One of the biggest challenges we face when losing weight is cravings. They always seem to hit us the worst when we’re trying to eat healthily and consume fewer calories. You just know they are going to be harder to deal with when you know you need to keep your calorie count and sugar consumption to a minimum so you can shed the pounds.
Why is that? Is there any hope?
The great news is that we can overcome our cravings. We can push ourselves to lose weight. So, what’s the bad news?
Well, this isn’t going to be easy. You will need to have some willpower and the motivation to succeed. You really need to want to lose weight. If you don’t, you will start to find the excuses to give into the cravings.
Remember that those cravings aren’t just stopping you from losing weight. They’re making it harder for you to follow a healthier lifestyle. Most of our cravings are never nutritious fruit and veg or protein-packed ingredients. They are those that are full of refined sugars, processed ingredients, and added chemicals. They do our bodies no good and giving into the cravings just makes the cravings worse.
So, what are our options? What can we do to overcome these cravings and actually be successful in the weight loss department? Can we even stop the cravings from happening at all?
Here’s all you need to know about overcoming and potentially preventing cravings so you can definitely lose weight and live a healthier lifestyle.
Why Are You Getting the Cravings?
Scientists don’t quite understand why we get cravings for certain foods. In some cases, there is the belief that our bodies need to get extra nutrients into our systems. When we don’t, we end up craving the food that would give us those nutrients. This is especially common when we’re dehydrated. Our bodies start to crave watery fruits and vegetables.
But the cravings we get while on a diet aren’t exactly good for our bodies. They don’t give us nutrients that we need, so why do we get the cravings?
One of the most common beliefs is an addiction. We tend to crave high sugary foods, and that’s often due to a sugar addiction. Yes, we do get addicted to the stuff, and it tends to be more addictive than some hard drugs! The same applies to coffee and even cheese! Our brains tell us that we need to get more sugar, and then we start to want it even more.
You need to kick the addiction. The only way you can do that is by overcoming your cravings rather than giving into them. It will be harder, and some people do suffer sugar withdrawals, but it will all be worth it for you in the long term.
Another reason you may get the cravings is that you keep telling yourself more. There’s this common issue in human nature. The more we’re told no, the more we want something. You’ll know if you have kids that they tend to do the things they’re not allowed. It’s not that they’re intentionally being rebellious, but they want to test boundaries and find out just what is wrong with doing something. They have the need to go against what they have just been told.
The process works the same for you. As you tell yourself that you can’t have a particular type of food, that’s all your body wants you to have. You start to feel like you need to have it to make yourself happy. The problem is you know that it’s bad for you and you end up with an energy slump afterward.
Yes, energy slumps do cause cravings. We usually start to crave the bad stuff because we need a pick-me-up. The sugar and caffeine go through our system so quickly though that we have a crash an hour or so later. Then we crave more of the bad, and our bodies don’t have the chance to use up the extra empty calories that you’ve consumed. You feel bad for giving into the cravings and want to make yourself feel better. That means reaching for the sweet treats to act as another pick-me-up.
It’s a constant cycle that you need to break. So, just how can you overcome cravings and lose weight now that you know why they’re happening?
Say ‘Not Right Now’ Instead of ‘No.’
The best thing you can do is not rule out food or ingredient completely. Telling yourself no makes you want more, and you start to feel bad because you’re not giving into those cravings that you do have.
Rather than constantly telling yourself no, tell yourself ‘not right now.’ Fit a time in your diet to allow yourself the ‘bad food.’ Let yourself have some of the sugary stuff but in moderation. Losing weight is all about having a healthy and balanced diet. The keyword there is balanced. You can’t just cut a certain food out completely. You need to give yourself some leeway on them.
When you say ‘not right now,’ you put yourself back in control. You get to say just when you are going to have it and you build up this anticipation for it. Chances are you will enjoy it far more when you do get it because you have looked forward to it.
I like to set a sort of ‘cheat night’ in my diet. One night a week, I will have something chocolaty or sweet. When I get a craving for something, I put it on the list for ‘cheat night treat.’ Now I don’t have all of them on the one night. I’ll choose a specific treat for the week, and that will be the one that I look forward to that week. The next week I’ll choose something different and continue this cycle.
I’m completely in control when I do this. I know that I will eventually get the craving and my brain stops screaming at me that I need to have it right now.
