What is your secret crutch? Your go-to comfort food? That one thing that you absolutely crave; midnight ice cream, street tacos for breakfast, or an entire pizza because your stressed?

Tempt me with a jar of peanut butter and a tub of moose tracks ice cream and it is game over. I’m a goner. That gooey peanut butter mixed with the sweet ice cream and perfect swirls of chocolate fudge.That right there is my kryptonite. I can sit here all day and tell you I have the strongest willpower, but that would be a lie. It’s not even a matter of not having willpower at that point. A spoonful here, a little bit there, screw it, let’s just eat the whole thing.

Who can relate?

I don’t care who you are, cravings effect every single one of us at one point or another. They are one of the biggest struggles when it comes to nutrition because they’re like little voices in the back of your head, screaming to satisfy it. Cravings are a bitch, without some wicked strong willpower, they can be very hard to control.

The purpose of this article is to learn how to be stronger than your cravings and ways to conquer those temptations. The more you try to control cravings, the more they can possess  your thoughts. Suddenly your ever so often craving becomes a constant frustration flooding your mind.

So what is the secret to controlling the uncontrollable?

The following are tools that I have learned throughout my past 10 years of dieting. Through the process of multiple successes and failures, I have been able to  develop tools to combat these cravings, even at the weakest of moments. I’ve failed greatly, but have also succeeded greatly. The combination of failures and successes is what have lead me to these tools to fight cravings during the weakest of times. What works for me, might not work for you but it doesn’t hurt to try and implement into your lifestyle.

1.) Manage Your Food Environment

What in the hell is a food environment? Pretty much, exactly what it sounds like. Your food environment is the food you are surrounded with and the temptations that it brings. When you’re at home on the evenings and weekends, what is easy and accessible? Is it the jar of cookies, the bowl of candy on the counter, or the bags of endless salty snack in the pantry? Is it the sugar packed snacks that you bought for your kids? Your connection to food is driven by your brain and the associations you’ve made over time. Your home is the easiest environment to control. If you don’t buy it, it won’t be there.

Furthermore, creating barriers is an additional way to control your food environment.  The more barriers you put between yourself and the food, the more effort you’ll have to put into it. Let’s think about this one. Here’s a scenario that a majority can relate to. You walk by the same jar of cookies sitting on the kitchen counter 10 times a day. You see those cookies sitting there, in plain sight,everytime you walk into the kitchen. You are way more likely to dip your hand in and grab a few. Let’s put that same jar of cookies in a drawer where they are out of site. You have now created a physical barrier. Now take it a step further, and don’t have them in the house at all. That way, if you REALLY want a cookie THAT bad you are going to have to put on your shoes, throw on your jacket and drive your hungry ass to the store. Are you really going to go through all of that trouble? Probably not.

Now I’m not saying you can never have these foods, because that is not realistic and no way to live. Remember, we are trying to establish a healthy lifestyle and healthy habits. Simply put, removing the accessibility is a great way to keep your cravings under control and avoid them in the first place.

Here’s where it gets a bit trickier: the office. I never understood why offices are always stocked up on the most junk food. Oh, its Susan’s birthday on Friday? Lets all bring cookies, cakes, chips and any other junk food you can imagine. It seems like there is always a holiday, a birthday, anniversary going on. This is the biggest place I see people struggle. It is much harder to control this environment than your home. I still encourage trying to create as many physical barriers as possible. Position yourself as far away as the treats as possible and  bring your own snack that you know will fit in your plan. That way, you can still indulge in something yummy, but you know exactly what the nutrition on it is. If you know in advance that it is “so and so’s” birthday on Friday, PLAN for it and bring your own treat.

 

2.) EAT MORE FOODS THAT MAKE YOU FEEL FULL

Simple. Load your plate with foods that promote more satiety, have more volume, and keep you full for longer. Not only will these create better habits but it will also promote better food choices. How many times have you not eaten all day or ate like shit ,to you come home completely ravenous? What is the first thing you do? Eat alllll of the things. Binge. Which only results in you feeling like crap and extremely guilt. We’ve all been there. Incorporating more whole nutrient-dense foods, will decrease the urge to raid the pantry moments after eating. If you find yourself struggling with hunger, opt for food that are more water-rich (potatoes, sweet potatoes, beans) rather than more flour-rich foods such as breads. This isn’t to say that these foods are bad, they are just more calorie dense and don’t fill you up as much and better choices could be made if you are struggling. In the grand scheme of things, it just comes down to balance.

If you have the diet of a 7 year old, and a 7 year old would get excited about it… It’s time to rethink your dietary choices

3.) REDUCE THE AMOUNT OF HIGHLY PALATABLE FOODS

Certain types of foods trigger a higher dopamine response in the brain than others. It is triggered by protein, carbs, fat and salt because these are the foods your body desires.

