So You Want to Stop… Craving Junk Food

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So You Want to Stop… Craving Junk Food

I love ice cream. I love ice cream the way most people love their next breath of air. And I would eat ice cream morning, noon, and night if it weren’t for those pesky tens of thousands of accumulated calories. Even though I know it’s not the best food choice, I often get cravings for it that will last for days. Which is why I was probably thinking about ice cream when I read this story:

Two monks were walking down a muddy road after a heavy rainstorm. As they walked, they came upon a beautiful woman who was unable to cross the deep puddles to the other side of the road. The elder monk lifted her up and bore the beautiful woman across the road before continuing on his way to the monastery. Later that evening, the younger monk asked the elder monk, “Sir, isn’t it true that we monks may not touch a woman?” The elder monk responded, “Yes, that is true.” “Sir, then why did you carry that woman across the road?” The elder monk smiled, “I left her on the side of the road, but you are still carrying her.”

Luckily, ice cream is not a moral issue and I am not a monk. But as this ancient story illustrates, cravings are a part of life. They do not indicate that you’re weak or doing something wrong, instead cravings are simply proof that you’re human. And luckily, there is a very simple strategy to deal with what my mom calls, “wanting what you don’t want”—Give into it (a little). This works for three reasons:

1. Willpower is a limited resource According to the research of psychologist Roy Baumeister,we don’t have an endless supply of willpower. In the story, instead of obsessing over the woman, the younger monk could have spent all day in prayer and doing good for others. Similarly, the brain power you spend denying yourself ice cream is brain power you could be using to make lots of better food and lifestyle choices. In fact, experiments have shown willpower is linked to available glucose. So you might simply be low on willpower because your blood sugar is low, and giving into the craving (a little) will make it easier to resist and make better food choices in the long run.

2. Not doing something is harder than doing it Another major neurological factor in the success of giving in (a little) is that humans are really bad at not doing things. For example, don’t think of a pink elephant. Now don’t eat ice cream. See? If you tell yourself you can’t ever have something, you’re far more likely to want it—in psychology this is called “reactance.” Telling yourself you can have something, even just a little bit, actually makes us feel less controlled by the craving, and we’re more likely to be able to avoid it in the future.

3. Giving in a little bit trains your willpower By having a taste of what we want, we are teaching our brains that what we want is not a scarce resource and that there will be ice cream in the future. In 2012, scientists at the University of Rochester revisited the famous 1972 “marshmallow experiments,” and demonstrated that children who were given reliable access to marshmallows could actually resist eating marshmallows 4 times longer than children who were given irregular access to marshmallows. Which means giving into cravings every now and then actually improves your ability to resist cravings in the future.

On a practical level, I have 3 tips:

1. Portion it out.
2. Enjoy it.
3. Put it away.

When I am desperate for ice cream, I make my patented “Stevo Sundae,” vanilla ice cream with a shot of bourbon poured on top. I sit down and do nothing else but eat my sundae so I can enjoy it more. And when I’m done, I go through the ritual of cleaning my bowl and putting the pint away, which tells my brain, “Hey, I’m done!” And if I want more, I remind myself that if I really, really want it, I can have a little bit tomorrow.

What do you do when a craving hits? Share your strategies in the comments below.

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  • Blanster

    I like this advice a LOT, particularly the ritual of being done and telling your brain you’re done by cleaning the bowl and putting it away. When I am craving potato chips and I take some and leave the bag on the counter, it’s a tacit signal to my brain that I can come back for more. And so I do. Putting the bag back in the cabinet is more of an “I’ve had some and I’m done” act. Our brain tricks are so interesting to me!

  • Blanster

    I like this advice a LOT, particularly the ritual of being done and telling your brain you’re done by cleaning the bowl and putting it away. When I am craving potato chips and I take some and leave the bag on the counter, it’s a tacit signal to my brain that I can come back for more. And so I do. Putting the bag back in the cabinet is more of an “I’ve had some and I’m done” act. Our brain tricks are so interesting to me!

    • FlawLESS

      Along similar lines, if I buy snack food like those apple or veggie straws, I count out the portions into ziplock baggies, the put all the baggies back in the product bag. Then I can go by, grab a Baggie, and know in eating only the portion size. No hands in bags where you’re just eating without quantifying.

  • Blanster

    I like this advice a LOT, particularly the ritual of being done and telling your brain you’re done by cleaning the bowl and putting it away. When I am craving potato chips and I take some and leave the bag on the counter, it’s a tacit signal to my brain that I can come back for more. And so I do. Putting the bag back in the cabinet is more of an “I’ve had some and I’m done” act. Our brain tricks are so interesting to me!

    • 1ShirlB

      I do this, and take it a bit further, BEFORE I have even a TASTE, I will close up the bag, be it chips or M&M’s, and put it away – tells me “that’s all there is” – works for me…

  • Beth Hockersmith Sanphasiri

    My cravings are pop corn and ice cream. i make sure to keep some of the diet brands of portioned out ice cream treats in the freezer usually having one of these takes care of the craving, and it does’t kill the calorie count. For pop corn, I get the 100 calorie microwave bags. Once again, low on the calories, but serves the purpose. And, once every couple of weeks I go out for real ice cream, or gelato, Just a scoop and in a cup instead of a cone.

  • MariaC

    My cravings are the big juicy diner cheeseburgers and Coca Cola…Sometimes I get really cranky and then I remind myself that if I am good all week then I can have just a little of both. It helps to not deny myself completely.

  • efbeye

    I disagree with this. Studies find that sugar is addicting and so I think if you want to stop craving junk food, you have to stop eating refined food. Think of it as cigarettes or any other addictive substance.

    • youcanmakeachange

      I agree. If I cut sugar out of my day, I don’t crave it as much. But once I start (even something as simple as having some sugar in my coffee), it’s downhill from there and all I want is more sugar, sugar, sugar the whole day through. I guess you have to find what works for you. But for me, cutting it out is the way to go.

      • AnnoyedThinker

        I agree 100%. I use fruits as my sugar and it is working wonderfully. I do not crave sugar at all anymore. I treat it like an addiction (not here to debate if sugar addiction is ‘real’ or not). My mood, energy level, quality of sleep have all improved dramatically. I wish you luck, I do use Splenda as a sweetener for tea/coffee. Some people do not like the taste of it though.