There are times that this works in my favor to stop the cravings. Sometimes the food just doesn’t taste as amazing as I expected. It’s not the same as what I remember from the past and I’m a little disappointed. It stops becoming a craving because there’s nothing to look forward to anymore. My cravings move onto something else, and I can include that on my list instead.
If you don’t want to set a night a week, you can set yourself a limit of one sweet item a night. This is your end of night snack or something to have at the end of your dinner, as part of your dessert. You get to enjoy a small amount on a night basis that works within your healthy diet. Plans like Weight Watchers, Slimming World, and other long-term plans have allowances for these types of nightly treats.
Make Sure You Get a Healthy Diet
Look at the food that you are eating. If you opt for one of those crash diets, you may find that you have more cravings than if you focused on a healthy diet.
Crash diets have a tendency not to give your body the energy it needs. As you hit slumps, your body starts to crave the food that is likely to pick the energy up quickly. You feel that need to consume more sugar, even though you know, it is bad for you.
When you stick to a healthy and nutritious diet, your body is likely to get all the energy it needs. You feel full and satisfied. Your energy levels are supported, and your hormones are in the balance. Instead of craving bad food, you likely crave more healthy food because you know how beneficial it is.
It’s time to look at your overall diet and make some changes where necessary. Are you consuming enough calories on a daily basis? Is there a chance that you have a nutrient deficiency? Be honest with yourself and your lifestyle to make sure you follow a healthy and balanced diet.
This is especially important if you do exercise on your crash diet. You’ll burn more calories throughout the day so will need to consume a few more. Your body reaches for the quick bursts instead of the options that will be better for you.
If you do get the cravings on a healthy diet, consider your healthier options. Look for the likes of nuts and seeds, which are full of fiber and healthy fats. They’ll make you feel fuller and satisfy your energy levels for a longer period during the day. You can also opt for fruit, vegetable sticks, and even whole grains to help give you the energy that you really need.
The diet does need to be balanced, too. You will need carbs, and there’s nothing wrong with getting the odd bit of chocolate. Hey, dark chocolate has been proven as beneficial when you have just two small squares a day. When you do add some of the chocolate to your day, make it part of your meal. It’s viewed as part of the normal day rather than being a treat or a snack.
Don’t Let Yourself Get Hungry
This isn’t just about getting a healthy diet that is full of nutrients. You also want to make sure you eat enough throughout the day. As you get hungry, you will start to crave more of the bad food. It’s very common to start craving the food that is high in calories because your body thinks you need it.
The human body is smart. There’s this fear of hunger that means you’re constantly reminded to eat to stop yourself from feeling extremely hungry. This fear dates back to the time when food was scarce and hard to come by. Now it’s not a much of a major deal. Most of us know exactly where we will get our meal and even what that meal will be.
Our bodies need to consume food about every four hours. That will help to prevent the feeling of being starved. And we don’t need to gorge on everything. It’s important to train our bodies only to eat until we are satisfied rather than feeling overly stuffed. By feeling satisfied, we’ve eaten enough calories to support us to the next meal, especially if we have a healthy and nutritious diet.
So, you need to find a way to prevent yourself getting hungry. It’s important to eat regularly throughout the day. Some people suggest that eating every three hours is the best way to support yourself, so you don’t feel the need to overeat the calories. You’ll also find that cravings are kept at bay since you will never get to the point of feeling extremely hungry.
This could mean having snacks in your bag to help keep the hunger at bay. Always have a bag of healthy snacks. A trail mix is a great way to get extra nutrients, keep yourself feeling full, and not consume too many calories. It’s easily portable in coat pockets and bags and something that you can have in your desk drawer without drawing attention to eating.
Mindfully Eat as Much as Possible
When you do eat, you want to do it mindfully. This is more than eating healthily and only fuelling your body with nutritious calories. It’s all about focusing on your mental health and overall wellbeing when it comes to reaching for food. There’s a meditation aspect to mindful eating that you need to develop.
Let’s start with focusing on whether you’re actually hungry or not. We’ll get onto this a little later, as dehydration and stress can both make us think we’re hungry. There’s a mental aspect to food and the signals our brain gets from the stomach. Most of the time you’re not hungry at all. Remember that you really only need food every four hours or so, although eating every three hours will help to keep you satisfied.
