Go cold turkey to beat cravings

Go Cold Turkey to Beat Food Cravings? [Podcast Episode #050]

Does it feel like food cravings control your life? You want to eat healthier foods, but willpower only gets you so far before those cravings win out?

There are two schools of thought when it comes to overcoming cravings: Go cold turkey (cut out all sugar and other "junk" foods) and your cravings will go away  OR  slowly wean yourself off those treats, and eventually you won't have such strong cravings. 

Here's the best method to try first...

Episode Resources:

Go Cold Turkey To Beat Food Cravings? [Full Text]

Dave: Hey, thanks so much for joining me in this episode of the Make Your Body Work Podcast. This show is all about helping you live a healthier and happier life. I'm excited because today is a monumental episode. We are at episode number 50. Maybe that doesn't sound like a big deal, but I'll be honest with you.

When I started this podcast last year - I'm a connoisseur of podcasts. I love listening to podcasts, and I thought, "Oh, this is something that I think will help some of my followers, and help people out there who are searching for really reliable information about health, fitness, and losing weight and getting in shape." I had no idea it would last 50 episodes. I thought, "Maybe we'll do 10 and see how that goes."

I just want to give a big, big thank you to all of you, the listeners. Again, I know I say this all the time, but without you there would be no reason to continue doing the show. Without your questions, there would be no material for the show. Without connecting with you and hearing your stories about how your lives have improved through the amazing guests that have come on the show, and through what you've learned.

That is what really motivates me to keep on going, so please be in touch. You have my e-mail address, but dave@makeyourbodywork.com. If you ever have any questions that you'd like answered on the show or if you want to give me feedback. Tell me about what you've learned, what guest you liked. Your feedback definitely shapes the future of the Make Your Body Work Podcast.

I hope we go another 50 episodes, another 100 episodes, another 500 episodes. This is something that I love doing as long as it's helpful to you, so please, please, please be in touch. I love hearing from you, and love getting your feedback and your suggestions.

Today, we're going to go into a topic that is definitely a recurring theme. I've mentioned these before on the show. There's some questions that come out of left field and it's something that I've never heard before, and then there's some questions that definitely have a theme and get asked over and over again in slightly different ways.

It just tells me that these are important topics that we really need to cover. I like to get different perspectives. Today, we're talking about cravings, but specifically we're talking about the path of beating those cravings and the idea of cold turkey versus weaning yourself off foods that create cravings.

This question is from Janice. Let's dive right in. Janice wrote, she says,

"I get cravings for junk food all the time, and I've heard that the best way to get rid of them is to cut out sugar all together. I'm not opposed to doing that, but it's so much easier said than done. I've tried a few times and can make it about 3 days before I become really grouchy and end up eating cookies or chocolate, anything. I guess I'm just wondering if going cold turkey really is best. Is there another way to wean myself off those foods so that my cravings go away? I'm all ears."

Like I said Janice, thanks for that question. People asking about cravings, how to beat cravings, and why they're having cravings is such a common thing that I hear from the listeners like you, so thank you for taking the time to write in and re-raise this flag and say, "This is an important issue."

Today, I've got a really neat guest because she and her sister run a website called Spinach For Breakfast. They have delicious meals on there - all these recipes, and basically are talking about how to convert your diet into a clean-eating diet.

That's one of the reasons that I brought her on the show, but she also has her own personal story of dealing with cravings, how she beats cravings, how cravings have come back into her life, and how she's dealt with that.

It's really neat because she's going to share a little bit more personal side about what works for her. I think you're going to be pretty inspired and have some specific steps that you can take away to help defeat your cravings as well.

Without further ado, I'd like to introduce to you, Maria Tassoni.

Meet Maria Tosoni

Dave: Hey Maria. Thanks so much for joining us on the show today.

Maria: Thanks Dave, for having me.

Dave: You are one of the co-owners of a really neat website called Spinach For Breakfast. I love the name of your website. How did you come up with that?

Maria: Me too. Yes, Spinach For Breakfast I have with my sister and we were just trying to think of website names or blog names, and as we were doing that, we were both drinking a green smoothie for breakfast, so we were like, "What if we call it Spinach For Breakfast?" Because that's what we have pretty much every morning.

Dave: I love it. I, too, and a huge green smoothie advocate. Can you tell us, what is your recipe? Do you use the same one every day, or do you change it up a lot?

Maria: I tend to - although we have a bunch of different smoothie recipes on my website, I tend to go to the same type of combinations. I usually use almond milk, a half a frozen banana, definitely a ton of spinach or kale, plant-base protein.

