We recently solved the mystery of cravings. By now, you should know what they are, which factors can trigger cravings and how these nasty, niggling feelings develop. The only thing that’s left, is to find out more about what you can do next time you’re hit by one. Here are a few useful tips
Become Sherlock Holmes
First, try to understand the situations where you experience these cravings. Is it during exam time when you’re stressed? Do you reach for the chocolate bar every time your boss gets on your nerves? Maybe you’re bored? Or junk food has become a form of comfort when you’re under the weather? Try to figure out those specific situations and counteract them. Whether it’s starting yoga or meditation to cope with the stress or if you decide to change your job, that’s up to you, but you should definitely work on it, and not by comfort eating. Stress is directly related to a higher body weight. Nobody needs it.
Break the routine and aim for the healthier option
You don’t have to go cold turkey from one day to the next, but instead try to see it as a constant process of cutting back on the foods you crave and replacing them with a healthier option.
This is really important for two reasons: Firstly, as soon as you adapt to a healthier diet, magical things happen to you. You can’t directly see these changes straight away, but inside your body complex metabolic processes take place: for example, hormones are excreted differently, cells in your body can get more sensitive to hormones and even your taste buds will become more sensitive to specific tastes. For example, something you would refer to as a good level of sweetness, will most likely be way too sweet for you in a few weeks.
Secondly, your snacking habits will change. At first you may be used to snacking on sweets several times a day. But if you continuously work on reducing this, soon it becomes every second day, then once a week, and overtime you will realize you barely ever snack on sweets anymore. We are all creatures of habits and habits can be changed. It just takes time.
If the foods you crave are constantly on your desk, at eye level in your fridge or on the menu hanging on the kitchen fridge, it’s much harder to stay strong and fight temptation. Out of sight, out of mind. As long as you don’t see them you will not get the automatic link between the environmental cue (= food you see) and your eating behavior. Of course, your best bet would be not to have these foods within reach at all. If you have to go to the supermarket to satisfy your craving, the chance is really high that you won’t do it.
Don’t just replace with artificial sweeteners
Long story short: artificial sweeteners (like aspartame, saccharin and co.) are not good. Why? If you continue consuming very sweet things, you will never adapt to normal degrees of sweetness. Furthermore, studies have shown that tasting something sweet without any calories, causes you to crave sweet things even more, which means after your artificially sweetened snack, you’ll most likely still reach for the chocolate bar, which kind of defeats the purpose. And lastly, several studies have shown that people who regularly consume artificial sweeteners – for example in diet coke – are far more likely to gain weight and develop type 2 diabetes.
So what should you eat when you experience cravings?
Now is when it really gets interesting. What can you eat to curb your cravings? Well, there are a few things to keep in mind when choosing your snack.
Choose nutrient rich foods with a high fiber content. They keep you full and have often less calories at a higher volume than processed snacks. You can aim for fruits with low fruit sugar like berries, grapefruit or avocado. Also a handful of nuts, a piece of dark chocolate or dried dates can be a good choice. But you should always keep in mind, not to overeat on those snacks, since they can also be relatively calorie dense (Like nuts or avocados). You can also find more tasty and healthy snack options like an avocado chocolate pudding or raw pecan brownies in our Nutrition Coach.
Nevertheless, if you really want to lose weight, you should aim for the “almost-no-calorie” version most of the time. This way you can eat as much as you want, because those foods are high in fiber and low in calories. Choose from: Bell pepper, kohlrabi, tomatoes, cucumbers, mushrooms, salad, radishes, beetroots and broccoli. It might not sound as tasty as chocolate, but over time you’ll learn to love it. Until then, “no pain – no gain”.
Let’s recap – the rules of “Crave-Club”:
- Become Sherlock Holmes and detect your individual snacking triggers. Work on them!
- Break the routines – meaning try to snack less frequently.
- Trick yourself: Get food out of your sight and try not to buy unhealthy snacks.
- Don’t eat food with artificial sweeteners.
- Drink a glass of cold water before you eat. This can give you a first feeling of satiety.
- Aim for the healthier snacking option: choose low-sugar fruits or grab some veggie sticks.
- Eat slowly and mindful. Focus on eating. Don’t do anything parallelly like working or watching TV.
- Wait! The feeling of satiety always takes some time to kick in. Be patient.
- Exercise! Exercise works off stress, distracts you and makes you healthier at the same time! Good idea, right?
- Willpower! It is not easy, but nobody said it would be. So stay strong and be confident!