So, try to listen to the feelings that you get and what you really feel. Are you feeling hungry for another reason: one that means you overeat and consume extra calories?
There can also be an aspect of feeling like you need to consume certain types of food because of an action you’re doing. Watching a movie or studying can lead to people picking at snack-type foods. They don’t need the calories, but their brain tells them that the actions they’re performing always involve food.
It can be hard to get out of habits. You’ll need to make a physical effort to change your habits and only eat food because your body needs it. As your habits change, your cravings will stop. You’ll not just hold them at bay, but you’ll also completely stop the cravings cropping up now and again.
Make Sure You Drink Enough Water
Dehydration leads to cravings and not always the best ones. A lack of water can actually cause your energy levels to slump. You end up feeling hungry, and your body thinks you need something to quickly pick up your energy levels. Of course, you’re not hungry, and you’re giving yourself more calories than you really need.
Before you reach for any type of snack or food, make sure you’re not dehydrated. Grab a glass of water and see if it satisfies you. You can add some fruit to the water to give it a natural and healthy flavoring if you want.
If you’re still hungry after the water, you are actually hungry. You’ll want to reach for a healthier snack or even have a meal. If you’re not feeling hungry, the problem was dehydration.
Some scientists believe that we’re always dehydrated so we should drink water throughout the day. Another tip is to have a glass of water even before your meals. This helps you stop dehydration taking a hold and helps to fill up you stomach a little. You’ll consume fewer calories throughout the day without noticing, helping you with your weight loss efforts.
You can also have a bottle of water with you throughout the day. This will help you constantly sip on it to avoid dehydration.
One of the best ways to start your morning is with a glass of lemon water. You just need to add a few slices of lemon to your normal tap water and will gain major health benefits. Lemon water is alkaline, helping to balance your stomach acid. You’ll gain more vitamin C and antioxidants and will just have a refreshed feeling to the start of your day. The sweetness of the lemon can also help to curb some of the sweet cravings.
You can include the liquid you drink coffee, tea, fruit juices, etc. The problem with these is they’re not as good for you as plain water. Fruit juices have extra sugars and coffee, and tea have caffeine. Green tea is one of the best options for weight loss, as it has extra antioxidants and will help to boost your metabolic rate.
Keep Your Stress Levels to a Minimum
When we’re stressed, we tend to suffer from cravings. Our bodies just need some way to quickly deal with the rising cortisol (stress hormone) in our bodies. Of course, we end up causing more problems, and we don’t solve the real reason for the stress.
Before you even think about reaching for quick fixes, consider why you are stressed. Is it financial or work related? Is there anything you can do to keep the amount of stress you feel to a minimum? We can’t completely cut stress out of our lives, but there are steps that we can take to help keep the rise of cortisol to a minimum.
If you have the power to do something about a situation, you need to take steps to improve your life. Stress is a silent killer, so finding ways to prevent it occurring is going to do your whole health the world of good. You’ll also find it is easier to lose weight since the cortisol is kept to a minimum and there are no hormonal imbalances cause your metabolism to slow down.
When there is nothing you can do about a situation, you need to find a way to deal with the stress that you feel. Choosing not to feel stressed is the best option, but this is often easier said than done. After all, you can’t always help worrying about a situation, right? Especially if that situation involves finances or your family.
One option is to find another way to help your body deal with the stress that you feel. Find a way to boost the happy hormones to help reduce the stress hormones in your body. Some people choose to exercise, while others like to have a long relaxing soak in the bath. You may find that sitting with a cup of warm chamomile tea is your stress release and helps you overcome the cravings.
Make an effort to stay away from the bad stuff. You know they’re not going to do you any good or help with the stress levels, so why bother even thinking about eating them?
Meditation and yoga are two excellent practices to reduce the stress that you feel. You may not be able to do anything about the situation, but you can give yourself the peace of mind. This peace of mind then helps to keep your cortisol release to a minimum. Some people opt for a massage instead to help loosen the stress they hold in their muscles and get some much needed ‘me time.’
Keep any type of stress eating to a minimum. You may not just reach for the sweet stuff but for anything to chew on! If you really need to eat something to calm yourself down, have a handful of low-calorie snacks and limit the amount that you are allowed to eat. However, the best option is just to take your mind off the situation.
Stop Rewarding Yourself With Food
Rewarding yourself with food is one of the worst things you can do. It will lead to more cravings.