        • MDee

          I agree as well (only I have to give up sugar and ANYthing sweet- fruits and diet coke, for example). Even if I do this for just a week, it kills the cravings. The hard part is making it through the week, but if I can do that I do anything 🙂

        • MDee

          I agree as well (only I have to give up sugar and ANYthing sweet- fruits and diet coke, for example). Even if I do this for just a week, it kills the cravings. The hard part is making it through the week, but if I can do that I do anything 🙂

          • AnnoyedThinker

            Yeah I find it take about a week of diligence too. After that first week life is much easier. No cravings and my energy increases dramatically. The only problem I have now is I drive my wife nuts because I am constantly milling about the house doing something – lol

          • Ada Barnes

            Whoa, any lifestyle that requires you to not eat FRUIT cannot be good for you.

          • rachel_behne

            Ya,I agree! Fruit is practically what I live on and its really healthy,I really don’t think its good that you’re cutting it out MDee

        • AJ

          try Stevia…..much better for you….Splenda is all chemicals

          • AnnoyedThinker

            I tried Stevia, and I do not care for the taste of it. If you think about it all artificial sweeteners are chemicals in some way. Don’t buy into the marketing of Stevia.

          • Kira MacPherson

            Stevia is a plant, I have one growing in my garden. All I do I dry it and powder it, no added chemicals at all. Can even just eat the leaves

          • jandetlefsen

            just being a plant doesn’t mean we are supposed to eat it.

          • ThinkAboutIt

            I just read about doing this recently. I have a huge garden i just started for this year. I am considering growing some Stevia of my own too. Where did you get seeds?

          • Renea

            Just be aware that Stevia is a member of the Asteraceae family, a family which includes ragweed. It doesn’t affect everyone the same way, but I am VERY allergic to ragweed and Stevia made me break out in hives and was a migraine trigger for me. Just pointing out that just because Stevia is a plant doesn’t mean it is good for everyone.

          • Kay

            one could make that claim about anything. You may be allergic, doesn’t mean the general population is.

          • Ravi

            Buy the right brand. And right amt. If u have aftertaste, ur doing too much. And Stevia comes from plant. It’s not just hype. ‘Bulksupplements Stevia Powder’ is a great brand

          • ThinkAboutIt

            I might try to grow my own Stevia and see how it goes. Today I still use Splenda and it works fine for me.

          • jmpgodiva

            There is an “after taste” for me when I tried Stevia or any other Sweetener for that matter.

          • hburton543

            I agree, I can’t stand the after tastes!

          • ThinkAboutIt

            Yeah, some do not like the aftertaste. Still better than sugar though.

          • Thia Thibeault

            Yes, and I was told that Splenda reacts to your body the same way sugar does

          • Jessica

            Splenda is just straight up rat poison. I’d eat sugar way faster then ever having splenda or aspartame.

          • ThinkAboutIt

            Splenda is not even close to rat poison, take your fear mongering elsewhere.

          • RightSensible

            citation needed

          • ThinkAboutIt

            You were told wrong, I have the blood sugar measurements to prove it.

      • We all might be different. I have friends who are find success on WW diet for example, they can bake a cake and only eat one portion. I have do that, I can’t have sweets in the house.

      • Ginny

        My cravings actually stop if I cut out certain foods completely – it has to be all or nothing with me, once I have a little taste of it I just want it more and it’s harder to stop!

        • Thia Thibeault

          Me too Ginny

        • ThinkAboutIt

          I am the same way, that is why I cut all processed sugars out of my diet. I also severely limit anything with white flour or other highly processed grains. I have no cravings and have dropped 40 pounds just doing that.

      • Tracy

        Sadly, that’s what happens to me. So I just say my little “that was so delicious and enjoyable!” mantra. It does help. If I eat more, it’s not for my stomach, it’s for my tongue or my head, and that doesn’t make any sense. But I totally get what you’re saying.

    • Lisa Ritz Bruce Donald

      I also disagree. For me some foods are so addictive that BY FAR the easiest bite to say no to is the first one. Craving eggs is very different than craving sugar or potato chips. If I’m craving eggs the craving doesn’t go away until I eat eggs. My body must be telling me I need the nutrients. If I’m craving cookies, it means I’ve recently spiked blood sugar levels too much – the monster (craving) will keep getting bigger until I eat carefully planned meals (that don’t include refined foods) for several days. I have to stick with a 40-30-30 plan for the most part. Once I’m back on track again for a few weeks, I can plan a very small treat into a well-balanced meal and be okay. That’s why I love MyFitnessPal Food Diary … it’s such a helpful tool when I make my entry before I eat – then I can tweak the amounts ahead of time!

      • Mary Smith Hansen

        Smart idea! I usually log after I eat, but planning first makes much better sense. Thanks for the tip!

      • Mindy Lou Fuson

        That’s a great idea, now I know how to use this effectually.

      • Ecarlate De Ecrire

        I completely agree about the Cravings and I recently started and Advocare 24 day challenge (no not selling this, al though I love it!) I decided to go cold turkey on Cola and sweets and basically crap in general. I went to planning what I eat with Myfitnesspro, got my FITBITHR synched up and put Coke down, replacing it with an ADVOCARE SPARK (40 calories). I cleaned my pantry and frig out and reverted back to European shopping for my fresh produce everyday. My first day I could literally taste the Cola at the check out. I made it out of one store, but gave in, in another. I didn’t beat myself up about, just had one drink and it didn’t even taste as good as my fruit punch SPARK did, so I chucked it. It has been a month and I haven’t died from no soda. I did almost mindlessly put a piece of candy in my mouth the other day and caught myself. I haven’t had in physical cravings only mental ones for the last 2.5 wekks. I keep fresh fruit and veggies at my desk at work and for those “women” cravings I keep pudding cups in my frig. The food diary wakes you up to what you are putting in your body and my fitbit adjusts the calories for exercise in the day. It is nice to see under my goal and my watch vibrates because I reached my goal. I think the key for me is that if I am going out with friends I plan for it and don’t forego exercise or walking. It is all about being at peace with your decisions and find the tools that let you succeed. I also have a wonderful accountability buddy at work. We talk about nutrition and he tells me that food doesn’t cheat on me, I shouldn’t cheat with food. PLan PLan Plan, log log log…

        • Julia Rauscher

          Good ideas

      • ThinkAboutIt

        I love MFP for exactly the same reasons.

