Are you ready to finally squash one of your healthy lifestyle’s toughest enemies? I’m talking about FOOD CRAVINGS.
They pop up at the most inconvenient times and they usually involve foods that do absolutely NOTHING to help you reach your goals. In fact, we usually crave foods that make us feel WORSE after we eat them: bloated, blah, and ready for a nap! In this week’s article you’ll learn exactly what cravings are and why they happen – and what you can do to put them in their place!
Before we get started, it’s important to know your healthy lifestyle is NOT about depriving yourself of your favorite foods. Instead, it’s about enjoying the things you love in moderation, in a way that lets you reach your goals and feel amazing in the process!
A big part of that is learning to control your cravings, so they don’t control you.
Have you ever felt like a failure for simply HAVING a craving? Or wondered if maybe some people don’t even get them?
Fact: almost everyone has cravings.
A study published in the journal Appetite found that 97% of women and 68% of men reported having at least occasional cravings.
Cravings are intense desires for specific foods – desires that feel stronger than normal hunger. In fact, you can have cravings and not even feel hungry!
Some researchers have theorized that nutritional deficiencies can lead to cravings.
For example, wanting to chew on ice chips is tied with being deficient in iron.
Also, craving salty foods can be an indication of low sodium – a condition that’s very rare. It’s important to note that a lot of people with normal sodium levels still crave salty foods.
But for most people most of the time, cravings have little to do with deficiencies.
What are cravings?
We usually don’t crave nutrient-dense (i.e., healthy) foods. Instead, we crave highly tasty foods that are heavily processed or contain a lot of salt, fat, and/or sugar.
Plus, most of the foods we crave have one thing in common. They contain a LOT of calories.
Instead of blaming nutrient deficiencies, experts believe cravings are more complex. They can be tied to hormones, lack of sleep, our emotions, habits, environmental cues, and so much more!
Even though the reasons are complex, there are simple, clear-cut steps you can take to help minimize your cravings – so they are LESS intense and less frequent!
And on top of helping to curb your cravings, these steps can have a bonus impact on your overall health, energy, and well-being.
I’m going to be sharing 5 of the most common craving creators and my top craving crushers to beat your cravings for good!
Ready to crush your cravings? Let’s get started!
Craving creator #1 – Not eating enough
One sure way to open yourself up to cravings is to eat TOO LITTLE. In fact, it can set you up for a vicious cycle of cravings and overeating.
Under eating can happen if you don’t follow a regular eating schedule, ”forget” to eat because you’re too busy, skip meals, or drastically cut your calories because you want to drop a few pounds fast.
Each of those scenarios can lead you to feel legitimately hungry – and maybe even leave you feeling “hangry” (hungry + angry) because your blood sugar levels drop.
That can lead to craving high-calorie foods.
This can also make you start to think you “deserve” the extra calories or fatty/sugary foods because you haven’t eaten enough all day.
1. Eat on a more regular schedule – avoid skipping meals to keep your blood sugar level stable.
2. If weight loss is a goal, remember that lasting results come from a sustainable calorie deficit ating less food than you burn) vs. a crash diet.
3. Anticipate when you’ll be hungry, and have healthy foods on-hand before it gets out of control
Craving creator #2 – Not having a plan
There’s a sneaky reason it’s a good idea to come up with a meal plan for the next few days (or maybe even your entire week!).
Yes, this will help you have food on-hand when you’re hungry. Yes, you might choose healthier foods by planning ahead. And yes, you’ll probably save money by avoiding last-minute purchases.
But here’s the sneaky craving eliminator: You won’t have to spend so much time thinking about food!
And it’s no surprise that thinking about food a lot can make you hungry.
Can you imagine a life without constantly wondering what to have for breakfast, lunch, or dinner? It has already been handled!
Once you get used to planning (and prepping), you will be amazed at the peace of mind this brings you – especially if you’re the primary meal preparer in your household.
Not only will it free up brain space and eliminate the “what’s for dinner?” stress, it will also save you valuable time during the week.
1. Make a plan for your meals and snacks AHEAD of time … and do as much prep ahead of time as you can.
2. As much as possible, stick with your plan! Don’t let small setbacks get you off track. If you mess up, just get back on it the next day.
Craving creator #3 – Being Tired
Make sure you get 7-9 hours of quality sleep every night.
Yes, this is another piece of advice you probably hear a lot, but that’s for good reason.
Getting enough quality sleep can have a tremendous impact on your overall health, energy, and well-being.
Poor sleep can be one of the TOP causes of your cravings running wild!
That’s because your appetite is affected by hormones – leptin and ghrelin – that go up and down over the course of each 24-hour period …
CRUSH YOUR CRAVINGS 9 #4 Craving Creator: Being Tired
And being sleep deprived disrupts those fluctuations, which affect not just your appetite and cravings, but also your metabolism.
You feel more hungry and have more cravings.
Your body never feels fully satisfied when you eat.
The hormone imbalance makes your body believe there’s an energy shortage, so it slows down your metabolism and stores the food you eat as fat.
Talk about a recipe for overeating and gaining weight!
In fact, researchers found that severely sleep-deprived people are as much as 55% more likely to become obese than people who get enough sleep.
1. Do your best to get 7-8 of quality sleep each night.
2. Use a sleep tracker or other device (like a Fitbit, apple watch or Oura ring) to monitor how much sleep you’re getting, and how restful that sleep actually is.
3. If you don’t get enough sleep and feel cravings coming on, acknowledge your sleep deprivation and do your best to ride it out by making sure you get your daily water quotient and eat healthy foods.