Sometimes I'll put some almond butter in there and maybe another handful of frozen fruit - mango or mixed berries and any other additives that I have. Sometimes I'll put flax seed in or chia seeds, whatever I have on hand, but that's pretty much my go-to every morning unless I'm making something specific.

Dave: Nice. That sounds delicious. You two, you have a really beautiful website. I like the tagline. It's "A Clean Eating Blog By Two Sisters." What do you mean? Can you start off by telling the audience. What do you mean by clean eating?

Why Spinach For Breakfast?

Maria: Sure. Actually the reason that we started Spinach For Breakfast was, I was having my own health issues of my own. I wasn't really feeling well. I had thought that I was eating pretty healthy, but I wasn't really sure, so I started to do an elimination diet where I pretty much cut everything out of my diet that I thought could be causing an issue.

I was cutting out gluten, dairy, sugar, and different processing ingredients. Then slowly adding them back in. That is when I found that I don't tolerate gluten really well. I was also working with a GI at that point, too, who was kind of confirming the same thing. That's really why we started the blog Spinach For Breakfast. Once we realized, "Oh, this is the way that we should eat because we feel so much better." As we started to make recipes, we were like, "Maybe we can share those with other people."

An elimination diet isn't only about cutting out unhealthy foods. What are you going to ADD in?

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Dave: I love that. Maria, something that you said there that I just want to highlight to all the listeners. When you said you thought you were eating pretty well, but you weren't too sure.

Maria: Yeah.

Dave: That's something. I remember when I used to be a personal trainer and would do an intake process with my clients. One of the questions would be, "Tell me about your eating habits." Pretty much - I'd say 99% of people would say, "Oh, I eat pretty healthy."

Maria: Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Dave: It's so subjective. Until you started tracking it, I imagine maybe you can tell us. Did you see things in your diet that were unexpected?

Maria: Yeah. For me, I think that going gluten free is not - I don't think gluten free is a diet. I don't think that everyone needs to go gluten free, necessarily. Even though, I feel like they're finding that gluten is relatively hard to digest, but that is just something personal to me.

I was eating sprouted bread, or whole wheat bread and I thought that that was pretty healthy, but I just was having a hard time digesting that. Other people may have a hard time with dairy, or other people may be unable to tolerate certain types of vegetables, even though they're healthy. Their body just doesn't tolerate them well.

I think that if people are finding that they feel like they're eating all the right things, and they're still feeling off, then maybe some type of elimination diet could be useful for them to try.

Dave: Yeah. I completely agree. This has actually, interestingly, become quite a theme on this show, here. A lot of my guests that have been talking with this idea of figuring out, going through some sort of systematic process to figure out what foods work and what foods don't work specifically for an individual, because it is different.

What might work for you won't work for me. I was wondering if maybe you could - we're going to get to Janice's question, but I'm just interested in your process. Can you tell the audience, what process did you actually go through when you did that elimination diet? What did it look like? What did you have to do?

The Elimination Diet Process

Maria: I actually followed the Clean Program by Dr. Younger. It was definitely a specific program that I followed. Anyone can Google the Clean Program. What I like about the Clean Program is you don't have buy anything if you don't want to. You can do it all on your own. They tell you what foods to cut out, and you cut out these foods for 21 days, so it is definitely a long time.

The first time is definitely a challenge, but you really get used to eating all of the right things. You're really cutting out all processed foods. Then as you start to add in - say you add in gluten for 3 days, see how you feel. If you're feeling great, awesome. Now add in dairy for 3 days, see how you feel. They really create this for the individual to figure out what works for them and what doesn't. There's a lot of science and research behind it, which I really like too.

Are you willing to put in the work now, knowing that healthy eating will be easier in the future?

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Dave: I like the fact that it is very systematic, because it can seem pretty overwhelming to just think, "Okay, I need to figure out what foods don't work for me."

Maria: Absolutely.

Dave: But when it's broken down, like you said, "Okay do this. Then do this. You know, you got 3 days."

For the audience: This is Make Your Body Work Podcast episode 50. If you go to MakeYourBodyWork.com/50, I'll put a link to the Clean Program by Dr. Younger, and you can check it out for yourself.

Janice, she writes in and it's very relevant to what we've been talking about already. She's saying that she realizes something's wrong in her diet because she gets these massive cravings all the time, and she basically said, "I'm fed up! I want to change this. I'm sick of being grouchy and of eating cookies, or chocolate, or anything." She said, "What should I do? Should I go cold turkey, and just cut it all out, or do you have a better suggestion?"