Many Weight Watchers leaders say this one thing: we’re not dogs, so why do we reward ourselves with food like we do with dogs? We don’t need to have the chocolate or sweet food to tell us that we’ve done a job well done. All we’re doing is adding empty calories to our diet.
As we get used to rewards through food, we start to look for a reason to reward ourselves more. Completed an hour in the gym? That must mean we get to eat a chocolate bar, right? We reward ourselves for getting through a stressful situation at work or for getting a glowing performance review. Birthdays mean a treat of a meal out and great grades mean that we get to have a cake with our meal.
But we want recognition for our hard work, don’t we? While we can’t have food as a reward, we can treat ourselves in other ways. Why not buy yourself a new pair of shoes or get that movie you’ve been wanting for a while? Find other ways to treat and reward yourself, since you really don’t need the extra calories.
As you find new ways to treat yourself, the cravings will reduce. You will look for more inventive ways to give yourself that pat on the back. Your friends will just hate you because you start rewarding them in other creative ways instead of the standard box of chocolates.
Recognize the Symptoms of Sugar Withdrawals
We become addicted to sugar. The more addicted we become, the more we crave it when we stop eating it. Our brain tells us that we need more, but really it’s just suffering from the withdrawal symptoms. You need to know the symptoms so you don’t give into your cravings.
Sugar withdrawals are very much the same as other drug withdrawal symptoms. You’ll get headaches that no amount of water cures and will suffer from shakes and mood swings. It can seem like you will never get through it, but you really will. It’s important that you do get through it because then you don’t become reliant on the ingredient.
The body doesn’t need the sugar. It does absolutely nothing for it because the energy can be gained in other ways. In fact, the sugar has a detrimental effect on the body, no matter how much your brain tries to tell you differently when struggling with sugar withdrawal symptoms.
The more you know about the symptoms, the more you can be ready for them. You’ll find ways to combat them rather than giving into the cravings. You’ll find it easier to move forward and get over your cravings.
Improve Your Sleeping Patterns
If you’re not getting enough sleep, you will find it much harder to overcome your cravings. In fact, you’ll find that cravings happen far more often because you just don’t have the energy for your body to help you fight them. Your mood slips and your brain starts to think you need the sugar boost to balance out all the hormones and boost the energy.
Of course, you know that the complete opposite is needed. You want food that will give you a long-term boost of energy; something that will sustain you until your next meal. You also know that you need to find other ways to improve your energy levels.
Unfortunately, studies show that people don’t listen to the things they know deep down. They try to fix problems immediately, and the studies show that those who are sleep-deprived are 55 percent more likely to be obese. This comes from the aim to get energy as soon as you can, which causes calories to be stored in ways that you don’t want. You’ll also likely find that your weight is storing around your middle instead of other parts of your body, which puts your organ health at risk.
What also doesn’t help is what sleep deprivation does to the metabolism. Those who struggle to get enough sleep are more likely to have fluctuations in their appetite. Their body uses up the energy quicker, so you don’t feel as full as you should. Hormonal imbalances send the wrong signals around the body, especially as the cortisol levels increase.
If you’re struggling to sleep at a night, you’ll need to work out why. It’s important to figure out what is stopping you from allowing your brain and body the rest they need.
In the majority of cases, stress is the reason for lack of sleep. Your mind just can’t turn off, and your subconscious is even worrying about events throughout the day. You may have taken control of your conscious stress levels, but what about the subconscious levels? Meditation and unwinding before you go to sleep can help to manage these stress levels.
Look After Your Mental Health
Another important thing to care for is your mental health. Poor mental health will lead to cravings. Remember that the cravings are likely all linked to your hormones, and of course, poor mental health is linked to hormonal imbalances.
Those who are depressed or anxious will turn to food to help them. You’ll know that it isn’t going to do you any good, but that chocolate bar just seems like it will make you happy. Why not have a moment of happiness, right?
Well, that moment of happiness leads to hours of negative feelings. You end up with this awful cycle where you eat more sugar and cause a crash soon after. Your body wants to pick itself up, and the best way it thinks of doing that is by eating more sugar.
This can happen with absolutely any type of mental health problem, but depression and anxiety tend to be the most common. You’ll need to seek help if your mental health is affecting your fulfillment of life.
