6 Unusual Ways to Overcome Your Cravings

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6 Unusual Ways to Overcome Your Cravings

When it comes to healthy eating and weight loss, cravings tend to be seen as a derailer of goals. But there’s nothing inherently “bad” about them.

“A craving is a very natural and normal response to meeting a need,” explains registered dietitian Rebecca Scritchfield, author of Body Kindness. “That craving could be for energy or to regulate emotions. Maybe the day wasn’t so sweet, so you want something sweet, or maybe you’re seeking enjoyment.”

But obviously, giving in to cupcakes every single time isn’t the way to build a strong, healthy body. So your first step is accept that cravings will always be there. “You can’t eliminate cravings,” says nutritionist Mike Roussell, PhD, author of The MetaShred Diet.” “But you can reduce your susceptibility to acting on them and reduce the effects they have on you.”

If you feel controlled by cravings or can’t stop at one cupcake when you do satisfy the urge, try these unconventional tricks to better manage your urges.

IN THE MOMENT

1. BREATHE

Hunger can be physiological (your body truly needs energy) or hedonic (you just saw a pizza commercial and now want a slice with pepperoni and mushrooms), Roussell explains. If it’s the latter, try breathwork. By changing our breath, we can change how we feel, according to a study in Cognition and Emotion. Experts recommend longer exhalations to help ease anxiety, which helps you fight cravings. And a recent (but inconclusive) study found slow breathing — nine breaths per minute — may help reduce food cravings.

2. THINK LOGICALLY

When people “cheat” on their diet, they tend to justify why they “can” have chicken wings, Roussell says. Although it may seem hard in the moment, being logical can help you stop a craving. If you track your calories or macros, you can easily see — as much as you may think you want that ice cream at night — you’ve hit your goal for the day. This helps you see you don’t “need” ice cream — and if you really want it, you can work it into tomorrow’s calorie allotment, Roussell says.


READ MORE > 8 FOODS THAT ARE SURPRISINGLY GOOD FOR WEIGHT LOSS


3. PLAY A GAME

Procrastinating at work isn’t always a good thing, but it may help you with your cravings. A 2015 study published in the journal Addictive Behaviors found that subjects who played Tetris for three minutes had a decrease in food cravings. In another study, British scientists asked 48 participants to use a mobile app they built called iCrave whenever they, yes, had a craving. The app then prompted the subjects to visualize a specific scene, such as a lion in a zoo or a forest. That act helped reduce overall snacking and unhealthy snacking, compared with a group that tracked snacks with a different app. Try using an app like Stop, Breathe & Think or Headspace and doing a short meditation. Or play a game … but maybe not Candy Crush.

HEAD OFF CRAVINGS

4. TIME YOUR MEALS STRATEGICALLY

The debate over “three meals versus five meals” per day for better weight loss continues, but if you aren’t hungry for snacks, there’s no reason to eat them. And there’s no reason to follow some prescribed schedule, either. Maybe you sail through from lunch to dinner but always want a little something before bed. So eat then and not in the afternoon, says Roussell, so you’re not adding extra calories. Instead, those calories are accounted for.

5. CREATE NUTRITION AUDIBLES

In football, quarterbacks call an audible when they get to the line and decide their planned play isn’t going to work with the way the opposing team’s defense is setting up. Roussell recommends the same thing with nutrition: Have a backup play when your own plans go awry. For instance, if mornings get crazed and you don’t have time to make breakfast, keep five ingredients on hand that you can toss in the blender to have a quick, healthy smoothie. Or know exactly where to go for a healthy lunch when you forget yours at home. Having that plan in place makes you less likely to eat just anything.

RETRAIN YOUR BRAIN

6. EAT THE CRAVING DAILY

Scritchfield suggests a slightly unorthodox method to take on your cravings: Embrace them, don’t fight the. If you can establish a solid system to manage them, that is. Her simple suggestion that works for her clients? Give yourself permission to have that food every day, once a day, and schedule when you will have it. So keep your meals balanced, but have that handful of fries at lunch or dinner. Really enjoy them, rather than stuffing them down your throat. This helps reduce guilt, stress and anxiety, she says, and “by Day 3 or 4, you’ll be over it.” Rather than fries being a “bad” food, they’ll just be a food — one you can choose to have anytime you want them. But you’ll crave them less.

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  • BB

    Please remove the picture of junk food. We don’t need one more advertisement for junk to show up in our feeds. Thanks 🙂

  • Chrystle Dawn

    Why would healthy people attempting to make huge changes in their diet need pictures of people eating huge ice cream cones? MFP seems to be trying to sabotage people. I see this way too often. I was not even thinking about junk food until you showed me a picture of it when I logges in to log my 200 calorie salad. Knock it off please.

    • Paula

      Agree!! I lost 4 pounds doing low-carb the two weeks I didn’t have any TV while switching cable companies. As well as finishing a big book in two days. I also don’t need to see food postings on Facebook. So, let’s get rid of TV and the food ads that go with them! And keep your stupid food posts to yourself.

  • Rafaela Rigo

    “Craving will always be there”
    This nutritionist clearly don’t understand the true reasons why we crave. Yes we can overcome cravings!

  • Suzanna Gatfield

    “Eat the craving daily and by day 3 or 4 you’ll be over it” LOL
    Is this person insane!? Most people’s “cravings” are created from an addiction to sugar/carbs. Feeding the addiction and telling people they’ll be over it in 3-4 days is ridiculous! Who is this person?
    And please, no more pictures of junk food!!