    • dltscott

      What are your thoughts on agave nectar

      • Brandi

        Agave is highly processed and spikes your blood sugar the same. …stick with under processed honey

        • ThinkAboutIt

          Actually all honey spikes you the same as sugar. The difference is that local minimally processed honey can benefit you too. Especially if you have allergies.

      • efbeye

        I don’t know enough about it. As of now, I know it’s yummy

      • KCombies87

        It’s no better for you than go ey or sugar. It does benefit out eco system though. No harming the bees since it’s from a cactus!

        • KCombies87

          *honey

  • MemphisChik

    Ok, now I HAVE to try the ice cream with a shot of bourbon 😉

  • Amanda

    This makes so much sense. Over the weekend, I had a little birthday cake. Last night, my son spoon fed me a couple bites of his icecream. It was just enough to satisfy me. Now today at work, someone brought a bag of home baked cookies, and I actually CAN resist them! I am not taking a single bite and it doesnt even bother me, for the first time ever!

  • Karen Stoffers-Pugh

    This is a great article that for me gets to the heart of the problem. Thank you for putting down on paper, giving us the steps and techniques to get through the cravings.

  • David Twitchell

    I have also tried tying cravings to chores, exercise or even less pleasant eating experiences. Yes I can have ice cream…if I clean the toilet/eat 5 brussel sprouts/do 15 push-ups. My laziness then allows me to avoid the ice cream because I’m not dressed for pushups, I don’t like brussel sprouts and cleaning the toilet is just gross. This naturally won’t work if you like cleaning/brussel sprouts/pushups. Even a relatively low hurdle can check a craving by sending the mind in another direction.

    • Robyn Nadolny

      That is an awesome Idea, I may have to try it out!

    • thohan

      Last time I was disciplined, it was the act of having to record the snack on MyFitnessPal that would prevent me from having it. Leveraging my laziness.

      • Ecarlate De Ecrire

        I have done that too! I have made my own trail mix with and yes I actually made a recipe out of it and used that math stuff I learned! I keep a serving size cup with it and measure it out for work (1cup) and that is my grazing snack I have at my desk and lots and lots and lots of water. Logging that snack makes me either not finish it (CARB/GOOD FAT Dense) or I make sure I work it off at the gym after work. THE LOGGING MAKES YOU THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU ARE PUTTING IN YOUR BODY!

    • thohan

      Last time I was disciplined, it was the act of having to record the snack on MyFitnessPal that would prevent me from having it. Leveraging my laziness.

    • Courtney

      Oh my gosh! I did something like this as a kid, but with computer time because I was a programming addict. I never thought to apply it to food.

  • lisa

    I just buy either the weight watchers version or skinny cow version. It tastes great but doesn’t pack on as many calories

    • Madeleine

      I think the skinny cow ice cream cones are fabulous and just one is enough for that dessert craving. I always have it after lunch to give me more time to work it off. Another trick when I want sugar, I eat a dark chocolate mint. I never want to eat anything after mints. Brushing your teeth works really well too.

  • David Mills

    I say go cold turkey…the longer you are away from it the easier it gets…. giving in a little is like a coke addict saying they will give in a little!!

  • David Mills

    I say go cold turkey…the longer you are away from it the easier it gets…. giving in a little is like a coke addict saying they will give in a little!!

    • thohan

      It’s kinda hard to argue with such time-tested, horse-sense sense as this. This is what prior generations would have known without any scientific studies. As far as I can tell.

  • Rev. Crum

    One of the greatest things I use for portion control is the small ice cream cups. They are just enough to satisfy my craving also the mini cones are great as well.

  • mabybaby89

    I have the same problem with ice cream. What I did recently was allowed myself to have only one bar a day for a snack (when I do have it on stock, though I only get a box every two weeks on the bi-monthly shopping trip), but I buy the Weight Watchers 80 calorie bars. So I can have my snack when it is around, but it’s still better for me than going to DQ or MD’s and getting one there…

  • Jen

    When I was single and dieting, I would just not close the freezer door while I was having a taste or two of ice cream. I just kept a spoon with it, and a pint would last me about a month. Unfortunately, I can’t leave pints in the freezer anymore, because my boyfriend will eat the whole thing within the hour (stupid skinny people).

    • Courtney

      Same. A jar of gelato would last weeks by myself.

  • GiBetoni

    Isso é verdade, vou aplica-lo ao meu dia a dia. E o melhor de tudo, eu moro quase ao lado de uma sorveteria =/

  • nicoleanneh

    I cut sugar about 2 weeks ago… so much better! And I have lost at least 5 lbs.

    • AnnoyedThinker

      I cut it out 4 weeks ago and down 27 lbs. It is amazing the difference it makes, huh?

      • 1ShirlB

        Did you only cut out sugar??

        • AnnoyedThinker

          Sugar and white flour. I did not cut it out 100%, because somethings like whole grain breads have sugar in them. I quite eating things that are primarily sugar or white flour based though.

        • nicoleanneh

          Yes, I cut out only sugar (processed). I still eat fruit but no honey. I was drinking artificial sweetened drinks but found that they actually had the same effects as sugar… the CRASH!! So now i limit those significantly. I try not to eat very many processed foods so that helps. Also Bananas… if very ripe and not eaten with a meal.. same problem, Major CRASH.

        • ThinkAboutIt

          No, I cut out sugar and most all refined grains like white flour products. I still eat bread from time to time, but it is as multi grain as I can get. I have never regretted eating this way. I track calories in MyFitnessPal too. This keeps me on track and eating this way keep me loaded with energy. I have actually discovered a new problem, I cannot sleep long or well without a sleep aid. I have too much energy – lol I would rather drink some chamomile tea before bed than eat sugars and other garbage and feel tired all the time though. I started canning my own foods, this allowed me to control what was in the foods I eat. It also allowed me to portion control by jar size. I love it.

  • Techno Spice

    I have found eating something sour, like green olives or pickles, is a great way to stifle carb cravings of all sorts.

    • Courtney

      Not sure about olives, but pickles are a brain food so they’re probably helping you think clearer.

