Maybe Swami Sivananda, Hindu spiritual teacher, was speaking about our food cravings when he said,

There is no end of craving. Hence contentment alone is the best way to happiness. Therefore, acquire contentment.

No end to our cravings? Just be content? There has to be more to it than that.

So Can I Actually Stop Food Cravings?

Yes. Well, to a point. Food cravings have been shown to intensify as we try to fight them off, so “giving in” is sometimes quite a useful approach. It’s just important to keep these moments in check – Satisfying a food cravings once per month, and with a reasonably-sized treat, is beneficial. This can help us resist cravings until our next scheduled “cheat day” has come back around.

The most important thing to remember when it comes to food cravings is be sure that you are always eating mindfully. Mindful eating means that you are making a conscious choice to eat, not eating out of impulse or habit. The mindfulness strategy we use with our clients is called “Delay, Distract, Decide”:

1. Delay

When a craving creeps up, try to avoid jumping in and satisfying it immediately. Impulsivity can often lead to poor food choices so it’s important to delay gratification even for just 1-2 minutes.

2. Distract

Cravings can be very strong, so it’s often easier said than done when it comes to the “delay” step. That’s why it’s a good idea to give yourself a distraction. Take a bathroom break, go for a 5-minute walk around the block, give someone a call on the phone, or do something else that will distract yourself from the food you’re craving.

3. Decide

After your distraction you will still have to decide. Do you really want to eat that food? If the answer is “YES!” then go for it! At least you’ve made this a conscious decision instead of mindlessly eating a treat that you maybe didn’t even really want to eat.

What Is Your Body Really Craving?

Food cravings may also be our body’s way of telling us that we’re missing out on something that we actually need. The following graphic outlines some common cravings and the associated nutrients that our body might actually be wanting. This chart could be a helpful starting place when a food craving hits and we’re not ready to give in. (click the image to enlarge it)

Food Cravings Chart

Food Cravings and Fitness

In short, food cravings aren’t going anywhere. We can do our best to manage them and we can also find healthier food alternatives that satisfy our cravings (try these Chocolate Quinoa Brownies or these delicious Post-Workout Muffins).

The big take-away here is that healthy living is all about balance. Exercise daily, eat proper meals (especially those meals surrounding our exercise sessions), take time to rest and relax, and allow an occasional treat to satisfy food cravings. This type of balanced living is not only a good weight-management practice but it also helps our bodies perform their best and helps us live a happier life.

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Dave

Dave Smith has been a personal trainer since 2001 and was chosen as Canada's Top Fitness Professional in 2013 for his dedication to his clients' success. Download his "Sweet Spot" plan [FREE!] to begin your weight-loss journey today!