It’s a new year and a new you, right? How many of you are planning to eat right, exercise and lose a few (or a lot) of pounds? While most of us will roll into February already denouncing that diet, some of us really wanna get it right this time and need some pointers. One of the biggest challenges women face when trying to lose weight is the overbearing cravings that keep the mind off the task at hand and more about eating all the wrong things.
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Cravings are just intense desires for a particular food and they are often just in our heads. Fat, salt and sugar (sugar is the worst for me!) literally make the reward center of our brains light up. This is science so it’s going to take science to figure out how to fight them. With the help of experts in the field of nutrition, we’ve got a list that will help to curb those cravings and keep you on the right track to your weight loss goals and a healthier lifestyle.
Always be prepared!
I wasn’t a boy scout (a Brownie and then a Girl Scout) but I learned from my sister the importance of preparing snacks and meals ahead of time to keep you on the straight and narrow. Preparing healthy meals and snacks leaves little room for impulse eating and from you getting too hungry. If meals and snacks are on the ready then you can eat every three to four hours and stay on a healthy track for fighting cravings.
Get them out of your house!
Now, if you have kids (like I do) then this may be harder to do. I must be realistic on what I can remove from the house and pick and choose wisely. I leave Oreos out because I have a serious addiction but am OK with other snacks that my son loves and can fight much more easily. Know your triggers or weaknesses and keep them away until you know you can properly fight them when they are around. Don’t set yourself up for failure by forcing yourself to be around them until you are ready.
Eat more clean protein!
I never knew how effective eating more protein was until I took my weight loss seriously. Clean protein like wild-caught fish, chicken, beef, nuts, and seeds should be eaten at every meal and a lack of quality protein allows for dips in your blood sugar and those cravings to become intense! Make a conscious effort to add that protein to every meal so it lasts you until your mid-meal break.
Wait it out (15-20 minutes)
Do you crave something bad or sweet after a meal? I do and found that if you pounce on the craving right away you would lose the battle, but if you simply WAITED for almost 20 minutes, the craving would pass. “Cravings typically last ten minutes,” says John Foreyt, PhD, of Baylor College of Medicine but I need to wait a tad bit longer for me to fully get over my craving. It takes me around 20 minutes.
Distract yourself by moving around or get a cup of hot tea (tip below). This won’t work all the time but it does work enough times to help subside those wicked cravings.
Drink more water
Drinking water is one of the easiest way to help curb cravings. Many times when we feel hungry, we actually are just thirsty according to Brigitte Zeitlin, M.P.H., R.D., C.D.N., a dietitian at B Nutritious. Drinking water when you feel a craving coming on is helpful too but staying hydrated is always a good thing for your body.
Keep a water bottle near by to remind you to drink or even put an alarm on your phone to remind you to drink up every hour. I love my Manna™ Vogue® Stainless Steel Vacuum Insulated Water Bottle as it keeps my water icy cold for 24 hours as I hate drinking room temperature water. There are even fruit-infused water bottles too so pick one that will get you drinking more water instead of overeating or drinking sugary drinks like juices or sodas.
Substitute craving with trigger foods swaps
I LOVE oatmeal and have found it to be my savior during this food craving fight. It’s super quick to make (microwave!) and not nearly as high in calories as many of my sugar cravings. I eat 1/2 cup as my “desert” with some brown sugar Splenda or raw honey and not only am I satisfied but the craving disperses and leaves me the win!
Work on eating healthy fats
Yes, there is such a thing. Healthy fats unlike those low-fats (that manufacturers throw at us) like monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats help to reduce help reduce LDL cholesterol, and can benefit insulin and blood sugar levels. We discuss the importance of fatty acids like omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids for healthy hair but they really shine as essential fats our bodies need for brain function and cell growth. These healthy fats actually quell your appetite and help you eat less calories while aiding in getting that metabolism into high gear.
Foods with significant amounts of healthy fats:
Walnuts, Almonds and pistachios
Olives + Olive Oil
Ground Flax seeds (always in my smoothies!)
Salmon (making some salmon patties this weekend!)
Steer clear of foods that spike your blood sugar
I’m a big bread lover (no, Oprah is NOT alone) and those carbs we love so much only satisfy us for a little while before they cause your blood sugar to spike only to set you up for the big crash.
“Foods that exacerbate blood sugar spikes tend to be white, refined-grain, highly processed simple carbs,” says Beth Reardon, director of nutrition at Duke University Integrative Medicine and Caring.com senior food and nutrition editor. “We reach for them because we think they’ll make us feel better, but they wind up making us feel worse.”
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Try and keep them from within reach as they do more harm than good when dieting. I made the mistake of having hubby pick up some french bread for my son and…let’s just say two days in a row turned into a nightmare of carb overload! I’m learning to leave them alone as they make me eat more and more until I’m well over my calorie limit for the day and start feeling bad about what I did.
Get your sleep
I find when I am up late and should be sleeping, I crave more junk than ever. Stress levels go up when we’re sleep deprived and sleep deprivation changes the way we respond to food according to Harvard Medical School researchers. If you notice you are eating pretty crappy when you are not getting enough sleep then make sleep a priority and if it worsens, seek help from a doctor.
Sip on some tea
Believe it or not but a nice cup of hot tea can be filling and also helps with reducing cravings. This is ideal when you feel a craving coming on and need to wait for 20 minutes. Prepare the tea before you finish eating so it’s ready right after your meal and it can help with curbing that craving.
Bonus tip! Sometimes you gotta take the loss and start over the next day
Sometimes the craving will win out (my french bread 2-day episode) so just remember it’s only one meal or one day that didn’t go as planned. See the following day as another chance to get it right and try not to beat yourself up over it. You do not want to quit so take the loss and move on.
What crave busting tips do you have or what’s worked for you on this list?