  • bd_cowan

    Why not substitute a poor choice with a better one like greek yogurt with frozen berries? Junk food is full of terrible things that we should never consume. Added sugars are highly addictive and are associated with cancer, diabetes, obesity, and other serious health issues. If you are so desperate to harm yourself with junk at least take a walk to the corner store and get a single serving. Dont keep it in the house and expect control and moderation. Stock healthy substitutes and do yourself a favor.

    This article is bad advice. The picture of a banana split at the top of the article is not an appropriate serving size and does little for those struggling with their weight other than induce a craving.

  • bd_cowan

    Why not substitute a poor choice with a better one like greek yogurt with frozen berries? Junk food is full of terrible things that we should never consume. Added sugars are highly addictive and are associated with cancer, diabetes, obesity, and other serious health issues. If you are so desperate to harm yourself with junk at least take a walk to the corner store and get a single serving. Dont keep it in the house and expect control and moderation. Stock healthy substitutes and do yourself a favor.

    This article is bad advice. The picture of a banana split at the top of the article is not an appropriate serving size and does little for those struggling with their weight other than induce a craving.

    • Rosanna Lauria

      I totally agree. For those who actually do have sugar cravings, this image isn’t helping! Its not just about the calorie equation. Some calories (such as sugars) are worse than others as they elevate blood sugar, producing too much insulin which is inflammatory, leads to chronic illness such as T2 diabetes, cancer, heart disease, etc.
      I say the best thing to do is find out why you have the craving in the first place. You may be lacking some important nutrients from other ‘natural’ sources. So experiment a little..
      Sugar is definitely an addictive substance, and going cold turkey for a few days (from sugar) has shown to significantly reduce the cravings until eventually your body doesn’t crave the sugars anymore. This is the best scenario.
      Also don’t leave any ice cream (or any processed food) in your house, because then you’ll certainly be more inclined to eat it, even if you’re not hungry. Maybe because you’re just bored.
      And last but certainly not least… do your own research and start to understand the food you’re about to eat and what that food does to your body. What it does to your health. The short and long term impacts on your health. Then when you consider eating it, you’ll make a much mire informed decision about whether you really want to eat it or not, rather than simply ‘do I ‘feel’ like it?’

  • bd_cowan

    Why not substitute a poor choice with a better one like greek yogurt with frozen berries? Junk food is full of terrible things that we should never consume. Added sugars are highly addictive and are associated with cancer, diabetes, obesity, and other serious health issues. If you are so desperate to harm yourself with junk at least take a walk to the corner store and get a single serving. Dont keep it in the house and expect control and moderation. Stock healthy substitutes and do yourself a favor.

    This article is bad advice. The picture of a banana split at the top of the article is not an appropriate serving size and does little for those struggling with their weight other than induce a craving.

  • AnnoyedThinker

    . . .experiments have shown willpower is linked to available glucose. So you might simply be low on willpower because your blood sugar is low, and giving into the craving (a little) will make it easier to resist and make better food choices in the long run.

    Seriously the stupidest excuse I have ever read. If it is related to low blood sugar then the last thing you want is a simple sugar. Get an apple, grapes, orange or some other fruit that will kick your blood sugar up a bit. The difference? Fruit will not cause your blood sugar to crash and have you go through the same struggle all over again. Does that mean you cannot eat ice cream? Nope, but plan for the ice cream and track the quantity. Do not use it as a reaction to a ‘craving’ (low blood sugar) because you will be training yourself to use ice cream as the solution, when you should use better choice as the solution to an ongoing problem.

  • AnnoyedThinker

    . . .experiments have shown willpower is linked to available glucose. So you might simply be low on willpower because your blood sugar is low, and giving into the craving (a little) will make it easier to resist and make better food choices in the long run.

    Seriously the stupidest excuse I have ever read. If it is related to low blood sugar then the last thing you want is a simple sugar. Get an apple, grapes, orange or some other fruit that will kick your blood sugar up a bit. The difference? Fruit will not cause your blood sugar to crash and have you go through the same struggle all over again. Does that mean you cannot eat ice cream? Nope, but plan for the ice cream and track the quantity. Do not use it as a reaction to a ‘craving’ (low blood sugar) because you will be training yourself to use ice cream as the solution, when you should use better choice as the solution to an ongoing problem.

    • Carol

      I agree and I love your answer wish I knew how to use and understood food food and it’s nutrition value better, to help instead of hurt. I will try this. You need to write an article. Thank you

    • aven

      actually, as a former diabetic who charted all my foods AND the blood sugar response, I can tell you that fruits DO spike/crash your blood sugar. If I ate grapes, bananas or cherries on an empty stomach, I’d get a blood sugar spike and then drop, very similar to eating candy. If I had fruit after eating a low-glycemic food, I got a slower rise and fall in my sugars. Simple carbs from any source make a rapid change in blood sugar; complex carbs have a slower response, and protein the slowest. To keep overall levels even (less cravings and plunges in your energy level) make sure you’re getting enough protein, spread throughout the day.

      • barbm

        Also a former diabetic…. I learned that different foods effect different people differently. Banana’s and grapes spiked my sugars, but oranges and tomatoes didn’t. But I had a girl friend that spiked with oranges and tomatoes too. She could eat oatmeal for breakfast and it didn’t spike her, but I couldn’t. It would spike my sugars something fierce. But now, after gastric by pass surgery, I don’t dump from fruit. My dumping syndrome is very mild compared to some, but it still sucks. When I eat refined sugar, say a piece cake or a scoop of ice cream, I get an instant head ache. My head and vision gets foggy and spinny. My stomach cramps and I generally feel like I have the flu. I just have to sleep or at least rest. My heart races, it just feels crappy. But I can eat fruit all day and I don’t have that reaction. So, at least for me, it is not all metabolized the same way. Protein is important for everyone, especially women as we age. I don’t think any of us get enough, but we also need to remember we are all different. Do what works for you, even if other people balk at it.

    • Ecarlate De Ecrire

      Actually a new Study on Willpower has shown that it isn’t a LACK of the stuff that makes you cave, it is the fact that you are fighting a losing battle ALL DAY LONG! Of course you are going to get exhausted and give in sometimes. It is all about preparing for skirmishes and fighting small battles smartly. Example. My parents keep candy, cookies, crackers, chips and everything a child loves for the grandkids all over the house, so when I go over I take frozen cherries, homemade granola and healthy snacks with me (already logged into my food diary). It is easier for me to say no thank you or fight the urges when I have my good stuff with me (especially when my parents ask me to get them a goodie from the kitchen). But everyone is different, but preparation makes your battles more effectives.

