Ever have an irresistible urge to eat a certain food that you can't stop thinking about until you get it? What about chocolate? Potato chips? French fries?
Though some cravings are your body begging for certain nutrients, most can be problematic, as they can lead to overeating and weight gain. It would be one thing if you craved fruits and vegetables, but as you know, your cravings most often involve unhealthy, fattening food.
What can you do to combat your cravings? Understand them and take action to prevent them from getting the best of you.
When you feel yourself beginning to crave a food, think about what triggered your craving. Was it the smell of fresh baked cookies or a commercial with a picture of a cheeseburger? Before running to the fridge, ask yourself if you really need whatever food you're craving at the moment. Are you truly hungry?
Will eating that help or hurt your weight-loss or weight-management goals? Whenever the answers indicate you shouldn't give into your cravings, remove yourself from the situation by walking out of the room or changing the television channel.
Before making the decision whether to indulge craving, think back to your prior meal. Remember that not long before, you ate a meal and felt satisfied. Consider the calories you already consumed that day. Most likely, you don't need to add more. That's because our cravings are rarely triggered by hunger. Instead, they're usually the result of our impulses, habits, boredom, or stress.
To avoid giving in to food cravings, it's helpful to plan regular meals and snacks ahead of time. If you know you have a delicious dinner to go home to, you'll be less likely to snack on unhealthy foods during the afternoon. Planning healthy recipes and home-cooked meals with fresh ingredients will help you eat more nutritiously and keep you feeling fuller longer. Don't wait too long between meals or you'll be more prone to eat those sugary, fatty foods that will instantly satisfy your hunger and give you the energy boost you need, but soon after leaves you feeling hungry again and craving more simple carbohydrates.
If sweets are what you crave, try cutting them out completely. This strategy may just work. If you're addicted to sugar, perhaps you need to avoid it until your cravings subside. Doing this may be especially difficult the first few days, but it will be worth it if you can hold out. Of course, this will mean training your body and your mind that it doesn't need as much sugar as it's accustomed to getting each day. And while you can't entirely eliminate your cravings, the longer you go without satisfying them, the less they will gradually rear their ugly heads.
One way to tame your cravings is to keep healthy alternatives within reach. Keep fresh fruit, dried fruit, nuts, seeds, yogurt, or whole-grain crackers nearby. Having easy access to healthy foods is important. Or since research has shown that chewing a stick of gum or brushing your teeth are great ways to avoid giving in to a craving, choose one of these options to get your mouth feeling so fresh you don't want to ruin it with an unhealthy snack.
While this may not be a good idea for everyone, try giving in just a little. If you've been craving sweets, eat just one small cookie or bite-size candy bar. Enjoying the little bite may curb your craving without making you feel completely denied. Another suggestion is to combine your cravings with healthy foods. If you crave something salty, add a little salt to some homemade popcorn. Perhaps it would help to give yourself some other kind of small reward for resisting your cravings.
Like so many things in life, fighting cravings is best done with support. Have a friend of family member keep you accountable when it comes to resisting your cravings in order to reach your health or weight-loss goal. If you find that your cravings are triggered by depression, stress, anger, or other emotional issues, you may need professional assistance to deal with your cravings.