None of us enjoy cravings. They’re annoying and frustrating, and most of the time very problematic.
The biggest issue that comes with cravings is the lack of freedom. You can feel 100% on top of the world, eating “perfectly”…then enters a bag of M&Ms or bag of salty potato chips or popcorn, and it’s like you’re the dummy for a ventriloquist…you have zero control and it plan out sucks for lack of better words. You lose every bit of freedom you seemingly had the second that sweet or salty snack enters your eyesight.
And I know first-hand.
If you’re like me, once a craving enters my brain, it’s never leaving unless I satisfy it. Before I started my nutrition journey and made some significant changes to my life, cravings controlled me. I tried everything. I tried drinking water. I tried avoiding sweets all together. I tried cutting sugar out. I tried protein shakes. Nothing worked. It would work, at most a couple of months, but then sugar (mainly chocolate) would make its way back into my life to wreak some havoc.
Not only did it ruin any chance of weight loss, but it made me feel weak and powerless. I heard so many stories of people feeling empowered kicking their cravings to the curb…and I wanted that, but I didn’t know how.
Does this sound familiar?
Do you feel that cravings have controlled your life far too long? Do you avoid social settings merely out of fear that you may deviate from your diet and give way to the cravings you despise so much?
Well, fear no more. I can help you.
Below are the 5 steps I personally used and now have my clients use when they want to finally take control of their life and end their cravings once and for all.
#1 EAT ENOUGH
The biggest reason I see cravings exist (and never leave) is because you’re simply not eating enough.
Take a common day I would see from an intake form:
Breakfast: an egg and 2 pieces of toast = 200 calories
Lunch: salad with grilled chicken and an apple = 450 calories
Dinner: grilled chicken with broccoli and sweet potato = 210
200 + 450 + 210 = 860 calories and roughly 70g protein, 90g carbs, and 30g of fats.
This simply isn’t enough food. Your body isn’t meant to eat under 1000 calories. Even if we had a bedtime snack in there, that would be only 1100 calories…still far too little.
Remember your BMR (basal metabolic rate)?? It’s the energy your body expends just to exist and survive (not factoring in any activity). For females, this is around 1400-1500 and for males, this is around 1700-1800.
If you eat fewer calories than what it expends, you will lose weight to start… but eventually your body will start to slow down and downregulate. At the same time, it will start sending out hormones (little signals) telling your body to eat…and eat anything in sight. This sounds awfully like a craving! That’s because it is. Cravings are often your body’s way of saying “hey, please feed me!!!!” Why do you crave sugar? Because your body wants the quickest reward… something that will satisfy it…so it will go towards the foods that bring the most reward.
So…step 1 is simply to eat more food. Think of it this way. If you eat 2000 calories, your body is going to be satisfied and happy, therefore removing the need for cravings. This is especially true if you’re not used to eating 2000 calories. This might feel like a lot of food for you, so you’re not going to crave even more food!
Now if you are this example above and should be eating 700-1000 calories (or even more) than what you’re eating now, apply here for coaching. It isn’t easy bringing intake up, and it’s best to rely on a coach to help you through the process.
#2 EAT PROTEIN
In addition to simply bringing up intake, you should also be eating more protein.
A couple fun facts about protein:
20-30% of calories coming from protein are used simply to digest it (<5% for fats and carbs)
Protein keeps you full longer
Protein increases resting metabolism
Protein increases daily expenditure
Protein fights cravings best
All of these fun facts are because protein takes longer to digest and also burns more energy doing so. This increases your daily expenditure allowing you the ability to eat more food (helping fight those cravings in the meantime). Because protein takes longer to digest, it sits in your system a bit longer keeping you more satiated.
Protein also doesn’t spike your blood sugar and as a result increase insulin production as well. Because of this, there is no subsequent sugar crash shortly after, keeping energy and motivation high and lowering that post-sugar rush appetite.
My favorite example is to imagine eating either 1 dozen (12x) hot Krispy Kreme doughnuts or 1 dozen chicken breasts.