      • ThinkAboutIt

        I have learned a lot over the last year since that post. I have found that refined sugars and simple carbs are the reason behind my cravings at least. I have gone from being pre-diabetic to ‘normal’ in just a month by cutting those. Today I eat much better than I ever have and I find I do not have cravings. I do eat every 3-4 hours though so I am never hungry either, that helps. I got tired of trusting slanted studies and used my own blood sugar results to see what impacts my blood sugar levels. if it spikes my levels I quit eating it, period. A simple approach, but it does require lots of testing your blood sugars. This has helped me drop quite a bit of weight too, down 35 pounds in 55 days. It works well for me, so maybe it will work for others too.

  • AnnoyedThinker

    . . .experiments have shown willpower is linked to available glucose. So you might simply be low on willpower because your blood sugar is low, and giving into the craving (a little) will make it easier to resist and make better food choices in the long run.

    Seriously the stupidest excuse I have ever read. If it is related to low blood sugar then the last thing you want is a simple sugar. Get an apple, grapes, orange or some other fruit that will kick your blood sugar up a bit. The difference? Fruit will not cause your blood sugar to crash and have you go through the same struggle all over again. Does that mean you cannot eat ice cream? Nope, but plan for the ice cream and track the quantity. Do not use it as a reaction to a ‘craving’ (low blood sugar) because you will be training yourself to use ice cream as the solution, when you should use better choice as the solution to an ongoing problem.

  • Karol

    I do this with chocolate and cookies. I get 1 or two cookies one day and save the rest for another day of the week when I’m not done with my goal of he day. The same with chocolate. Just a little bit is enough and I can continue with my fitness plan 😉

  • sparlingo

    I enjoy reading the comments on articles like this because there is such a huge representation for both the cold turkey/deprivation camp and the just-a-little/moderation camp.

    Having tried both strategies, I actually find moderation harder in the beginning, but better in the long run. Once I re-train my brain that the foods I crave are not a) a limited resource or b) as great as I’m working them up to be in my mind, it’s a lot easier to have a little and move on. If I try to cut the foods out, they will inevitably be re-introduced at a later time because I love them. So really. . . learn to moderate up front, or learn to moderate later, but either way portion control, moderation, and delayed gratification need to be learned at some point! I completely agree with the author of this article. Sitting down and really enjoying the food was something I found particularly helpful as well. I just don’t *enjoy* my food as much if I’m leaning over the counter and scarfing it down.

    Instead of cutting food groups out, I find it more helpful to focus on what I want to eat (more veggies, more lean proteins) than on what I want to eat less of (refined carbohydrates, saturated fats). It’s a lot easier to make sure my lunch is packed with veggies and my day is under calories on the whole than it is to think DO NOT EAT THE COOKIES.

  • cowellboy

    I don’t keep it in the house – there is an ice cream shoppe 3 blocks from here – I go and get a Sunday or a scoop – nothing in house to tempt

  • Amber Rapp

    I do this frequenty… Ill treat myself just a bit in the evenings if Ive been craving something sweet and my craving just dissapears 🙂 I do the same thing with other cravings… if we’re out to eat and my boyfriend is eating something that I know will blow my calorie budget but I just can’t get out of my head, Ill grab just a bite from him and that does the trick every time 🙂

  • Amber Rapp

    I do this frequenty… Ill treat myself just a bit in the evenings if Ive been craving something sweet and my craving just dissapears 🙂 I do the same thing with other cravings… if we’re out to eat and my boyfriend is eating something that I know will blow my calorie budget but I just can’t get out of my head, Ill grab just a bite from him and that does the trick every time 🙂

  • Bj793

    I find delayed gratification helps. Yes I can have that biscuit, but bot right now…. Wait for an hour and have it with a coffee. Sometimes I wait and have it, other times the craving passes and next thing it’s dinner time and I forgot all about it.

  • Coach Christie – EatTrainWin

    Great blog! I don’t believe in having any forbidden foods in my healthy living coaching practice. Planned Indulgences are the way to go!

  • TheLaser

    This article assumes that we are all “rational addicts,” when in fact most of us are a combination of rational and irrational addicts (irrational are the ones who will stop at nothing to fulfill the addiction). For the major of us, the best way to combat cravings is to remove them altogether, make then difficult to attain, make the foods psychologically unattractive, and make tempting products expensive (which is why cigarette taxes can work to lower smoking rates), Guess how many children will resist eating marshmallows if there are no marshmallows and why monks live in monasteries without women?

  • TheLaser

    This article assumes that we are all “rational addicts,” when in fact most of us are a combination of rational and irrational addicts (irrational are the ones who will stop at nothing to fulfill the addiction). For the major of us, the best way to combat cravings is to remove them altogether, make then difficult to attain, make the foods psychologically unattractive, and make tempting products expensive (which is why cigarette taxes can work to lower smoking rates), Guess how many children will resist eating marshmallows if there are no marshmallows and why monks live in monasteries without women?

  • TheLaser

    This article assumes that we are all “rational addicts,” when in fact most of us are a combination of rational and irrational addicts (irrational are the ones who will stop at nothing to fulfill the addiction). For the major of us, the best way to combat cravings is to remove them altogether, make then difficult to attain, make the foods psychologically unattractive, and make tempting products expensive (which is why cigarette taxes can work to lower smoking rates), Guess how many children will resist eating marshmallows if there are no marshmallows and why monks live in monasteries without women?

    • epickett

      That may work for children or monks, but as adults we can always go out and BUY whatever junk food we’re craving. Sometimes I think I’d have to move out in the middle of nowhere to stop getting fast food.

  • TheLaser

    This article assumes that we are all “rational addicts,” when in fact most of us are a combination of rational and irrational addicts (irrational are the ones who will stop at nothing to fulfill the addiction). For the major of us, the best way to combat cravings is to remove them altogether, make then difficult to attain, make the foods psychologically unattractive, and make tempting products expensive (which is why cigarette taxes can work to lower smoking rates), Guess how many children will resist eating marshmallows if there are no marshmallows and why monks live in monasteries without women?