Maria: I feel like, for Janice - I have totally been there. Especially for sugar cravings, that's really my biggest weak spot. I will, sometimes, when I know that it's really bad, I will start to seek out sugar. It might be 3:00 in the afternoon and I'm walking down the street in Manhattan, and I want to stop at a bodega and get Starbursts. That's not okay. That's my sign.

For me, really circling back, I feel like cutting it out cold turkey is what works for me. I think what people have to remember too, is that sugar isn't just chocolate, cookies, or pastries. There's sugar in wine. There's sugar in white bread. There's sugar in fruits; some fruits are higher sugar than others. Bananas tend to be really high in sugar.

If you're really trying to cut sugar out, those may need to go as well because you want to keep your blood sugar level as low as possible without spiking it at different times, if you want to kick those cravings.

Dave: Yeah, I like the fact that you just mentioned blood sugar because that physiological response that we get from eating sugar is a blood sugar spike. It's sort of like that high when we feel energetic, and it feels great, but just like you just said there are so many other processed foods that give that same physiological response that maybe don't have - quote, unquote - sugar in them, but our body processes it into that blood sugar.

Maria: Absolutely. Again, I feel like I'm going to keep saying the same thing. What works for me - and everyone is different. I feel like everyone finds different things that work for them, but for me - if I am in that phase where I realize that I'm having these bad sugar cravings, I go back. I cut sugar out completely across all of those things that I mentioned.

I will keep in some types of low-sugar fruits, like I'll have berries and things like that because I have found that that's okay for me. I do it for at least 7 days, but sometimes I have to go longer. Sometimes I have to go for 2 weeks until I really feel that I'm not thinking about sugar at random times throughout my day, or if I'm getting hungry, a cookie isn't the first thing that's on my mind.

It doesn't necessarily mean that once your sugar cravings are reduced, that if you see a brownie, you're not going to want to eat it. You're probably still going to want to eat it. I still want to eat it. It's really what Janice is talking about, those intense cravings that she's feeling.

Another suggestion as well: If you are trying to cut sugar out and you're cutting out all of these things that have sugar in them, make sure that you're still eating enough, because you could be just depleted on calories or protein in general.

Then you're tired and you're cranky and you go for something sweet, where if you actually just have something like grilled chicken, vegetables, or brown rice - and fill up, make sure you're drinking enough water, then those sugar cravings - you might be able to pass those.

Dave: Yeah totally. Eating a meal that's a little more satiating will actually help you feel fuller longer and help those cravings dissipate a little bit. You raised a couple of things that I want to ask you about. In this process, you said that you'll do it for 7 days or 14 days. Can you talk to the listeners about what you've experienced during that process?

I know from working with clients through the programs that I offer, it's not easy. It's a lot easier said than done. There are real addictive sort of responses that we get when we start to cut out foods like that. What is it like for you?

Can You Make It Through 3 Days?

Maria: Yeah. It's the same for me. Even though I have been doing these kind of between 7 and 21 day detoxes or cleanses, we can call them. It's still hard for me if I feel like I've kind of fallen off the band wagon and I need to go back on. I get fatigued. I get grouchy. I might get a headache.

I think that for anyone who wants to try it the first time - or people who have tried it and have experienced this before - it's really just a lot of preparation. Now if I'm going to do that, I really expect around my 3rd day, I'm probably going to be tired. I'm probably not going to be feeling that great. I make sure I'm drinking enough water. I make sure I have enough food on-hand.

Maybe I still try and go to the gym that day to try and distract myself, or sometimes if I'm exhausted, I just let myself take a nap. I think it's just really having the confidence and belief in yourself that you can do it. You can get past it. I promise, after 3 or 4 days - after you really get over that hump, it gets much, much easier.

Dave: Yeah, and that's the positive message. I was hoping you'd say that. It's interesting because it really is day 3 and 4. The vast majority of clients that I work with. It's sometimes physical muscle pains. We don't really think of sugar - the addictive power of sugar, but it is. It is withdrawal symptoms.

Maria: Oh, 100%. I think that's what happens. People get to that point and you know it's going to be hard, but when you start to feel all of these reactions in your body, you're like, "Ugh, this isn't worth it for me," but it is. The funny thing is - I find for myself, too, that once I get past day 3, day 4. I'm on day 6 or 7, I'll crunch into something like an apple and it is so much sweeter.

I'm appreciating that type of sugar so much more than before that happened when I would really need a piece of cake to really fix that craving. You start to realize that all of these natural foods, that have natural sugar, can give you that same satisfaction, which is nice.