And let’s not forget about eating disorders. Binge eating is a real problem. If you want to overcome the cravings you get as a binge eater, you will need to seek help to cure your eating disorder. You’ll get therapy to help understand your eating disorder more and find healthier ways to live your life.
Keep Going with the Exercise
As well as a healthy diet, you need to keep exercising. This isn’t just helpful for losing weight, but will also help you eat better. You’ll find the cravings hit you less and you’ll find it much easier to say ‘not right now’ or even an outright ‘no’ and not feel bad for doing so.
Exercising helps to release the happy hormones. We’ve touched on how these can help to reduce your cortisol levels, but not what it really means for your overall body and health.
When you boost the happy hormones, you naturally feel happier and satisfied with your life. While it’s not an instant battle against depression, exercising can help to reduce the way that the mental health problem affects you. Even if you don’t have depression, you’ll find that exercise helps to keep you feeling good. You don’t want to ruin hard work by eating something that you know is bad for you.
Of course, hormonal balances will help to keep mood swings at bar and cravings to a minimum. Your metabolism will also be supported, so if you do have something bad you’ll be able to burn the calories off better.
We can’t overlook how exercise does help you lose weight. You’ll burn more calories throughout the day and build muscle. Not only do you lose fat, but you’ll tone your body and speed up your metabolic rate. More muscle means your body needs to work harder and faster, so it’s definitely doing something; even just bodyweight exercises.
Get the Food Craving Ingredients Out of the House!
If all else fails or while you’re making changes to reduce cravings, you’ll need to make it harder to give into those cravings. The easiest way to do this is by getting all the food that causes the cravings out of the house. If they’re not there to tempt you, you’ll likely find that the cravings don’t crop up as much.
I found this recently. I got rid of all traces of chocolate from the house. Now, if I want to have chocolate, I will need to go out of the house to do so. The only type of chocolate is a tub of hot chocolate that I will need to make.
My cravings for the food have dropped considerably. When I am craving the chocolate, I know that I’m not going to be able to get it without going out of the house. As humans, we have a tendency to make things easy for ourselves. Going out of the house isn’t an option late at night, especially if the stores are closed or closing anyway.
Instead of opting for the craving, I have no choice but to leave it. If I really want it, I’ll have the hot chocolate, but then I must put the kettle on and physically make the drink. I’m less likely to do that because I want the chocolate right now.
I’ll find something else to do instead. Taking my mind off the craving is the easiest way to overcome it. I forget that it even existed after a while and before I know it, it is time for a meal! It means that I can actually enjoy the meal and know that I haven’t wasted empty calories on an unnecessary craving.
It’s Time for You to Stop Your Cravings and Lose Weight
There’s nothing wrong with adding chocolate and cakes into your diet as part of your healthy and balanced diets. One of the tricks that many dieters use is making their sugary ingredients part of their everyday diet. They get a little bit of the bad but focus more on an overall healthy diet. Everything is allowed in moderation.
This trick helps to limit the cravings. There’s no need for the brain to push you into having something you shouldn’t, because you’ve not said an outright no. You’re just saying ‘not right now’ and have something to look forward to.
However, if you want to keep all sugar out of your diet, you need a plan to overcome the cravings. Start by keeping everything out of your house, so you can’t give in to the cravings at any point. This is important while you take steps to improve your life and mental wellbeing, so you can stop the cravings from happening. You’re just making it easier to say ‘no’ and not have an excuse just to reach for a chocolate bar in the cupboard.
Following a healthy diet and exercise plan is the best way to help overcome cravings and lose weight. You’ll get the nutrients that your body needs while getting enough energy to help you get through the day. Cortisol levels remain at a minimum because your hormones are completely in balance. You’ll also boost the happy hormones because of the exercise you do. And that exercise will help to boost your calorie burning, so you burn more calories than you eat.
If you do have depression, anxiety, an eating disorder, or anything similar, you should seek medical help. This will help you overcome the problems that will cause the craving symptoms. You’ll find it much easier to battle the eating disorder and boost your weight loss efforts.
Now it’s completely up to you. Only you can take the step to overcome cravings and lose weight. This isn’t going to be easy. You’ll need to put the effort in to take the steps and fight against any sugar withdrawal symptoms you experience. While it isn’t easy, it is completely worth it in the long term for your weight and overall health.