  • Carol

    I gave up ice cream for a year and decided I could handle a small bowl. Big mistake. I haven’t stooped eating too much of it for the last year. I am a true addict

  • Hannah

    I like the practical tips in here. I gave up sugar for a month once and didn’t lose a single lb BC I turned to a jar of pb or dried fruits in excess. So I think with everything we need to think long term and manage sugar in our lives. Portion control is really the key! I am finally at my goal weight thanks to that philosophy.

    • epickett

      I did the same thing once. I gave up pop for a whole month(I normally drink at LEAST couple of 16oz bottles of Coke or Pepsi every day). I didn’t lose any weight either. I must have subconsciously ingested something else that made up for the calories I was no longer getting from pop…

  • RubiWax

    Oh my god. “I disagree” blah blah blah! Take the advice, don’t eat refined sugars. There are OWNER of sweets in the world that don’t have them so seriously, get off your high horses. It’s the internet. You aren’t impressing anyone with your contradictory opinions.

    Thank you for the helpful advice. While I also refrain from refined sugars, I find myself overdoing the good sweets sometimes even. So… Helpful advice, even if the internet trolls can’t take the good from the article.

  • AlenaMachen

    I definitely think it just depends on what type of person you are. For some, eating just a little bit of sugar makes them only crave it more. I haven’t figured out which I am yet, but for anyone, I would recommend keeping lots of fruits in the house for when you crave sugar. That way, when you get the craving, you can still satisfy your need for sugar…but with good sugar!(:

    • nicoleanneh

      I am the type that if I have a little I have to have more. I actually feel better when the whole bag is gone…. Working more on why I eat than what I eat right now. keeping away from the sugar and eating fresh and lean but without the obsession.

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  • Liz

    I’ve been substituting honey as a topping/sweetener for various things, like on ice cream instead of caramel syrup, in cereal, in some baked goods. I’ve noticed that I need less and less of it to enjoy the sweetness, too! Less than a teaspoon gets me by in a large bowl of oatmeal now.

  • Des

    At my work we have a well-stocked snack table. Cookies, candies, chips – every manner of horrible temptation. And my desk is within eye-shot of it. It is a perpetual source of temptation – especially on stressful days.

    There is a phrase that goes something like, “It is easier to resist the first indulgence than to satisfy all that follow.” I have found this resonates with my experience. More often than not “just this one” turns into a binge, even if only a mini-binge at the end of a long workday.

    What works better for me is to allow myself a small indulgence ONLY AFTER eating a large quantity of sweet fruit – like 200-400 calories of fresh fruit. Almost without fail, that much sweet fruit curbs the craving (and all that water and fiber is filling). It is usually enough to help me resist. And on the rare occasion I still must have a cookie after that, the fullness helps me stop at one serving. 9 times out of 10 this routine will prevent a binge, vs the 1 out of 10 that I can accomplish using willpower alone.

  • Gee17

    I have three issues… I need to cut the sugar. My partner made custard and jam tarts from excess custard we had, and they literally melt in your mouth. It’s so hard to resist home baking. I wish he would hurry up and eat them!
    I think we should all eat sugar substitutes in our coffees and cereal.
    I find whenever I have a soda/sugar crave, a tall glass of Sprite zero with a lemon slice and ice works a treat.
    I need to cut the sugar, sleep more, and reduce stress. Those are really the main health problems I have.

  • Smithfishe

    I dont take sugar in anything but am addicted to chocolate. I found a way to lose wieght and still get my daily treat and have lost 25 pounds in six months. Secret for me is weighing everyday, monitoring calories and giving myself a daily chocolate treat every night before I go to bed as part of my calories for the day.
    1 mini pack of maltesers (99 calories a bag) or 4 x mint matchmakers broken up into tiny pieces and eaten slowly (72 cals) This gives me something to look forward to, rewards me for my efforts and keeps me on track.

  • Alekat

    Or maybe just chill out and if you want ice cream eat ice cream…pretty simple…

    • Amber

      It’s not that simple for a lot of us. A small amount leads to a large amount, which leads to, oh well, now I’ve ruined my diet for the day, might as well binge eat. And for people struggling to be healthy that tends to be a problem.

  • Deno

    I cant seem to find my fitness pal on black berry, any ideas?

  • Guest
  • jmpgodiva

    My problem is I am NOT satisfied with just a “little” of the thing I am craving. It drives me nuts when I see a person eat HALF of a desert and leave the rest. HOW are they able to do that???

  • Smithfishe

    I have lost 1.87 stone in the last six months which may not seem a lot but I am unable to exercise due to being disabled so it is all down to calorie counting and Fitness Pal.
    I have kept to my rigid diet quite happily because every day I allow 74 calories for four matchmaker sticks, broken up into tiny pieces to eat really slowly. This gives me something to look forward to at the end of the day and the incentive not to over exceed calories in the day (or forfeit my treat) and because the pieces are so small I feel like I am eating lots of chocolate and really indulging myself.

  • Katencookies

    People can be addicted to sugar! You wouldn’t tell a drug addict have a little bit of heroin!!! Eventually, the conrol the addiction has over you, lessens!

  • Andrew Mutz

    all I see is bandanna cherry and strawberry. .. yummy fruits.

  • Amenda W

    Im the same if i have a little then all my body does is obsess until my next craving is fulfilled. This may help with some but not all. Ive went through sugar withdrawl before and its not fun but once im over it and continue on a steady pace of training my taste buds to enjoy fruits, vegetables and other healthy foods then i have no more sugar cravings but… as soon as someone tells me, just have one then i find myself literally falling off the sugar wagon and then find it difficult for my taste buds to find any pleasure in natural sugars from fruits or vegetables

    Also sugar cravings have been linked to increase and over production of Candidis yeast in our body thus the lack of willpower and intense sugar cravings. Depriving ourselves of refined sugar is a healthy lifestyle choice as also findings refined sugar is toxic. But i also like to enjoy a bit of ice cream, a 1/4 cup is only about 50 calories but its the added toppings, including alcohol, that can really become the pound packer and the deal breaker

    i like simple old chocolate ice cream a la carte, no fuss, no muss just sink into childhood memories while i enjoy

  • Funstonmom

    I agree with those that disagree with you. Refined sugars and flours are addictive and actually set up cravings. The rest of that pint of ice cream would be calling me until it was gone, either eaten or dumped down the toilet. I’ve learned if I give in to even a bite, I’m headed for a binge. I can resist a day at a time or even an hour at a time. I don’t have to tell myself I can’t have it forever but I can tell myself I can do this a day at a time. I’m certain not all people have this problem but those of us that know we are compulsive overeaters know that this is a terrible idea for us.