  • Astrid Pinder

    Remove this article and photos please. Such a joke on us who are trying to eat healthy and be healthy. I would eat a pizza every day if I could, my trainer would have a stroke and I would be as wide as a door if I followed this advise!
    What stupidity in believing you can fool yourself…or should I say your body!

    • Anna

      But it’s about eating a little bit of pizza every day, isn’t it? So that you can eat a slice of pizza every day, but not the whole one. I think that works for some people. Not for me tho, I would have a craving and accidently eat the whole one xD

      • Nan

        Don’t you just hate accidents like that!

    • Toni Manteris

      Drama queen much?

    • Nan

      The article was not suggesting anyone eats pizza every day. It was suggesting that if you are CRAVING pizza, have a piece every now and then. You will not feel deprived and you will be happier than if your never have another piece of pizza again. If you want ice cream, order a kiddie cone once in a while.

    • LewCid

      Rather than demand people censor web sites, try using self-control – or choosing not to read an article you don’t like!

  • NickD

    I liked the article and look forward to trying some of these strategies

  • Kristen

    Why is everyone complaining? I didn’t notice any pics of food?

    I think everyone has misunderstood the author – they aren’t condoning eating a slice of cake everyday? They suggest to fit a small indulgence into your daily calories?

    I understand what having a sugar and sweet food addiction is like! If I allow myself a square of dark chocolate ontop of my homemade whole food protein bars each day I don’t crave choc as much as I would if I had none and I won’t be binge eating a block of chocolate after depriving myself of it!

    • Nan

      I agree 100%!

  • LaTanya

    Actually it’s true, lbs! My weakness is my sweet tooth. I ate one chocolate chip cookie a day and ate clean meals. I ate a cookie a day for about 5 days and haven’t wanted one since. I feel when I deny myself the craving intensifies immensely. Although, I try to fill the craving with other things, that alternative never works. Everyone is different though, to each their own!

    • Queenofqueens

      LaTanya,
      That darn sweet tooth! ha This is my issue as well. I do ok with every thing else. Well except for working working out as much as I’d like. I’m about to change that though. I find that when I give in to a craving in “moderation” I’m fine. However, when I denied myself for longer periods of time is when I got in trouble.

    • Nan

      Makes sense. No one likes being deprived. It only causes binging eventually.

  • Paul Moberg

    Pay attention to your macro’s and yes you can eat anything you want. My dedication to loosing weight and results I’m seeing out weigh the cravings.
    I set my macros at 20% carbs 40% fat 40% protein. If I want to eat a particular food or meal in a day I adjust my eating for the whole day. I eat 1 slice of 27 grain bread and crunchy peanut butter every morning and other than veggies that’s my carbs for the day.
    I didn’t loose a pound hardly until I learned to control my macros. I am down 15+ lbs in 4 weeks. I’m 41 and this is the first time in 10 years I finally am heading in the right direction. I started at over 265 and couldn’t believe the scale when I saw 249 I am hoping the next 15 is as easy as the first I haven’t been under 230 in close to 20 years. Eat what you want in moderation but be religious to your macro’s

    • Nan

      What is macro?

      • Jane Kemp

        A “macro” is a macronutrient. There are 3 macronutrients: fats, proteins, and carbohydrates.

  • sea_fan

    “Eating my craving everyday” is how I got morbidly obese in the first place. 🙁 That may work for some people but not me!

    • Nan

      No sensible person would advise to give in to all cravings. I think that what is being suggested is to occasionally give in but not all the way…give in in moderation and consider it a special treat.

  • Lady Shambala

    When I get a craving, the best way I’ve found to overcome it is to brush my teeth (and tongue, of course). It works every time and has the added benefit of improving dental health by cleaning my teeth versus attacking them with desserts that might get caught between my teeth and contribute to decay.

  • s lee

    I understand that I can fight my craving “to a point”, but a Website you go to for strength to fight and help myself with those craving “SHOULD NOT POST Pictures as in this article”. Of course, Ice Cream is my #1 craving food lol 🙂 I know they might not even have thought about it,
    but it’s hard enough to lose weight without having your “go to place” having HUGE pictures of your food craving downfall foods. Just saying ** This would be especially hard for someone who just started this Website.

  • ahfclass

    To those who are demanding the picture of people enjoying ice cream be removed because you can’t handle the image: How sad to be so weak that one picture can set you off and freak you out. Rather than expect everything and everyone around you to accommodate your weakness, get control of yourselves! How are you able to function in the world if you can’t deal with what is in the world? Accept reality and choose your own reaction to it.

    To those who disagree with the suggestion to eat a little of your cravings every day: Don’t do it. It’s actually a really good suggestion, and works for a lot of people. But if you aren’t one of those people, do what works for you. Don’t, however, demand that, because you are not able to enjoy a little treat each day while others can, the suggestion be wholly removed as a choice for others. Get over yourselves.

  • tokyotapes

    Ok but why you gotta use a picture of ice cream tho?

  • robinbishop34

    Google “urge surfing,” which is a simple method to psychologically overcome urges of any kind… food, alcohol, etc.

    • Jane M Schwartz

      Thank you so much for this tip. I’m reading about it and definitely am going to use it!

      • robinbishop34

        You’re welcome 🙂

  • Fischer Bacher

    I find that cheating by eating the wrong foods or having a cheat day is a recipe for failure. I am doing keto, and you have to be 100% committed.

  • Nan

    I lost 10 pounds using My Fitness Pal. That was my goal and it was not difficult to do. I never deprived myself and managed to keep my sweet tooth satisfied. I think My Fitness Pal is awesome and reading their tips when they come out are always helpful. I will remain on Fitness Pal for maintenance.