How to Overcome Food Cravings
"All behaviors come from underlying desires and changing the root cause of that behavior could have more affect." - Anne Hsu, a Behavioral Scientist at Queen Mary's University of London.
Chocolate. Cookies. Brownies. I crave all the yummy creamy delights with ice cream on top! For a while I was eating ice cream every single night…sometimes even in replacement of dinner. I’m not kidding. I thought that since I spent an hour at the gym it wouldn’t matter. And then I wondered why I wasn’t seeing progress!
As a fitness coach and health advocate, I hear from a lot of people who get discouraged because they work so hard and yet they aren’t seeing the results they envision. It’s difficult to desire progress and use it as your motivation each day only to feel you have not improved months later.
Well, something many of these people have in common is submitting to their cravings. Even if it’s not every day it can still make an impact on your progress. Oftentimes, people will eat clean for 5 days and allow the weekends to be a free for all with alcohol and all the foods they restricted during the week (pizza, burgers, ice cream). Even if you’re eating clean most of the time, all the garbage you’re allowing 2 days of the week is going to set you back.
Many people try to take an 80/20 approach at their diet. This means that 80% of the time they eat clean, and 20% of the time they give in to their food cravings. But what people don’t understand is that the 20% doesn’t mean 2 days out of the week you can just eat whatever your heart desires all day long. In my opinion, what 80/20 really means is Saturday you allow yourself the bowl of ice cream (but let’s not go crazy, only have 1 serving (3/4 cup)). And then maybe Wednesday you treat yourself to a dinner out. Another example is, if you have a wedding or a dinner party, or some social event, you can eat the food! Use that as your 20%, just plan ahead.
Personally, I follow a 90/10 approach to my diet. This means 10% of the time I give into my cravings. It’s typically about 1 weekend a month and it usually falls on some holiday or monthly celebration, or it’s around that time my body needs a cheat meal.
Here are a few ways to get rid of your food cravings to stay strong during your 80%:
1) "If you hijack that part of the brain [imagining the food] then it can't sustain the craving anymore," - Anne Hsu
Check out the app, called iCrave. It’s designed to hijack people's thoughts by asking them to do certain tasks with intention to interfere with the food they were imagining beforehand.
2) A study recently showed that the computer game Tetris, if played for just three minutes, can weaken cravings for food.
3) Find alternatives like Grapefruit, small red baked potatoes, carrots, and salads filled with greens and fiber. These foods work by filling people up quickly, but they all work by buying time, particularly the grapefruit as the slow, strategic method of eating one can lead to a craving forgotten. - Mary Beth Sodus, a Nutritional Therapist and Registered Dietitian at the University of Maryland Medical Center.
4) When you try these alternatives be MINDFUL about it. I’d advise, if you’re craving ice cream, eat something that has the same texture as ice cream, maybe some healthy yogurt (you could even freeze the yogurt). While you’re eating this alternative close your eyes and feel the food on your tongue. Let your taste buds savor it and imagine that you are eating that yummy bowl of ice cream you were craving.
5) Think about why you’re craving this food item. Is it because you just finished dinner and you want dessert? Maybe you’re an emotional eater and something’s bothering you. Or quite possibly you’re just bored. Be mindful of the root of your cravings and maybe you can cater to the underlying cause.
For more info: