Updated: Oct 13
Have you ever wanted ice cream so bad that you go out in the rain to buy a Klondike at the local bodega? Because you’re CRAVING ice cream and just have to have it!? Cravings for me are the sly saboteurs of healthy eating, lurking in the shadows, ready to pounce when our willpower weakens. Whether it's that insatiable urge for a slice of chocolate cake or an uncontrollable desire for a bag of potato chips, cravings can be hit us like an addiction. I’ve spent the last month focusing more on what I eat with the goal of losing a few pounds. The hardest part for me is the cravings.
I love food! Many call me a foodie. That doesn’t necessarily mean I like fancy food, but I do like GOOD food! Somehow, I am not overweight -now. It hasn’t always been that way though. 5 years ago I noticed I was choosing comfortable clothes that covered me more. I was in my late 40’s and felt “frumpy”. I had two choices… to go with it and “age early”, or to do something about it and try to lose some weight. I chose the latter. 5 years on and 25lbs lighter, I feel the strongest, fittest and most confident I’ve ever felt.
Losing weight hasn’t ’t been easy or quick. The biggest setback along my journey has been overcoming and confronting the cravings! OMG! I never eat pizza… but when I’m “watching what I eat” I CRAVE PIZZA! WHY? In order to change something I need to understand it. So I researched why we get cravings and how we can overcome them. here’s what I found.
The Science of Cravings
It was a relief for me to learn that cravings are not merely figments of our imagination. There's actually some science behind them, and it's been so helpful for me to combat cravings, now that I understand the underlying mechanisms.
Blood Sugar Levels: Fluctuations in your blood sugar levels can play a pivotal role in triggering cravings. When blood sugar levels drop, the body craves quick sources of energy, often in the form of sugary or high-carb foods. This is why you might find yourself reaching for that candy bar when you're feeling low on energy.
Hormones: Hormones are key players in regulating our hunger and cravings. Imbalances in your hormones can bring on heightened cravings.
Stress: Stress is a huge trigger for cravings. When we're stressed, our bodies release cortisol, which can increase our desire for comfort foods to make us feel better.
Emotions: Emotions like boredom, sadness, or even happiness can also bring on cravings. People often turn to food as a way to cope with their emotions or to celebrate.
Conditioning: Cravings can be learned behaviors. If you regularly associate a certain food with a positive experience, your brain may develop a craving for that food whenever you encounter similar situations.
So, what can we do about these cravings? Here's a few tips that have helped me a lot since learning more about it.
Mindful eating is a good one. It means paying full attention to your food, really savoring each bite, and knowing when you're full. This way, you're less likely to cave to cravings caused by your feelings.
Try to eat balanced meals and snacks. Get a mix of carbs, protein, and healthy fats to keep those hunger and cravings under control.
Don't forget to drink enough water. Sometimes, your body mistakes thirst for hunger, and that leads to unnecessary snacking. Water or herbal teas can help.
Plan your meals and snacks ahead of time. That way, you're less likely to grab junk food when a craving hits because you've got the good stuff ready.
Managing stress is important. Effective practices like meditation, yoga, or deep breathing can really help to deal with stress-related cravings.
Pay attention to your emotions and what triggers your cravings. If you find that you're always eating when you're feeling down, consider alternatives like going for a walk or a run, working out or even talking to a therapist or life coach.
If you're really craving something, look for a healthier version of it. For instance, if you want ice cream, maybe try Greek yogurt with berries and honey.
Sometimes, it's okay to have a small portion of what you're craving. Just don't go overboard.
If you're used to eating a lot of sugary or processed foods, don't try to quit all at once. Gradual changes are easier to stick with and can help reduce cravings over time.
Don't hesitate to reach out to a trustworthy personal trainer or someone you trust for guidance and support in managing cravings and achieving your fitness goals. I recently messaged my trainer, Kalen Norton, when I was struggling with unhealthy cravings, and he provided both words of encouragement and practical suggestions, such as having a cup of tea, which surprisingly helped me.
I also felt like getting over the cravings was similar to how I imagine going cold turkey from an addiction would be. The first week was tough. Many trips to the fridge, standing with the door open waiting for something to jump out at me. But after a week of staying strong and disciplined, the second week was easier with almost no cravings at all.
With this research now part of my armor, I can also identify when I want to eat something because I’m stressed. Just knowing that makes a huge difference.
Cravings may be a persistent challenge, but armed with knowledge and the right strategies, you can conquer them. Remember that occasional cravings are a normal part of life, and it's essential to find a balance between enjoying the foods you love and pursuing your fitness goals.