  • Mrhonesty

    Great article but now I’m craving ice cream…..and bourbon. 🙂

  • Mindy Lou Fuson

    I disagree with this. Sugar is an addiction, just like any other addiction, if you truly want to stop you will and if you truly don’t want to stop you’ll fall back into that addiction. I think you have all the control to make your decision.

  • Apoorva

    I genuinely don’t think the portion, eat, put away thing works for me at all. Cravings suck. They usually get the better of me if I’ve not had enough sleep, am tired, PMS-ing, or super stressed out. I’ve noticed that at other times, it’s been easier to win against nagging cravings. I have this thing for cookies. It takes so much strength for me not to buy and eat them. I do, however, agree that if your mind is told it can’t have something, it wants it even more. Which is why indulging once in a while maybe ok for some people but not for those like me who get pushed off the wagon with 1 indulgent act. Sugar just makes me a slave to it.

  • Ravi

    Similar issues for me! I crave ice cream in the night, and once I start eating it, I can finish 3-4 large bowls (worth 300-400 Val’s each) very easily. I moved to
    Kroger frozen yogurt but still lots of it were going in.

    Well the last 2 days, I tried making peppermint tea (Bigelow) by the liter (3 bags) and after dinner, I drank it (cooled it and added ice). And as a result, didn’t do ice cream/frozen yogurt at all. Hope to continue this. If any of u like mint, try this. It seems to work. It also increases ur water intake.

    • Ravi

      Note: I added Stevia to sweeten my tea. Amazon sells bulk stevia powder which is enough for a tiny drop to sweeten a glass without any aftertaste.

  • S Djomkam

    I agree completely with this article. But we must all be different, because so many people say in the comments that it doesn’t work for them. If I give myself a bit of sugar I don’t think about it anymore & can continue on with non-food life. If I deny myself, I will end up eating a load of substitute carbs like a zillion carrot sticks, dried fruit, or lentil soup, what have you. But I will still be craving something more. A 1/4 cup of ice cream and I’m satisfied. Sometimes I even eat desert first because then I generally so satisfied I end up eating less. Instead of denying myself, I try to limit added sugar (includes juice and date sugar, honey, etc) to WHO of max 24 grams/day. I eat as much dairy and whole fruit sugar as I wish. My body is happy. I’ve lost the 20lbs I wanted to this way. But I have mostly been a thin person most of adult life. I save will power for moderation not for denial.

  • Akua Sarhene

    thanks so much! This was so helpful. I had a week where I told myself I was cutting everything out and going cold turkey and then I ended up eating more junk food than normal. And then after reading this article, I realized the weeks I eat the best are the weeks where I allow myself to have some fries and any other “junk” food. This was just the advice I needed.

  • Julia Rauscher

    Hmmmm I know sometimes I’m better off not eating something at all because once I start I have a hard time stopping

  • omnipotentmiku

    I’m yet another who disagrees because when I tried giving up soda the first few times around I tried moderation. It wasn’t until I went cold turkey for months that I kicked the habit.

  • Katie

    I feel like this article would have been better and more effective if it didn’t have a delicious looking picture at the top.

  • Diane

    But what about Blue Bell ice cream? It HAS gone away, and all I want is just one (box, case, truckload full) ice cream sandwich. Come back Blue Bell! We miss you.

  • CS

    I totally disagree. This is just an excuse to eat what we think we want eg sugar and high salts. Cold turkey gets it out of our body and along with exercise I don’t get sugar cravings at all. As soon as I stop exercising so much or at all e.g on holiday I get he cravings again. You have a little bit of chocolate, and you want even more. If you feed your craving even by a little, it grows. Sugar and salts are addictive and therefore you need to stop eating junk food! It’s proven healthy food makes you feel good for longer and crap food gives you a high. Bottom line, you eat rubbish you feel rubbish, you eat good you feel good. The above totally contradicts basic psychology whereby breaking a habit or addiction….do you really think AA meetings would agree with this? No….neither would food addicts!

    • Jamie London

      Agreed. Sugar ‘cravings’ are actually a form of addiction. I had a similar experience to you – broke the addiction and now desire sugary foods much less than before.

  • Nicole

    A great way to resist a craving is to smell something you find revolting like bbq sauce or Parmesan cheese

  • JeepNC

    Great. Now it’s 7am and I’m craving a Stevo sundae.

  • GF Dawn

    I’ve had a glass of chocolate milk to stop the craving for the creamy sweetness of ice cream. It usually works, or some milk with flavored creamer in it. It does work! It also helps that there is no ice cream in the house!

  • Gina

    Ice cream is also my downfall. My strategy is I don’t keep any in the freezer, but about once a month, when I go to the mall I have a caramel sundae — caramel is my other passion — and the 350 calories get recorded in my food journal like everything else I eat that day and then I adjust the rest of my meals and snacks to stay within my allowance.

    Another one of my tricks is to stare at the ice cream display in the supermarket, read the names and imagine what they taste like… and then move on. Works for me!

  • PB

    I wasnt craving ice cream anymore until I saw that picture of the banana split you put at the beginning of this article. Now I’m thinking about driving to the store. Thanks a lot.

  • Joni

    Give in a little works for someone that has been on a healthy plan for several weeks too soon and you will blow it but it does work for me then I can stop thinking about whatever I am craving

  • Kaira

    Weight Watchers is pretty good for those times when you crave something. There is no “shame” in having a treat. It isn’t bad to want, and it isn’t bad to have, and if you deprive yourself, you may find yourself taking a lick of something you were resisting– before you know it, you are in the corner with chocolate dripping from the corner of your mouth. But they also say ” what works best for you” it really depends, and to experiment with ideas because this is all about what works for you personally. Personally, I need sugar because if I don’t and I am low on blood sugar, then I am cranky. I don’t need more than 5 bites, and they say that 5 bites is pretty much all it takes till you get used to the taste, which is perfect for portioning.