Your body wants CALORIES. Once your body gets whiff of something with protein, carbs, and fat in it.. It is doing cartwheels asking for more. Let’s put it like this… Have you ever CRAVED iceberg lettuce? Have you ever rushed home, ran straight to the refrigerator and ripped open that bag of the green stuff and munched your way through the entire bag? I am going to assume not. That’s because it does not have this mix of highly palatable protein, carbs, and fats that triggers a high dopamine response in your brain.

Let’s think about pizza. Chicago style deep dish pizza is my jam. Thick buttery crust, loaded up with rich tomato sauce, spicy pepperoni, mounds of warm melted cheese, sprinkled with the perfect amount of parmesan cheese. Are you salivating yet? I am. That pizza will trigger an insanely high dopamine response in your brain because it is has the perfect mix of protein, carbs, fats, and salt going on. IF YOU ARE HAVING THESE FOODS REGULARLY, YOU ARE GOING TO INCREASE THE INTENSITY OF YOUR CRAVINGS.  

So what is the solution? The solution is simple… Keep things simple. Understanding that calories are king, opens up a lot of  flexibility in your diet. Foods that were once demonized and off the table, are now back on the menu. But sometimes this leads to other issues like cravings if you are constantly opting for the energy balance principle, to incorporate pizza, donuts, cookies, cakes. So keeping things simple the majority of the time is the better option. Keep the highly calorific stuff in the minority. Follow the 80/20 rule. 80% of the time consume whole-nutrient dense foods and 20% of the time you have the flexibility to enjoy these high palatable goodies. Sure, have the treats, but have them when your willpower is at its STRONGEST and you have everything under control.

In summary, beware of the highly palatable  foods and the signals they send to your brain. Include them in your diet if you like them, but be aware the more you have them…the more you may crave them.

4.) SLEEP

Sleep is an element of your lifestyle that is far too often neglected.Most people don’t understand its importance in the human body. We need to understand that it can have a profound effect on your weight loss, performance in the gym, and your lifestyle in general. While the direct effect might not be the inability to lose weight, the indirect effect can be huge. How many times do you wake up after only a few hours of sleep and feel tired, cranky, and completely ravenous? Think about the last time you went out for a few drinks with your friends and stayed out way later than usual. You didn’t get much sleep, and if you did, your sleep quality was poor.  You probably didn’t wake up the morning after craving your usual meal of plain chicken and broccoli. This is most likely not the time where you made the greatest food choices in the world. Getting your 6-8 hours of QUALITY sleep is pretty damn important for keeping your cravings at bay. Make recharging your batteries a priority.

Having trouble getting to sleep? Here are some tips to help:

-Make your room as dark as possible. Blackout curtains are a blessing.

-Keep the temp cool

-Avoid using phones, tablets, and watching TV in the hour or so leading up to bedtime

-Go to bed and get up at similar times every day, This will help with your body’s circadian rhythm

5.) STRESS

Oh, Cortisol…the stress hormone.

Cortisol is not your problem. Rising cortisol levels is not what’s causing your issue. Living in a state of constant stress is your problem.  Reducing stress levels in general makes sense for your health and overall well-being. No one wants to live in a state of stress, whether its work, family, relationship, or financial related. Being in state where you’re constantly on the edge of your seat is not good. In regards to your cravings, that can lead to bounds of emotional and comfort eating. How many times do you come home from work feelings stressed and burnt out? Cooking up a healthy meal that will keep you on track is probably the last thing you want to do. It is the least bit appealing than throwing a pizza in the oven and tossing a couple beers back.

This is where my first point comes back into play… YOUR FOOD ENVIRONMENT. If this is under control then those quick and simple temptations, just aren’t there. If your healthy meals are already prepped and ready to go.. Those became the quick and easy solution. You’re more prone to pop one of these in the microwave and call it a night.

If your having trouble de-stressing, find something that works for you.. yoga, meditation, lifting weights going for a walk… Which brings me to my next point….

6.) EXERCISE

My favorite way the destress and get myself in check. Not only is exercise a great way to manage your stress, but you are burning calories too! It’s no secret that I love throwing around iron and finding my peace at the gym with the weights. I know that’s not for everyone. Go for a walk, take the kids on a bike ride, throw on some shoes and go for a run, mow the lawn, do some chores. Whatever. Get out there and get active. Whatever it takes to get your body out and moving.

I know that if you implement these 6 tips into practice, your cravings won’t stand a chance. Thanks for reading and let me know if this helps! 🙂

In Strength,

Coach Kerianne Los