Cravings are a common hurdle to fitness in a world where unhealthy choices are often the easiest. The leftover box of donuts in the staff room or the candy by the checkout counter are so convenient and appealing. How can we make good choices when our bodies call out for something we know is unhealthy?
Drink Water & Sleep
When we are low on energy or dehydrated, our body reacts by making us crave foods that will give us energy! Usually, we reach for foods high in carbs and sugar. If you are thinking about snacking, drink a glass of water first to see if that's what your body really needs. Make sure that you are getting enough sleep, or if you can't get your 8 hours, try drinking unsweetened tea or black coffee to give you a boost without adding to your sugar intake.
Eat More Frequently
There is a difference between emotional cravings and real hunger. Fend off hunger by spacing out your healthy meals and having planned snacks throughout the day. Be sure to measure servings and keep track of nutritional values. The idea is to eat more often, not to eat more.
Eat More Protein
Protein is a great way to fight food cravings, because it keeps you feeling full for longer! Protein also contributes to lean muscle mass, and it actually uses up more calories just to digest it, so it’s a great option when you are working to get fit. Every meal of your day, including snacks, should include protein.
Understand your Cravings
Most cravings are caused by emotional factors, like stress or boredom. Do you suddenly want candy before a meeting with your boss? Do you end up snacking while you're watching Netflix at home? Maybe when you think about your ex you binge on ice cream? Once you identify the root of your cravings it is easier to resist them. Try elevating your mood in other ways, like creating an upbeat or relaxing playlist of music to listen to whenever a food craving strikes. The songs provide an emotional release AND won't add regret to your feelings later in the day!
Food cravings behave like waves: They build, crest, and then disappear. If you can distract yourself for a 10-15 minutes, it's very likely that your craving will subside and you will be able to move on with your day. Distractions that involved moving are especially effective. Try taking a short walk, some simple cleaning, or making a phone call to take your mind off of food.
Study your daily routines. If you get cravings every afternoon around 3pm, make sure that you are prepared! Arm yourself with healthy pre-portioned snacks so you don’t overdo it when your cravings inevitably strike. Fiber-rich or nutrient-dense snacks are longer-lasting pick-me-ups than the sugar- and fat-filled treats we tend to yearn for. Make sure to keep track of nutritional values and servings, and make sure that protein is a part of those snacks. Having these smarter snacks on hand will also help you make good choices when cupcakes or donuts unexpectedly show up at the office.
Be Honest & Keep Track
It's easy to lose track of how much we eat throughout the day. We tell ourselves that the 5 Jelly Beans we grab from the receptionist's candy jar don't count, a drink after work can't have THAT much sugar, or that having a larger portion than the prescribed serving won't really matter, but it adds up. Be honest with yourself about how much you are consuming throughout the day. A few impulsive choices can undo a lot of hard work, but remember...
Tomorrow is another Day
There are times when enjoying a piece of birthday cake with a friend or sharing ice cream with your kids is worth it! Let yourself indulge sometimes! It helps keep life fun, but be sure to be honest with yourself about how often and how much you are indulging.