Which would be easier to eat? The doughnuts
Which would make you fuller quicker? The chicken
Which would you be hungry 1 hour after finishing? The doughnuts
The doughnuts would 100% be the more favorable and easier option…because it spikes blood sugar ramping up your appetite. None of us would ever want to eat a dozen chicken breasts…but I know many of us would gladly eat a dozen hot KK doughnuts.
This is why protein helps us fight cravings. You should be eating roughly your body weight in protein, evenly spaced at every meal throughout the day, even [and especially] for breakfast!
Sometimes your cravings are due to a lack of hydration. If you are hungry or craving something, start first with drinking a glass of water and simply wait 15 minutes. If the cravings or hunger is still there, then you likely are hungry and should have something to eat.
If dehydration is the reason you’re hungry or craving food, make sure you’re drinking enough in a day.
You should be drinking half your bodyweight plus 15oz of water per hour of exercise. A 150lb. person exercising 1 hour daily would drink 150/2 + 15 oz of water, or roughly 90oz of water daily. Drink before and after meals or when you wake up in the day. Set an alarm to remind you to drink a glass on the hour.
Cravings don’t make you less of a person. You’re not weak. You’re not a failure. You’re a human being who wants to eat food. Some people don’t struggle with cravings at all, but some do.
If you do, understand that they’re there for a reason.
Beating yourself up over having a craving is not going to do you any good.
Find other means of rewards. If you had a great day or want a celebration, include a treat! You have earned it. Also throw in other types of rewards. Go out for a walk. Go hang out with friends. Hit up the gym and do a fun rewarding workout. Swap out the ice cream for some fruit.
On the contrary, if you have a bad day, don’t just go for the ice cream and bottle of wine. Go out for a walk first. Make a mocktail.
Start rewiring your brain to how it responds to rewards and punishments. Do this one day at a time. If you have a bad day, make one change. Repeat it plus another change. This will rewire how you respond to certain situations. If you always respond to a bad day with a serving of fruit and a mocktail…eventually that’s what you will crave when you have a bad day instead of a stiff margarita.
Also understand how you respond to cravings and unhealthy foods. Even now after fixing my issue with cravings, I still keep most of the unhealthy stuff out of my house because I know I’ll still on occasion want to just go for it. Instead, I make it more difficult for myself. If I want ice cream, I know I have to go out of my way to get it. If I truly want it, then I’ll make the effort. If I’m just bored-eating or having a bad day, I won’t go that extra step and instead will go for a smarter and healthier option. If salty food is your nemesis, simply keep them out of reach and make it more difficult to obtain.
In addition to increasing caloric and protein intake, this is the most important step.
I had a client, Christina, who was at the beck and call of cravings. Unfortunately, she wasn’t eating enough. She would restrict for 2-3 days sub-1000 calories, then would have an uncontrollable 3,000-4,000 calorie binge as a result. In addition to simply bringing her intake and protein up, I mandated that one time each a week, she had a binge. She had to purposefully go to the store, buy what she needed to binge on then needed to go home and do it. Within maybe 2 weeks, she no longer felt the need to have a binge and no longer enjoyed them. Then, instead of binging, I made her simply include her cravings a couple times a week. She had to eat what she was craving at least 3x, if not every day, and had to send a picture each time. Again, within a week or two, her cravings her gone.
I removed the negative stigma behind them. She no longer felt the need to rebel and get those unhealthy foods in because she was getting enough of them. This is what allowing unhealthy foods actually does. If you allow them 1-2 per week but keep food quality high, no longer punish yourself for having them, and improve protein and caloric intake, you too can finally end your cravings.
Remember my client Shannon? Once we increased her intake, improved her food quality, and actually started allowing foods she was craving, she immediately started seeing her weight drop on the scale (even while we were adding food), while also gaining a ton of sanity. It simply takes time and patience.
If you want cravings to finally be gone, start slowly implementing these one at a time. It doesn’t have to be overnight.
This is one of my favorite parts of being a coach…helping you gain freedom and sanity from things that have been plaguing you for so long. If cravings are controlling your life and you want someone to help free you from them, then apply here for one on one individualized nutrition coaching. We’ll hop on a free 30 min consult call and talk about all the ways I can help end your cravings for good.