4. Make sure to get enough sleep the following night!
Craving creator #4 – Eating a poor out-of-balance diet
It doesn’t take long for your diet to get out of balance if you drink a lot of soda or other sugary beverages, focus only on calories vs. the quality of those calories as well and eat a lot of processed foods like protein bars and take out.
This matters because it’s actually the nutrients in your food that keep you feeling full – especially the protein, fiber, and healthy fats they contain. Your food contains macro nutrients which are the building blocks of where the energy(calories) of the food you consume come from. Those macro nutrients are your protein, carbohydrates and fats. All three are needed to ensure a balanced nutrient profile.
Making sure you get enough of those nutrients will go a long way toward keeping you feeling full, satisfied, and energized.
Otherwise, your blood sugar can go on a crazy up-and-down ride, which leads to craving foods that give you a quick pick-me-up.
WHAT IS A BALANCED MACRONUTRIENT SPLIT?
For a balanced diet, the below macro percentages are a moderate approach:
Protein – 30% of your daily calories. Fats – 30% of your daily calories.
Carbs – 40% of your daily calories
Fiber – 25 grams a day for women, 38 grams a day for men
To get a customized macro nutrient and calorie target tailored to your body type and goals get in touch by emailing me at email@example.com
… But what about carbs you say? Don’t they make me fat and give me more cravings?
Dietary guidelines recommend 40% to 65% of your total daily calorie intake depending on your goals and activity level.
Many people believe carbohydrates cause them to have cravings – but that can be because of the TYPE of carbohydrates they are choosing.
Eating – or drinking – refined (processed) carbs shoots your blood sugar up and then quickly back down again. That can leave you feeling hungry for even more!
Refined carbs are found in processed foods, cookies, cakes, most snack foods, and anything containing sugar, white/processed flour, white rice, etc.
Studies suggest that artificial sweeteners may trick your tastebuds (and your brain) because you taste something sweet but don’t get the associated calories.
Scientists believe that this can cause some sweeteners (such as saccharin) to make you crave even more sweets.
If you tend to crave soda a lot, choose coke zero but limit it to once or twice a week only. My best recommendation for sugar substitute is erythritol or stevia in moderation.
1. Avoid drinking soda, sugary juices, or artificially flavored drinks in excess. Check labels for ingredients and sugar content.
2. Focus on eating unrefined (whole) carbs such as vegetables, fruits, legumes, and/or whole grains. These contain vital micronutrients your body needs – plus, they contain FIBER, which helps keep you feeling full.
3. Basically, you want your carbs to be as close to their natural state as possible, with few additional ingredients!
4. Make sure you include adequate protein (more on that below!) and healthy fats on your daily menu.
Craving creator #5 – Not eating enough protein
We’re going to take a deeper dive into protein, because it is the most filling of all the nutrients.
Making sure you get enough of it can go a long way toward beating cravings!
Studies show that eating protein can reduce your appetite, stopping you from overeating AND helping to reduce cravings.
A study of overweight teen-age girls found that when they ate a protein-filled breakfast they had fewer cravings.
Another study, this one of a study of overweight men, showed that when they increased their daily protein intake to 25% of their calories, it cut their cravings by 60%!
Good protein choices include plain Greek yogurt, eggs, poultry, fish, legumes, lean meats, tofu, and plant-based protein alternatives
1. Spread your protein intake out over the course of the day by including protein-rich foods at each meal.
2. Set yourself up for success for the day by eating a protein- packed breakfast.
3. Mix up your protein choices and find the sources that best help keep your appetite at bay.
Say Goodbye to cravings!
Yes …you CAN cut down on the number of cravings you have and their intensity! It boils down to 3 major steps:
1. Improve your diet. Eating a healthy, whole foods, nutrient-rich diet that contains adequate protein and fiber and is low in added sugar – and be sure to stay hydrated!
2. Give your lifestyle a feel-good makeover. Get (and stay!) well-rested and practice stress management.
3. Practice self-awareness and mindfulness. Learn your cravings triggers and address the underlying issues that might drive emotional eating.
I hope you have found this article helpful in learning more about cravings, where they come from and some practical strategies on managing them. Cravings do not have to control you nor do they have to be the reason you fall off track or mess up in your health journey. Remember, there are no good or bad foods. Some foods are more optimal than others and we are always aiming to develop a healthy relationship with food.
You have to power to make the right decisions when you are armed with the knowledge and the plan of attack against cravings.
If you need help in creating a healthy, balanced nutrition plan that is aimed towards getting you closer to your goals and help you develop a healthy relationship with food, get in touch!
Alessia Donato helps women get toned, strong & confident by doing LESS without fad diets & extreme workouts plans. She is a certified holistic nutrition coach & personal trainer who is passionate about helping women become the strongest version of themselves.
Through her own trials and tribulations with chronic IBS, Alessia has successfully learned how to apply the fundamental principles of gut healing, no nonsense, evidence based nutrition and a holistic approach to strength training which as a result helped her overcome her battle with IBS, find freedom with food and build a strong & fit body from the inside out. She has a passion for digestion and specializes in helping her clients build a healthy diet & lifestyle that supports gut health.
Through her coaching methods she helps her clients get to the core of their issues, set attainable goals, develop a personalized plan and hold them accountable for changing their lives. The destination is the same, but each person’s journey is different.
Get in touch with Alessia through her social media channels
for coaching inquires visit www.alessiadcoaching.com