During the first part of this series, we discussed psychological reasons behind food cravings. In the second part, we discussed physiological causes of food cravings, but we still want to put all this information to good use and learn how to control cravings when they strike.
Now that we know what causes us to crave certain foods, how do we control those cravings?
As I mentioned in the second part of this series, nutrient deficiency can trigger some food cravings. Your body sense a lack of availability of a certain vitamin, mineral or substance and it tries to correct those deficiencies by making you crave certain foods. To avoid this, simply eat more raw foods than processed foods. Moreover, eat more nutrient dense foods such as vegetables and fruits. Not only will you correct any potential deficiencies, but you will also get to eat a lot more due to the low-caloric content of those foods which will make you feel sate. If you cannot eat vegetables and fruits all time, you can also start taking a multi vitamin to correct any deficiencies. However, food is always better!
The satiety index guide was one of the first articles I published on this blog and it was intentional. I knew that satiety would keep coming up as we speak about nutrition and not having a guide on the satiety index would make it difficult for those of you who or not familiar with what it is or what it does. It’s a good reference to go back to every once in a while. When you are craving a piece of cake or a candy bar, tell yourself that you will eat, BUT you will eat other foods. So, instead of eating candy bars, go make some air-popped popcorn and eat that instead. Eat some protein-rich foods since protein is the most satiating macronutrient. Dietary fiber also comes in handy in situations like this. Dietary fiber stays in the digestive system for some time and slows down digestion which promotes satiety. Feeling full will help keep your mind off certain cravings until you get through that phase. Don’t cave in to your cravings.
Water and calorie-free beverages
Zero calorie beverages are awesome! They’re delicious and help fill you up. Sometimes, we think we are hungry, but in reality, we are merely thirsty without knowing. If you eat a good meal and you’re still craving a prohibited food, just drink some water or your favorite calorie-free beverage; diet soda, flavored sparkling water…etc. and you’re guaranteed to feel fuller and keep your mind off cravings.
For some people, eating large satiating foods and drinking some beverages isn’t enough, however, do not lose hope! If your food cravings persist, do some type of physical activity, preferably something you like doing. That could include taking a walk, jogging, playing your favorite sport or getting a gym session. Keep yourself away from what you are craving as much as possible and do something physical instead, your mind will shift its focus on whatever activity you will be doing.
Don’t go shopping!
Shopping while hungry is one of the worst things you can do while following a strict nutrition plan. You may intend going to the supermarket only to pick up some vegetables, but more often than you think, your imagination and desire will start nagging you to pick up other items. Matters are even worse when you are hungry. You will find yourself walking down the aisle where your favorite candy is, or whatever it is you are craving and it will be very challenging not to buy it, especially if there is a sale going on! Always eat a big nutritious meal before you head out to the supermarket. One trick that can also help you not buy the prohibited food is to go the supermarket with a specific checklist and a limited amount of money to cover ONLY those items. Don’t take your credit card with you! Just take enough cash to buy what you really need, that way you can’t buy what you’re craving even if you want to.
Avoid social gatherings – when needed –
Look, glory has a price! To achieve the best physique possible, you will often have to make sacrifices. Now, I am not telling you to be an anti-social piece of crap. However, if your friends or family plan on going out to eat at your favorite junk food restaurant or at the best bakery in town, find an excuse to either not attend that social gathering or to not eat that food even if you go out. Socializing is normal and once of life’s pleasures. Don’t torture yourself by completely skipping on social events, but sometimes it will be necessary. For instance; if you are at 10% body fat and you are currently dieting hard to get down to 8% body fat, you will most likely not be able or allowed to eat a meal at McDonalds! Sacrifices are part of the game, but it will be worth it when you look in the mirror and see how far you’ve come. Don’t obsess too much over skipping social events, though. Go out and have fun, but still be reasonable.
Eat before you hang out
If you must go to a restaurant with your friends, a good trick to eat a big satiating meal before you leave your house. A meal rich in dietary fiber and protein will help keep you full throughout your time at the restaurant, which will help you make smarter decisions in regards to what you will order and will help you eat less than what you would’ve eaten if you were hungry. Obviously, you won’t just sit there and watch everyone eat, right? But choosing smarter dishes will help you have fun and stay on track.
Kill your craving
Not literally, but you can kill your craving by not caving in! Since food cravings are majorly affected by psychological factors such as memory and activating reward zones in the brain, killing your craving for a slice of pizza will only happen by avoiding pizza. It sounds harder than it really is, but when you don’t feed your food cravings, your brain eventually adapts to the lack of availability of that food. Your brain gets desensitized to the effects of pizza and “forgets” it with time. Don’t feed your cravings, bust your way through them and your brain will adjust itself accordingly. Studies have indicated that people who deprive their food cravings almost always control themselves better than those who have “just a little piece” of whatever they’re craving.
Keep your eyes on the prize
If it was easy, everyone would have it! You want to change your life around? It won’t be easy. Sacrifices are necessary to achieve any major goal, and changing your physique is not an overnight task. One thing to always keep in mind while dieting is to keep your eyes on the prize. Just imagine how good you will feel when you finally look in the mirror and see the shape you’ve always desired. I bet at that moment you will forget all the sacrifices you’ve made along the journey. Think about the next time you weigh yourself and how fantastic you will feel when you realize that you lost even more weight than you had in mind merely because you passed on that high-sugar high-fat piece of cheesecake. Remind yourself that you are transforming your body and life and that you won’t sabotage your progress by 5 minutes of pleasure.
One tiny piece
In rare situations, people will do everything possible and still crave a certain food. Only that chocolate chip cookie will satisfy you and keep you sane. What should you do? In these RARE cases, you can allow yourself to have just a tiny bit of whatever it is you are craving. Moreover, a nice trick I used sometimes was to utilize fake alternatives. For example; I may be craving a nice warm chocolate chip cookie, but that’s full of sugar, fats and probably has 400 calories or so. What I would do instead is either make my own homemade chocolate chip cookies using less and cleaner ingredients to make more nutritious and less calorie-dense chips that will satisfy my craving and even contribute to my physique transforming progress. If you do not want to cook/bake the alternative, we live in the United States, people! The country where everything is conveniently available. All you need is to go to your local supermarket and pick up the alternative food. Many companies are aware that more people are tracking their dietary habits nowadays, and thus, they aim to get a share of that market by creating products that fits those peoples’ lifestyles. You can find regular versions of cookies, but you will also find low-calorie cookies made by the same company. All YOU have to do is buy the latter!
Food cravings are normal and happen to everyone, especially those who are following strict nutrition plans. Food cravings are caused by both psychological and physical factors and could be your body’s way of telling you something. Knowing how to control cravings and keeping them on leash is mandatory for anyone who is trying to transform their body. Stay consistent and don’t cave in! This feeling is temporary and luckily, we can work our way around it with adjusting a few eating and physical behaviors and manipulating our diet plans. This article concludes the cravings 101 series. For any questions, suggestions or comments, feel free to drop them in the comments section down there or shoot me an e-mail. Stay strong! Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will your body.
A lot of effort and research went into creating this series of article, so kindly share it with your friends and help save someone before they cave in to their cravings.