Author: Margot Rutigliano, Pn2
Cravings. We’ve all had them. So many of our training clients and guests at our boot camp vacation ask how to curb cravings. For many people, they’re easily fought off at certain times. While other times or circumstances lead to giving in to junk food or overeating. Cravings come from a number of different sources and managing them can be hard to do in the moment. If you’re armed with the right information and an action plan, you’ll have a better chance of keeping them at bay.
DETERMINE THE CAUSE / TRIGGER
Cravings are generally tied to junk food in some form. Figuring out what’s causing your cravings is a huge step in warding them off. Carvings are often brought on by some type of environmental issue or behavior which leads to overeating. Consider the following to see if any of these may be the cause:
What are you craving? Is is a specific food, texture or flavor?
Where are you? Are you somewhere that’s triggering your craving - smell, sight, restaurant billboard or commercial?
What are you doing? Are you busy driving or bored at home?
How are you feeling emotionally? Are you mad, sad, irritated, frustrated or rushed?
How do you feel physically? Are you shaky, lightheaded, tense, low energy or feeling starved?
What is your mindset? Are you feeling like you might as well have this junk food because you’ve already blown your healthy eating for the day?
Who are you with? Sometimes people and actions cause these types of food situations. If you always go to happy hour and have nachos with a certain person, your cravings might be a result of a situational episode with specific people.
What To Do: Identify if any of these causes or triggers are the issue. If not, continue to notice and name what brings on your cravings. Seek the help of a nutrition professional if need be. Figuring out the root cause is important in making the necessary behavior changes to stop the cycle. If you can change the behavior or prepare yourself in advance, you have a better chance at eliminating your cravings.
CHANGE YOUR BEHAVIOR
Start jotting down (on paper or mentally) what your behaviors are around your cravings. Have you formed a bad habit? So often people get used to bad habits without even recognizing that they’ve just developed a pattern. This habit becomes a ritual on a daily basis. Examples:
Do you walk in from work in the evening and immediately go to the fridge to begin snacking?
Do you always have dessert before you to go bed? Do you feel like you “need” something sweet in the evening?
Do you always have a mid afternoon snack or 500 calorie latte to pick up your energy?
Do you feel like you need caffeine all day long to keep you going?
Ask yourself if you truly need those extras in your diet? Most likely the answer is no. You’ve formed a habit and habits are hard to break.
What To Do:
Substitute the high calorie item for something healthier.
Change your behavior to eliminate the unwanted cravings. Example: Instead of walking in from work and immediately going to the fridge to snack, grab a glass of sparkling water.
Substitute black coffee or green tea with honey for your latte with whipped cream and sugar.
Take a walk in the afternoon rather than having something an unhealthy snack or beverage.
INDULGE YOUR CRAVINGS (WITH LIMITATIONS)
Yes, have something delicious and yummy that may not be so healthy for you. It’s ok to indulge here and there. So often we tell ourselves that we can’t have certain foods which makes us crave those foods even more. This is not a license to go eat whatever you want but it’s permission to enjoy certain foods a few times a week.
How To Indulge Sensibly: Ever heard of the 90/10 rule? If you’re trying to lose weight, 90% of your meals should be healthy, balanced and in the right portions. 10% of them can be whatever you want. Let’s say you have 21 meals per week (7 x 3 = 21). 10% would be approximately 2 meals to eat what and however you choose. This gives you a little wiggle room to savor some goodies while eating healthy and sensibly the majority of the time.
TAKE A TIMEOUT
Just like a toddler, it’s time to take a time out on your cravings to figure out if you are truly hungry or not. This gives you and opportunity take a little time, evaluate your options and then act if necessary. Seriously. Take a few minutes to process whether or not you actually want to indulge.
Here’s how to do it:
Stop. Don’t give into your cravings just yet. Wait a few minutes.
Ask yourself if you’re really hungry or if you’re just bored.
Are you thirsty but you actually feel hungry? (We often mistake the two.)
Do you really want/need that junky snack? If yes, could you substitute for something healthier?
Is it because you missed lunch and are starving? If so, maybe a healthy lunch is what you’re searching for. Fill up on a healthy sandwich, salad or rice bowl instead.
EAT THE RIGHT FOODS DURING THE DAY
Eating a balanced, whole food based diet will help you to feel full, satisfied and keep your blood sugar levels in check. Many people run into problems when they aren’t getting enough of one macronutrient or another (protein, carbs, fats) or are getting way to much in the way of starchy carbs and sugar. Here are a few daily eating habits that might lead to wanting unhealthy options:
Restricting calories too much.
Not enough protein (plant or animal based).
Not enough fat.
Too many starchy, refined carbohydrates (white bread, chips, fries, etc).
Not enough colorful veggies and fruit.
Not enough fiber.
Too many sugary snacks in between meals (or after dinner).
*BONUS: YOU CAN EAT IT IF YOU MAKE IT
What if you could have anything you want but you have to actually make it? If you want potato chips, they have to be sliced from actual potatoes and cooked in an air fryer. If you want cake, you would need to make it from scratch and bake it. Ice cream? Better get out your ice cream maker and prepare to be patient. Any snack or junk food you want can be had if you make it and it’s made from 100% real ingredients. No packaged mixes or frozen ready to go food. You must make it from top to bottom including any heating, baking or freezing.
Why would this be ok? First of all, you’d be eating a healthier alternative because it’s not going to be full of additives and ingredients that you don’t want — to an extent. Obviously some recipes will call for white sugar or other items but overall it’s better than something boxed or pre-made. This activity takes time. Remember when we suggested taking a time out above? This serves that purpose. You’ll either be determined to complete this task of making it yourself or you’ll give up realizing you aren’t hungry anyway.
WRAPPING IT UP
To curb cravings for good, you’ve got to first determine where they come from and why you’re having those cravings. Whether it’s a behavior or a nutritional deficiency, the root of the problem must first be addressed. Journaling or using a note in your phone can be handy in determining where they come from. You’ll then need to figure out your action steps to solve your overindulgences. Is is a matter of substituting, changing the behavior or filling in nutritional voids by eating better throughout the day? Our balanced eating journal is a great tool to use to better understand your nutrition and fitness needs.
Need Personalized Fitness & Nutrition Help? We would love to help you! Whether you come to one of our fitness vacations, coach with us in person or online, our fitness and nutrition services offer something for everyone.
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