Something I know from my own experience and dietary experiments, as well as from observations of clients who I work with, is that it can be hard to distinguish between our emotions- such as boredom and sadness- and actual hunger. It can be awful when cravings for junk food hit…. one part of you knows that it is bad to eat an entire block of chocolate or a giant piece of cheesecake, while the other part can’t think of anything but consuming this “bad” food!
Bingeing, night-time eating, zombie eating…these are real problems that can really derail your efforts to being healthy and feeling good about yourself.
It might happen at 3pm, when the afternoon slump hits. Or, it might be that restless time between dinner and bedtime, and you have a huge sweet craving. You end up fighting the thoughts in your mind but the physical feeling, the need, just won’t go away. You have a craving for something completely bad and naughty, big time!
So what do you do? Should you cave and eat the cake/biscuit/chocolate and then end up feeling guilty afterwards? Or are there some other ways to fight the craving that has hit?
Here are some tips that I hope will help with managing cravings when they come….and how to avoid them from happening in the first place.
- Set clear goals to stay motivated
In moments of weakness, it can be useful to remember your goals. Why do you want to be healthy? Ask yourself what benefit there will be in eating the tub of ice cream- will it move you closer to your goal, or further away?
I like to have my life and health goals easily visible so that I can easily remind myself of them when I need to. Post-it notes, a screen-saver on your computer, a vision board, or even reminders on your phone can help you to stay focussed, particularly at times when you need the motivation.
- Follow the 80/20 rule
I don’t actually believe in diets and encourage a sensible approach to eating. This means that really, you can aim to be healthy 80% of the time, and allow yourself treats 20% of the time. One simple way to measure this, is by making sure that after you eat something naughty, follow that up with 5 healthy meals before you can then eat another treat food. This way of eating means you don’t feel deprived!
- Get your greens on
Eating lots of greens, and heaps of fruit and veg in general, means that your body will be getting loads of nutrition. Sometimes cravings are triggered in our body because we are lacking some important macro or micro nutrients. Your body will feel more fulfilled when you are eating lots of fresh produce and you might be less likely to crave junk. Green smoothies are an easy way to sneak more greens into your diet.
- Avoid all temptation
Get rid of it! Don’t buy the junk food, and keep the unhealthy, processed items out of your fridge and pantry so they just aren’t there when you might be feeling weak.
- Stock up on the good stuff
Substitute junk foods with healthy ones. Do be sure to read your labels carefully though, as foods you might think are healthy can actually often be laden with sugars, or artificial sweeteners. Some simple substitutions could be eating 85% sugar free dark chocolate instead of your regular chocolate bar, or eating kale chips instead of Pringles.
You might like this Healthy Snacks Guide which is my gift to you for some other ideas for healthy snacks that you can be sure to have the ingredients available to make.
- Distract yourself
When you have a craving that you are trying to fight, the best way to get rid of it is to delay and ignore it. Get your mind and body busy! Change your environment in some way so that you are not focusing on what you don’t want to. Jump on a mini trampoline, run up and down the stairs, phone a friend, or play a game on your phone….anything that will mean you aren’t thinking about the dreaded junk food! It can also be really helpful to have a huge glass of water and to drink that because sometimes we are simply thirsty and our brain reads that signal as hunger or a craving.
- Sleep on it
Yep, taking a nap can also work. Often we crave sweet foods when we feel tired, because our body wants the energy that we are lacking in. Try to get a good night’s sleep so you are not fatigued and will therefore be less likely to crave sugary junk.
- Balance your meals
Ensure you are eating enough complex carbohydrates, healthy protein and a variety of vegetables with each meal. Don’t skip breakfast, or other meals throughout the day, and don’t leave huge amounts of time between each meal. It is when your body feels malnourished and hungry that you are more likely to crave something that is processed , fatty, sugary or generally just crap!
- Know your moods
Start to notice your moods and how they affect your cravings. Keep a food journal for a couple of weeks and keep track of what you crave, and when you crave it and you might start to also discover why. Do you always crave junk when you are in a bad mood? Or a good mood? Bored, or tired, or lonely perhaps? What are your junk food triggers? You can download a free food diary from here to get started with this tip right away,
- Give in and enjoy
If none of this works, and you just have to eat whatever you are craving, then just do it. Chill out, and be kind to yourself. I recommend eating that food, and really enjoying it. Savor each mouthful and all the tastes and sensations it brings you. Don’t beat yourself up and feel guilty about it. You are only human, and doing your absolute best. Know that over time, as you start to get healthier, that your cravings will start to disappear and you will have a new found respect for yourself and what you put in your body that will mean junk food just doesn’t come into the equation (not so often, anyway!)
- I’d love to know what you think! What junk foods do you often crave, and how do you overcome them when they hit? Share your thoughts in the comments below
If you would like to work with me in learning how you can overcome your cravings, sign up for a no-obligation Get Healthy, Happy and Hot Strategy session where I can help you uncover a little bit about why you crave foods in just 45 minutes!