Dave: That is such a neat place to be because - again, going back to Janice's question. She's talking about these intense sugar cravings. Can you imagine if you got to a place where you craved sugar, and like you just said, you bite into an apple or have whatever piece of fruit, and that satisfied your craving. Wouldn't that be awesome all the time?

Maria: And you can. I find myself, too, especially when I am doing the Clean Program - again, I have a huge sweet tooth so I totally relate to Janice. I can go into my freezer and grab a piece of frozen mango, and to me that's like having ice cream at the end of my meal. It's super sweet and I just need that little sweet something at the end of my day and that will work for me.

It's definitely hard to maintain. I feel like you're going to go through some type of program and your sugar cravings will be gone. Then you have a wedding over the weekend or something else happens and they might start to creep back in, but I think once you kind of get comfortable with the process of cutting it out and finding new things to eat instead of the things that are filled with processed sugars or processed foods, then it becomes more of a lifestyle change, I would say.

Does a "Cheat Day" Set You Back?

Dave: Yeah, okay. This is interesting. You led into an important question I want to ask you. One of the programs that I run, basically you practice clean eating most of the week and then have a day where some of those clean eating principles are relaxed and you can enjoy some of those foods - even foods with sugar in them.

Quite often, I'll have clients that'll say, "I'm worried about that day because I worked so hard this week and went through these withdrawal symptoms. Am I going to backslide and be back to square one after that day of being off my eating plan?" What's your experience like that? You used the example of going to a wedding. You go to a wedding and you have a piece of cake. What happens?

Maria: Yeah. I mean, for me, again - just so the listeners know, I'm not a nutritionist, but I have done a lot of research in nutrition and I feel like the Clean Program has taught me a lot. If I'm within a type of period where I'm really trying to cut things out - say I'm doing a 21 day cleanse and I have a wedding during that process, then I really try and stick to it because it's not worth it for me to break it. I really try and not drink wine or have anything that I shouldn't be having within that 21 day cleanse, but afterwards - I mean, our blog is a clean eating blog, but with a realistic balance.

People are going to eat cake every once in a while. I'm going to eat cake, or drink wine, or go out to dinner and have things that aren't necessarily clean foods. I think that's okay, just as long as you try and keep your day-to-day eating as healthy as possible for whatever works for you, and then being able to enjoy yourself when you want to.

Dave: Mm-hmm (affirmative) I want to give Janice, and other listeners who deal with this sort of thing, a realistic but optimistic perspective. Once they do get past that point of having those really intense cravings, would a glass of wine set them back?

Maria: I think everyone is different, but for me - no. I think that I have been able to go through a little 7 or 21 day cleanse, and after that be able to enjoy a glass of wine or something that has sugar in it, and it doesn't send me spiraling back because you've cut it out so much and you've learned to be able to replace foods.

I think a lot of it is education as well. When you can't have certain things, you learn to replace them with healthier things. It becomes more of a lifestyle change, like I had just mentioned before. No, just because you're going to cut them out, doesn't mean that you can never have these things again.

Given time, good eating habits can be just as addictive as bad eating habits. They're just more rewarding!

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Dave: Again, I agree with that message completely. I just want to pump up your blog for a second. Your recipe blog. You have really amazing recipes on there. The education piece, like you mentioned, is huge because as people develop a new palate for healthy, but tasty, food, some of those other foods that once were a staple in the diet become almost like an anomaly when we have those. I know for me, if I were to eat something like a piece of cake, it might taste okay, but it's not that, "Okay, I need to go and eat a whole cake." It really becomes that anomaly. There really is hope.

Maria: Yeah. I think you also learn too - like you just said, say there's cake in your office and you might want it. You know you probably shouldn't have it, but you learn, "I'm okay if I don't have this today. I'll be fine." Then, 2 hours later, after your gone, you're not even going to think about it. It's just learning to deal with those types of things.

Maybe during that time - if that's a problem for you - say you work in an office that there is pastries every afternoon and you just can't help yourself but to have them, bringing other foods that are low in sugar. It might be hard the first couple of times to bypass that, but then after a little while, you're not even going to think about it.

Dave: Yeah. I love that. Again, eluding to that idea of being educated and being prepared, to understand what you can replace - what sort of food or snack you can use to replace and making sure you have that there with you.

Maria: Absolutely. That's one of the things on our blog. We try and make foods that are something that seems normal, I guess. We just take that and make a healthier version of it. Most of the recipes on our blog are gluten free. Most of them are dairy free. They don't contain refined sugar, but they are all really good, really good alternatives.

