Chocolate, pizza, ice cream, potato chips, french fries, cheese -- you know them and you crave them! If you're like me, cravings can be a real stumbling block in your whole body health journey. Just when you've had a great day or week of eating and moving, those creamy and crunchy munchies creep up and you've just gotta have them -- NOW!
However, if you take a moment to deconstruct those triggers that are seemingly out of control, you'll find the way to be MORE than a conqueror over your cravings.
"Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us." -- Romans 8:37
Here are 10 black belt tips to help you conquer cravings!
TIP #1: GET TO THE ROOT!
Cravings are a communication -- your body is telling you that it needs something and most of the time it's not food. In order to conquer cravings, the first action to take is to get to the root of your "need to feed."
Hunger is physical, so you'll know it. When you are actually hungry, you will feel those grumbly-growlies that are often accompanied by light headedness and a "hangry" feeling. Hunger is usually a rolling sensation that starts small and gets bigger over time. If you are hungry, you should eat -- just make it a healthy, balanced meal with lots of veggies, protein and fiber.
But, if it's not hunger, then what is it?
”When a craving doesn't come from hunger, eating doesn't satisfy it.”
– Michelle May, MD
Author “Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat.”
If hunger is not the issue, food is not the solution. The best way to get to the root of your craving is to have a conversation that goes something like this:
Question #1 -- Are you HUNGRY?
A sub-question to Question #1 might be, when was the last time you ate? It takes approximately 3-4 hours for your stomach to empty its contents into your small intestines. If only an hour-ish has passed since you last ate and you're headed back to the fridge, either you are not really hungry or you didn't eat a balanced meal.
Question #2 -- How are you FEELING?
Cravings are often connected to emotions; sometimes you need to take a breath and check in with what's going on inside. Are you stressed, lonely, bored, anxious or something else? Connect with the emotion that may be hanging out underneath the sudden urge for Oreo cookies.
QUESTION #3 -- What do you really NEED?
Once you've identified the feeling, instead of food -- which will not solve the problem -- what can you do to meet the true need? That's where Tip #2 comes in.
TIP #2 -- GET INTO ACTION!
Research has shown that cravings last between 3-10 minutes. It is different for everyone, but usually there is a window of time when intense craving rules the brain. However, once you deconstruct the need and replace it with a connected action, you now are in the driver's seat.
If you are lonely, call a friend. If you are stressed, breathe, go for a walk, drink tea, or find a funny YouTube video to get your laugh on! If you are bored, have a pop-up dance party, journal, create, or dream!
A great tool is to create your Power 10 -- make a list of 10 connected, non-food activities that you can do when the cravings come. Put your Power 10 on your fridge as a friendly reminder.
*****TIP #3 -- CUT THE C.R.A.P.
One of the best ways to conquer cravings is to reduce or remove the offending foods from your daily diet. When you eat less sugar and processed foods, your body actually craves less sugar and processed foods. If you've been following me for a while, you know one of my favorite acronyms is C.R.A.P.
C - Carbonated and Sugary Beverages (Liquid Calories)
R - Refined Flours & Oils
A - Added Sugar & Artificial Ingredients
P - Processed Foods
Don't try to tackle all of them at once. Pick one and crush it. Try a Sugar-Free Day - and then challenge yourself to do a week!
“There are ways to cut cravings by naturally balancing your blood sugar.”
- Dr. Mark Hyman
"The Blood Sugar Solution 10 Day Detox Diet"
Research shows that you can significantly impact sugar cravings in 10 days or less.
TIP #4 - EAT PROTEIN WITH EVERY MEAL
Starting with breakfast, eating protein at every meal is a great weight loss tool, but it also helps balance your blood sugar and keep you full - both of which can quash your cravings.
TIP #5 - MAKE AGREEMENTS
This is a biggee! For those food cravings that are MUST HAVES in your life, create agreements that keep you in control. There are 4 rules when creating agreements:
1) Be Realistic
2) Be Creative (Have fun!)
3) Elevate Your Eating to an Experience
4) Be Committed
For example, I love (like really love) So Delicious Peanut Swirl Non-Dairy Dessert. In the past, I had a hard time not devouring an entire pint every time I brought it home. In order to keep it in my life and be a Cravings Conqueror, I created two agreements.
Agreement #1: I only buy it in when it's on sale.
It only goes on sale every 6 weeks or so, which limits the number of times I eat it. And each time I am in the freezer section, I either get a happy surprise or it's status quo. I have now elevated the happy moment of seeing my beloved dessert on sale, so when it's not on sale, I have no urge to buy it.
Agreement #2: I only eat one satisfying serving each day.
Once I get it home, I can only have one serving per day. It's a satisfying size and I elevate it into an experience. I linger over each delicious small spoonful and let it melt in my mouth. Sometimes I add a little fresh organic peanut butter. Yes - the protein and fat in the PB add a few additional calories, but it helps blunt the impact on my blood sugar and up my enjoyment factor. Totally worth it!
Here is where the agreement comes in. If I go back for seconds, I have to throw the whole thing away. Yeah, I know it's hard core, but it works because I'm committed to it.
What agreements can you make to be a Cravings Conqueror with the foods you love?
STEP #6 - EXERCISE
Action is the anecdote for just about everything, so it should come as no surprise that getting your heart pumping reduces stress and gives you a natural burst of dopamine and serotonin to curb your cravings urges.
If you want to get even more serotonin for your buck - take it outdoors!
TIP #7 - REDUCE STRESS
Stress is linked to craving sugary and fatty foods. so it's no wonder that you have French Fries on your brain when you are stressed out. Fight back with some of these great stress reducing tips. Take a few for a spin.
TIP #8 - SLEEP 7+ HOURS
I've come to learn the hard way that 7 hours of sleep is non-negotiable. Candidly I am still working on it, but sleep deprivation wreaks all kinds of havoc on your body and certainly impacts your cravings. When you're tired, you're likely to eat more, and when you're up late, you are more likely to eat sugary and fatty foods (which cause you to crave more sugary and fatty foods). Set an alarm to go to bed and those cravings get some rest right along with you.
TIP #9 - DRINK WATER
Water should always be your drink of choice, because it is God's perfect health refresher. It's a great first defense when cravings strike. And the bonus is that drinking water is also linked to weight loss and cravings reduction. Score!
TIP #10 - AVOID HUNGER
Last but not least, try to avoid skipping meals or waiting too long in between. As I mentioned, it takes approximately 3-4 hours for your stomach to digest your food before moving it along to your small intestines.
If you eat on a regular cycle of every 3-4 hours, your body will have what it needs, your blood sugar will stabilize, and your brain will be less likely to wander to foods that your waistline doesn't need.
So there you have it, 10 tips to add to your Cravings Conqueror Toolkit. You've got this! What tip are you going to put into action today?
"Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead." - James 2:17