When fat loss is the goal, one of the biggest things that people struggle with is cravings.
It seems like it becomes a constant battle between you and the foods you’re craving. A mental and emotional struggle between wanting to accomplish your goals and wanting to satisfy that itch for a donut.
More often than not, the kind of foods that get craved are highly processed and hyper-palatable – that’s because packed and processed foods are designed to be addicting. Food scientists spend a lot of money to enhance their foods so that you can crave more of it.
It’s absolutely wild, but that’s how they work. They want you to buy more of their products and they do that by making it so that your body wants more of it which can lead to intense cravings that set you up for a craving rampage of your pantry.
These cravings are generally the result of hormones not functioning properly.
The hormone cortisol is a prime example. Most commonly known as the stress hormone, it can really set you up for a crave episode. If you accumulate stress from training intensely, working all day, dieting, and having a stressful home life only to stop by the nearest drive-thru to grab a quick meal – you just set yourself up to have more cravings, lose less fat, and hinder your training performance.
The people that come to me with the most intense cravings are those that are constantly cycling through different fad diets and are chronically trying to lose weight aka chronically stressing their body out.
What nobody tells you when you go on a diet is that it can wreak havoc on your hormones if you cut too many calories for too long.
And if you’ve been paying attention that means your cravings will go through the roof as a result especially on an overly restrictive plan that says you “can’t” have your favorite donut.
The emotional toll this takes on you on top of that leads to a compromised relationship with food. So when the diet ends or you lose all will power you find yourself in the Krispy Kreme drive-thru halfway through a dozen donuts.
5 Strategies To Eliminate Cravings
1) Stay Hydrated!
Believe it or not, this is one of the first things I coach all of my new onboarding clients through. I can count on a single hand the number of people that I worked with that were drinking enough water before working with me.
It’s such a simple adjustment but it makes a huge difference, your body is made of 60% water and is used for literally every function of your body including your cells, organs, tissues, nutrient transportation, waste removal, joint protection, digestion and so much more.
As you can see, making sure you drink enough water is important for your overall health but also for regulating cravings. The reason being is that one of the symptoms of dehydration is hunger/cravings. So when your body tells you it wants a nice sugary snack it might actually mean it just needs some more H2O.
Action Item: Next time your body is craving something, drink a full glass of water. Odds are after you drink the water your body won’t be craving much anymore.
Sleep deprivation is also a big factor in throwing your hormonal system out of whack.
When you’re chronically sleep deprived, two different hormones become unbalanced – leptin and ghrelin.
Leptin’s job is to let your brain know that you’re satisfied and don’t need any more food – which is why it’s commonly referred to as the satiety hormone.
Ghrelin’s job is to let your brain know that you’re hungry and should get something to eat – the exact opposite of Leptin, Ghrelin is commonly called the appetite hormone.
When you become sleep deprived your Leptin levels decrease and your Gherlin levels increase which means your brain is being signaled that it’s hungry more often leading to increased appetite and overeating.
In fact, people that get 6 or fewer hours of sleep regularly tend to gain about 15 pounds on average over the span of a year!
Getting your recommended 7-9 hours of sleep every night will help reduce your desire for cravings – check out how to get better sleep here!
3) Eating Protein and Veggies
We know how important protein is for muscle development and how good vegetables are for getting in all of our vitamins and minerals but they also have strong crave fighting abilities.
Imagine I offered you a dinner of steak, asparagus, and salad – would you be able to eat 2 plates worth? Of course not!
However, if I offered you 2 tubs of Ben and Jerry’s you would probably go through that with ease, just like you would a jumbo bag of chips or a whole package of Oreos.
That’s because foods that are high in protein, fiber, and micronutrients are more satiating than your favorite sweet snacks. They help keep you fuller longer while making you feel good without the blood sugar spike and crash.
Eating enough protein and vegetables aren’t’ just going to help you restrict cravings but help you progress with your training, maintain lean muscle mass, boost your energy levels, lose more fat, and perform better in the gym. I would aim to incorporate protein and veggies in as many meals as you can throughout the day.
4) Eliminate Distractions
Mindful eating is one of the simplest ways to eliminate cravings and help you better distinguish the difference between a craving and true hunger.
Think about it: when you’re working and have a bowl of candy next to you you can easily get carried away. The same concept applies when you’re watching TV with a bag of chips in hand, it’ll disappear without you realizing.
All because you’re not focused on chewing your food or listening to the satiety signals that your body is sending you. Instead of eating in a distracting environment with your TV, phone, or computer nearby – try sitting down in a quiet place and focusing on your meal.
Here’s a little checklist you can utilize to help ensure that you’re being mindful while you’re eating:
Another helpful thing you can do is open the notes app on your phone or pull out a piece of paper and take note of what you’re experiencing.
What time of day did you get a craving?
What emotions were you feeling?
What environment were you in?
Do what you can to gain a better understanding of what happens when you start craving so that you can better combat them in the future.
Now, I’m not going to lead you to believe that fasting is the magic thing you’ve been missing to lose weight. The truth is as long as you’re in a calorie deficit week in and week out you will lose weight regardless of whether you’re fasting or not. However, fasting can be a helpful tool to teach you exactly what true hunger really feels like.
Most people haven’t gone more than 6-9 hours without food. Extending that out to 16+ hours can be a powerful teaching instrument that helps you realize that you actually weren’t hungry all those times you thought you were. You were really just having a craving or thirsty.
Fasting shouldn’t be overused though, especially if you’re looking to have a tough training session the next day fasting might not be a good idea because you need food to fuel your performance. When we’re trying to work with our cravings though, fasting can be incredibly helpful to help us better read and understand the signals our body is sending us.
If you’re going to give fasting a try, I’d recommend starting slow. Start with a shorter duration (12-16 hours) and pay attention to how you feel throughout. In the end, you’ll realize that once you get deep into your fast the cravings will subside and you’ll come out with a better understanding of the difference between cravings vs hunger.
If you’re someone that regularly finds cravings as something that holds you back I hope that you try out these 5 strategies and find success with them. Implementing these strategies isn’t just going to help you crave less but they’ll also help create a healthier version of yourself overall. If you need help with your specific situation click here to apply for a free strategy call so we can help you get on track to your goals!