Are cravings for junk food getting in the way of your healthy eating habits? Find out what’s causing them, and learn how to conquer your food cravings with my 8 tips!
We have all been there when a food craving hits, and we will do just about anything to get our hands on whatever it is we are craving. Well, at least I certainly have! If you struggle with cravings getting in the way of your healthy habits, you are not alone!
I recently sent the SGM community a survey. One of the questions on the survey asked, “What is your biggest struggle when it comes to clean eating and maintaining a healthy diet?” The number one answer was CRAVINGS!
For the past several weeks I’ve spent quite a bit of time researching cravings. Today, I am sharing some of the information and tips I’ve learned from all of that research, along with some of my own experiences and tips. Let’s conquer those food cravings!!!
What Are Cravings?
Cravings are intense, urgent or abnormal desires or longing for something. The first thing that comes to my mind when I think of cravings is food that lacks nutritional value, aka junk food. Hello chocolate brownies, fries, pizza, chips, ice cream, nachos, and buffalo wings. I have definitely felt an abnormal desire for all of you! 🙂
So the question is how do we conquer our unhealthy food cravings when we are trying to maintain a healthy diet?
What Causes Food Cravings?
Before we conquer our food cravings, I think it’s important to understand what causes them. Cravings can be caused by a number of different factors. Some of the most common include:
- Lack of Sleep
- Hormonal Shifts
- Low Blood Sugar
Let’s talk about a few of these causes and some of the theories that explain them.
Stress can lead to craving foods that contain sugar or fat or both because when we eat these foods they stimulate the reward center of our brains and cause the body to release chemicals. These chemicals promote positive feelings including happiness and pleasure.
Unfortunately, these feelings of pleasure are short-lived. Cravings due to stress can lead to overindulgence and feelings of guilt which can then create a vicious cycle.
Some cravings can be caused by habits or conditioning. Connecting a particular food with a particular place, event, or person creates a link in the brain. Later, a similar situation can trigger a craving for that food.
Several years ago, I pulled into a Whataburger drive-thru and got a Coke on my way home from a class I taught on Monday afternoons. The following week, I again stopped for a Coke on my way home from work.
Before I knew it, I had created a weekly habit. Perhaps I wasn’t physically craving the Coke, but I had conditioned myself to associate passing Whataburger on my way home with having a Coke. Once I recognized that I had created a habit, I was able to break it by taking a different route home.
8 Tips To Conquer Your Food Cravings
Understanding what causes cravings can be the first step to helping combat them. Here are some other tips to help you conquer your unwanted food cravings.
Exercise stimulates the production of serotonin and releases endorphins which are the feel-good chemicals I mentioned earlier. Instead of reaching for that sugary snack, move your body and get that heart rate up for 20-30 minutes.
2. Catch Plenty Plenty Of ZZZ’s
Several studies show that lack of sleep can increase junk food cravings because the sugary, high-fat food affects the reward center of the brain.
Sleep loss is also responsible for changing the way our appetite-controlling hormones work. When we are sleep deprived not only are our bodies hungrier, they also do not recognize when we are full.
3. Stay Hydrated
Often times we mistake thirst for food cravings. Be sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day. Check out my 10 Tips to Increase Water Intake.
4. Eat A Balanced Diet
Eating nutritious well-balanced meals throughout the day will help avoid hunger pains and will help stabilize blood sugar levels.
Make sure you are including sufficient amounts of fiber and protein which help your body stay satiated longer. My post about being a flexitarian has more information about protein and lists some excellent protein sources.
Don’t forget about your fruits and veggies which are great sources of fiber. This post is will help you Step Up Your Fruit and Veggie Game!
5. Make A Healthier Swap
This is one of my favorite tips! I love coming up with nutritious alternatives for the not so nutritious food that I sometimes crave. Do you crave nachos, Reese’s, buffalo chicken wings, chocolate chip cookies, and/or pizza? If you do, you are in luck, because I have some healthy swaps here on the blog.
6. Follow The 80/20 Rule
I don’t think deprivation is sustainable. Often times, when we completely eliminate a food or food group from our diet, the craving for that food increases, which may lead to overeating that particular food.
That’s why I am a firm believer in the 80/20 rule. I eat nutritious food 80% of the time and make “fun” choices 20% of the time without guilt! This absolutely helps me to control my food cravings!
The tricky part is not overindulging in the “fun” food. You have probably heard me say this before…I cannot eat a small portion of chips and French onion dip. I want more! I want more! It’s easier for me to just not eat them, and instead choose a small portion of something that will satisfy me.
You can have your cake, and eat it too as long as you are mindful! 🙂
7. Plan Ahead
This is probably one of the most important tips on this list. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Numbers 1, 2, 4, & 6 all require some amount of planning if you want to keep those cravings at bay.
- Exercising regularly requires looking at your schedule and planning how and when you will move your body.
- If you are going to get enough sleep, you need to plan to turn off NETFLIX and put down your phone at a decent hour.
- Eating a balanced diet daily means you are going to need to plan your nutritious meals/snacks ahead of time, and plan a trip to the grocery store. You may also need to do some food prep. We eat way more fruits and vegetables in the Small household when they are washed and prepped ahead of time. We also aren’t scrambling at 6:00 trying to figure out what to eat for dinner when we take the time to meal plan on the weekends. These posts will help you Meal Plan Like A Boss and Meal Prep Like Boss.
- The 80/20 rule also requires some planning. If I know I have a party coming up on the weekend, I plan to make nutritious choices all week so that I can save my 20% “fun” for the party.
8. Sit With Your Craving
When you are having a craving, sit with it for a few minutes. Evaluate it and try to determine its cause. This will allow you to make a more rational decision rather than a reactionary one.
I hope this information and these tips will help you to conquer your food cravings!!! If you have any additional tips that have helped you, please share them in the comments below.