We've had this blog for about 3 years now, but we are still learning as well. It's definitely a learning process. It has helped us to be able to learn how to just replace certain things, and not have to cut them completely out of your diet. I think people - even myself - I don't necessarily want to cut anything completely out of my diet. I don't want to feel like I can't have this certain thing, but if I can replace it with something healthier, then that works for me.

Dave: Yeah, I love that. Right now, I'm on your blog. I'm going to put a link in the show notes. This is MakeYourBodyWork.com/50, for all the listeners. Gluten free chocolate spinach muffins - I'm looking at this muffin and I do not understand how there is spinach in there.

Maria: Yes. Oh, it's in there. Yeah, it's just blended into the batter. It's just fresh spinach, just blended in. I feel like that is a great recipe for parents who are trying to sneak greens into their kid's meals. You would have no idea, if you gave that muffin to somebody, that A. It was gluten free, and B. That there was spinach inside.

Make Your Body Work Takeaway

Dave: Yeah, that's so cool. I'll definitely link - again to the listeners, I'll link to this recipe and maybe some others. I'm going to take a peak through here. You've got some beautiful looking recipes.

Maria, we like to keep this show very short and to the point. I like to end with something called the Make Your Body Work takeaway. This is for Janice, or anyone else who is saying, "Listen, I'm fed up with these cravings. I need to do something. I want to get started today." What's your piece of advice? Where can they begin?

Maria: I think, first and foremost, it's just really having confidence in yourself that you can do it. For someone like Janice, who has been saying, "I tried and then I get headaches, or I feel tired and I go for those cookies again."

I think the biggest takeaway is just to really set limits for yourself and tell yourself, "I'm going to do this. I'm going to do it for 7 days." Or "I'm going to do this for 14 days. I'm going to cut sugar out." Remembering all those other foods that also have sugar in them as well. Kind of like a "no excuses." You're going to push through. You're going to get there and at the end, it's going to be totally worth it.

When it gets tough to stick with clean eating, just ask yourself, "Why did I start in the first place?"

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Dave: Yeah. I want to go back to the really great wisdom you gave - that idea of going at least 7 days because you have to get through that 3 to 4 day barrier. Otherwise, if you go 2 days and then start to feel a little bit off and don't push through, it's really tough to ever see success.

Maria: It's true. If you are the type of person that at 7 days, you're still kind of feeling like that, or you're still kind of feeling like, "Ugh. I have still having these cravings," keep pushing forward. You'll know when you're at the point where you're not craving sugar anymore like you used to. I used to not believe it. I used to think that it was not possible, but it is possible.

Dave: Agreed. I love that message. Maria, if the listeners want to connect with you or learn more about you, where is the best way they can do that?

Maria: Yeah. I think you said that you're going to put a link to our blog, which is Spinach4Breakfast.com. We are also on Instagram @Spinach4Breakfast, and on our blog as well, it links to our other social media accounts, or you guys can send us an e-mail if you have any questions as well, at spinachforbreakfast@gmail.com.

Dave: Perfect. Maria, thanks again for joining us and thanks for all your wisdom. Really appreciate it.

Maria: Of course. Thank you for having me.

Dave: Thanks again, Maria, for joining us on this 50th episode of the Make Your Body Work Podcast. You gave some really great advice. Thanks for sharing some of your own personal experiences when it comes to dealing with sugar, cravings, cutting out food, and just kind of what that experience is like, and maybe giving the audience some specific steps that they can follow as well. I really appreciate that.

Thanks to you, the audience. Like I said at the top of the show - without you, there would be no podcast. Thanks so much for tuning in. Thanks for your questions and as always, feel free to contact me any time dave@makeyourbodywork.com.

Now, If you'd like some help getting through some of your own cravings, and going through the process that Maria and I talked about today, going through some of those withdrawal symptoms and some of those tougher moments in the first 3 to 4 days, but then breaking through and seeing the light and feeling the difference. I'd love to help you through that process.

I run a program. It's called the 10 in 4 Challenge. That's what we do. We clean up our diet. We get through those withdrawal symptoms. We feel what it's like to feel when we're on a clean diet - a healthy diet. The whole purpose of this is to start to see those numbers on the scale move in the right direction. If you'd like to work with me as a coach, check out 10in4.com. If you have any questions, again, reach me at dave@makeyourbodywork.com.

Thanks again for joining us today, and I can't wait to see you here again next week.

Thanks for joining me today!

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