When I talk to my patients about making certain dietary changes, they often say they struggle with cravings. Unfortunately, cravings can derail you from achieving your nutrition goals, and leave you feeling frustrated. The good news is that by following the five strategies below, you can easily curb those cravings and even stop them for good.
Get plenty of healthy fat in your diet. This is especially true if you find yourself craving sugar. Your body wants fuel for energy, and for better or for worse, sugar is an immediate source of energy. But as you probably know, sugar in any form (even natural ones like honey) can create inflammation. If you get plenty of healthy fat at each meal you will:
- feel fuller longer
- have a steady source of energy at a “slow burn” instead of the spike-and-crash from sugar.
- maintain a healthier weight
Here are some great sources of healthy fat:
- coconut oil
- olive oil
- butter from grass-fed cows
Drink lots of water – aiming for half your body weight in ounces (e.g. a person weighing 150 lbs would aim to drink 75 ounces of water per day.) When you’re dehydrated, even if you don’t feel thirsty, you’ll feel tired and will be more likely to crave coffee or sugary drinks.
Here are a few ideas to make it easier and more enjoyable to get your daily quota of water:
- “front load” your water intake by drinking 2-3 large glasses of water when you first wake up
- grab a nice reusable water bottle and always have it with you when you’re on the go
- make a big pitcher of water with cucumber slices or lemon and keep it next to you when you’re working at your desk
Make sure you’re getting enough clean protein, especially at breakfast. The individual amino acids (the building blocks of protein) are critical for happy moods, focused thinking, detoxification, and stabilized blood sugar.
Here are some ideas to get your protein at breakfast:
- eggs scrambled with onion, bell pepper and mushrooms (or any other vegetables)
- a piece of salmon with sautéed greens (easy leftovers from dinner)
- sliced turkey breast rolled up in romaine lettuce with avocado slices
Get 8 hours of sleep. You might not connect sleep with food cravings, but if you cheat yourself of adequate rest, your cortisol levels will be unnaturally high. Elevated cortisol (the “stress hormone”) can cause sugar cravings. Ghrelin (the “hunger hormone”) also increases in times of stress, which includes lack of sleep.
“Feel” your cravings. Before you reach for another piece of chocolate or pour yourself another cup of coffee, take a minute to close your eyes and actually feel where the craving is coming from. Ask yourself these questions:
Where in my body is the craving coming from?
What sensations am I feeling right now?
What am I hoping to fulfill or satisfy from the food I’m craving?
By asking yourself these questions, you’ll understand what’s lying underneath the craving. You may realize that your mind is racing, and what you’re really craving is stillness. Or you may discover an emotion, like loneliness or frustration. Instead of numbing the emotion with food, breathe into it, and watch it pass by like clouds in the sky. Or you may find that you need to stretch and move after sitting for many hours – we often associate “break time” with food.