Dieting to lose weight or simply trying to cut out things you know are bad for you can often result in food cravings. Cravings can be hard to ignore – and some people go completely off the deep end when their cravings kick in, undoing all their previous good work in the process. So how should you deal with food cravings? Good question! In this article I will provide you with some strategies for beating those cravings and mastering your diet.
1. Toughen up!
Okay, so this is easier said than done but nobody ever died because they didn’t succumb to their cravings. There is not a single case that has been reported where someone dropped dead simply because they didn’t eat a chocolate chip cookie or a Snickers bar. Cravings are not early warning signs of some life-threatening medical condition that can only be alleviated by eating the food you crave. If you can hold off for a while and not give in to your craving, you may well find it disappears all on its own. After all, cravings are all in your mind. If you lack the cast-iron will power to simply ignore your cravings, read on for more solutions.
2. Cheat your craving
If you crave something sweet, you don’t have to indulge your craving with candy. Likewise, a craving for savory food doesn’t mean scarfing a pile of French fries with lots of salt and ketchup. With a bit of imagination, you should be able to find foods that calm your cravings but that are still healthy. If you crave sweet things, try frozen grapes, fruit in general or high percentage coco solids chocolate – the strong flavor in a small portion means you can quash those cravings while exercising damage control.
If it’s salty or savory food you want, try raw vegetables with a homemade garlic dip, whole chilies, crackers with low fat cream cheese or salted popcorn. Any one of these solutions is much better and healthier than chips or fries.
3. Never say never
Don’t think about beer. Now, what are you thinking about? Beer of course! Cravings are often triggered by not allowing certain foods in your diet. If you ban all sweets, you are almost always going to crave sugary foods. Eliminating bread? Suddenly you’ll swap your first-born for an English muffin with butter and jam. No more takeouts? Get ready for dreams of pizza.
You can avoid these types of cravings by never saying never again. Once a week, indulge your less healthy appetites but do so sensibly and while practicing portion control. A little of what you crave is good – a lot is not. Consider these breaks from your diet as well-deserved treats rather than cheating. This mindset alone should help prevent cravings.
4. Never shop for food when you are hungry
That gnawing feeling you get when you haven’t eaten enough was a great motivator for our Stone Age ancestors that got him up and out of his cave and hunting for food to eat. You still have the same appetites and suffer hunger in the same way but, unlike Stone Age man, rather than go and hunt your food and exert thousands of calories doing so, you only have to pick up the phone and place an order with the delivery guy or stroll around your local supermarket. And if you do either of these things while hungry? You will end up buying and subsequently eating lots more than you meant to. Chances are, your hunger-inspired cravings will drive you down the cookie and candy isles of your supermarket and you won’t just buy a little to satisfy your cravings; you’ll buy a lot. Avoid this craving trap by never shopping for groceries when you are hungry.
5. Drink some water
Or coffee, or tea or diet soda…food cravings can often be alleviated by drinking calorie-free beverages. Many of us have very confused hunger and thirst receptors which basically mean although you are craving food, you body is actually thirsty. Too many gallons of sugar-laden soda have resulted in this hunger/thirst crosswire so before you give into a craving, try drinking something instead. If, 15 minutes or so pass and you still have the same craving, you may need to try another strategy. Regarding diet soda, be aware that although these beverages are low in calories they aren’t especially healthy so while the occasional can of diet soda is okay, regular giant-sized servings are not.
6. Use external motivators
Why are you avoiding the foods you crave? Health? Appearance? Whatever the reason, use external reminders to strengthen your resolve for ignoring your cravings. If you are trying to lose weight, take a look at a picture of yourself that is particularly unflattering. Remember, this is how you DON’T want to look. Giving into your cravings will prevent you from moving up and away from this image. Alternatively, find an image of how you want to look. Again, succumbing to your craving will mean you are further away from the ideal you. Either way, remember there are consequences for giving into your cravings.
7. Distract yourself
Cravings usually hit the hardest when you are bored, under stimulated or are sat in front of the TV. Beat those cravings by doing something distracting. It’s much harder to eat the wrong things if you are furiously tapping away at your computer keyboard, playing your X-box or, better still, enjoying a brisk walk, instead of mindlessly watching TV. Do something – anything – to take your mind off your cravings.
Cravings are an almost inevitable part of eating well – especially if you previously ate a lot of the things you know you shouldn’t. If you do cave in against your cravings, don’t worry – it happens to the best of us. Just pick yourself up, dust yourself off and try and do better next time. Treat each slip as a learning experience and try not to make the same mistake again. With time and patience you will reprogram your body to be more resistant to cravings.