  • RightSensible

    I have tried being too restrictive. It works. For a little bit. Then several weeks later I’m sitting in a dark room shoving cake down my throat. I feel giving into my cravings is easier for me. I measure out what I want or let my boyfriend get it for me, since he always seems to portion it out just right. Especially if I have been really good that day and am still under my calorie limit. I am much happier than I was when I was restricting everything from my diet, and I have also been more successful at losing the weight.

  • kathryn

    If I want ice cream, I always order a kids cone, It solves the craving, but the reduced portion limits the calorie load. I buy a cone rather than keeping ice cream at home and that way I’m guaranteed not to have seconds.

  • Tracy

    I have a whole discussion with myself. “That was delicious. Now I know what it tastes like. So it would be pointless to eat more. Because I already know what it tastes like: delicious. And aren’t we blessed to have delicious things!” LOL.

  • MsNette

    So I have read (someplace, good while back) that 3 packets of artificial sweetener a day does not affect weightloss. I have also read that at this amount there is no harm. Is this not right?
    I prefer Splenda (for tea) and Sweet n Low (for coffee) over Stevia.

  • Helen Hines

    What if you can’t stop with just a little or the right proportion? I’ve tried that and it doesn’t work for me, it’s all or nothing with me. It’s much easier not to have it in the house and just forget about it.

  • Deltadonna

    Realistic assessment and GREAT SUGGESTIONS-thanks Coach!

  • KnockItOff

    I feel that all cravings are the same. Whether it’s food, cigarettes, soda, etc… If you cut them out totally, your body “learns” to readjust and not crave it anymore. However, everyone’s chemical make-up is different. There are people with addictive personalities and make-ups. (I, being one of them).
    When I quit smoking almost 2 years ago, I quit cold turkey. It was hard for the first few weeks, but as time went on, my body “learned” that it didn’t want it anymore. I’m at the point now where I can’t even think of picking one up. However, if I had one anyway, my body would probably crave them all over again. Then I would need to “re-train” my body not to want them anymore.
    I feel the same thing holds true for food, as well. A lot of articles I’ve read state that food items such as sugar, especially in soda, will make your body crave it even more when it’s gone through it’s breakdown process. It’s kind of like a drug! 😛

  • KCombies87

    I think I have an unhealthy relationship with food. I won’t give in to a craving for hours, but then my boyfriend will be eating something I “can’t” have and I’ll eat more than he does of it. I went out for ice cream with my mom just now and ordered a kid size cone…in reality it was close to a small or a medium. About a cup or so on top of a sugar cone. I’m kicking my self over it. I have a photo shoot coming up and a dress fitting for my friend’s wedding…and I just ate 300 calories of ice cream. I’m trying to lose 20 lbs…what business do I have eating like that? That’s what my brain does…24/7. I’m actually debating on doing my weigh in this weekend because I had 2 bad days…which in reality are not all that bad. I’m a chef so I run around all day and according to my fitbit…I burn 400 calories on average at work and I’m working on my grandmother’s estate which is also 300 calories of work…I really only went over my calories by 200 today and 450 yesterday. I just constantly beat my self up about food.

  • Sarah Tessnair

    Gum! I usually start craving something sweet right after I eat a meal, so instead I pop in a piece of gum and it satisfies my craving.

  • Sparklecat

    For me, the biggest derailing sweets are baked goods. Just one bite of the sugary, buttery comfort food and I’m done. I’ll eat way more than I intended, loathe myself for the poor decision, and start again at square one. I do my best to keep fruits and nuts for my snacks and lately I’ve been much more aware of how much water I am drinking. Also I’ll throw myself into an activity that I have to focus such as cleaning, practicing an instrument, crochet, gardening,go for a walk, etc … just so long as it is active.

  • Jay9p1

    Just have a cheat meal once a week and fit everything you want in that cheat meal. I find this to satisfy cravings throughout the week!

  • Timothy Fish

    The best way to not eat something is to make that decision at the store, rather than when you are staring at what you have in the cupboard. An easy solution for ice cream is to only allow yourself to eat ice cream at an ice cream shop, rather than having it in the house. To make it even better, never drive to an ice cream shop, always walk or ride a bicycle. If you pick a shop that is far enough away, you will actually use the additional calories just getting there.

  • Peggie

    Wait a minute! Can we go back to the monk story? Where was this woman’s free will? Carrying her across the water was doing her the favor she requested. Carrying her any further is kidnapping. Carrying her to the monetary? Am I the only person that finds this story offensive?

    • Jamie London

      He doesn’t carry her to the monastery. Her puts her down at the side of the road, then continues to the monastery himself.

  • I think it’s a great comparison about the Monk to ice cream. Because their is a Prisoner’s Dilemma about one who eats the ice cream versus the Monk who craves it. When I crave Ice Cream or some sugary food, I try to find a healthy food or healthy meal replacement that is not as sugary. For example, a healthy meal replacement is Yogurt. Yogurt is not sugary but good for digestion!

  • Jamie London

    The article makes some good points, but i think it under-emphasises how addictive sugar can be. Many people who crave ice cream (or other such foods) are actually addicted to sugar. It’s a very tough habit/addiction to break, but personally I find the the fewer sugary foods i eat, the less i want them. Eating them regularly just feeds the addiction.

  • rickeer

    I’ll give it a shot, because so far, nothing else has worked.

  • FlawLESS

    Cake. Kills me that grocery sells those little mini cakes for 2-4. I can always think up an excuse to celebrate with white cake.

  • Vinnygret

    I also love ice cream and I have learned that it cannot live in my house with me. I only buy it out. Also, I never eat it alone.

  • JoyWolf

    I agree with this. But i end up running into a problem where at one point i let myself indulge and say to myself to enjoy it because i can, and then the next day i want to do it again… it gets baad. But i also see how one could argue that it is because I dont allow myself to be in the mindset that i can cheat everyday that i want to… idk

  • Catherine

    Thanks Steve, That was a Great lesson in controlling cravings. I learned that I can keep down my stress and maintain control over my choices by submitting to my cravings creatively by having a little in a special way; It will also be there tomorrow or the next day. It helps me to maintain productivity and enjoy myself too!!

  • A.01

    Before when my carving hits,I just eat alot n then check the weight.