Think back to the last time you ate a food that was absolutely to die for. Something that comes to mind for me? A decadent little chocolate truffle I got for Christmas. I took a bite out of it not expecting anything too groundbreaking, but then it hit me…pure bliss.
Inside the chocolate shell was this thick, creamy dark chocolate. The aroma was intoxicating; the texture was decadently smooth; and the rich flavor had me lost in the moment.
Fortunately/unfortunately, I received several of these little truffles. I guess you could say it took some will-power for me to not eat them all at once, especially because they’re packed with sugar and saturated fat (some of my favorite ingredients). Every time I remembered I had more, I would start imagining their perfection, sensing the goodness as if I were already eating them.
Cravings. I was craving those things like woa.
If you’ve ever experienced this sort of weird joy from a food, then you can probably relate. You come to love it, and maybe even start eating it more regularly. Then, at random times in the future, you get intense cravings for it that won’t seem to fade until you’ve given in and gotten more. Sure, you could try to convince yourself you don’t want the food, but denial only works for so long.
Seeing as how a lot of us tend to crave unhealthy foods (lookin’ at you, chocolate candy), it can be important for us to learn how to curb these feelings. I’m not about people swearing off foods they enjoy, because life is too short to deny these things. However, I also know that not being in control can make us slaves to our cravings. That is no way to live.
The longer we deny our cravings, the more intense they can seem. But! I can tell you firsthand that the more you practice self-control, the easier it is to say no to these foods (when you know you don’t actually need them).
To help you the next time unwanted cravings hit, I’ve made a list of all the little tricks that can be surprisingly effective for moving on with your life and not dwelling on the food you can’t get out of your head.
1. Don’t keep it around.
This is the most effective method for me. If I don’t have the junk food in the house, I’m too lazy to go out and actually buy it when I’m craving it.
2. Keep it out of sight.
If you live with someone who always stocks unhealthy food, or you seem to acquire it another way, simply putting it in a cabinet instead of in plain sight can make a world of a difference.
3. Eat or drink a healthy item instead.
Whether it’s an apple, some yogurt, a cup of tea, or something else, I’ve found distracting myself with a smarter option can help the craving pass, even if I’m cranky about it at first.
4. Brush your teeth.
When you brush your teeth, do you lose interest in food like I do? Or do you not care and eat a snack anyways (like Matt does)? Assuming you’re more like me, the minty-ness + the fact your teeth are squeaky clean can be a surprising motivator for ignoring cravings.
5. Get enough sleep.
If you find yourself craving junk food way more than normal, ask yourself: are you sleep deprived? This was #2 on my list of ways your life improves when you get more sleep. Not getting enough sleep has been linked to poor eating choices, and I can definitely vouch for that.
6. Don’t let yourself get ravenous.
Most people reach for easy, pre-made foods that provide instant gratification when they’re starving. Unfortunately, those often aren’t the most nutritious. If you simply keep your hunger in check, you can not only ward off hanger, but also desperate/unhealthy food choices.
7. Don’t restrict your food, but try to eat small amounts.
If you can’t say no to the treats you crave, accept you’re human and don’t be mad if you give in. There’s a reason #4 on my food philosophy is to not swear off specific foods, because that just makes you want it more. One thing I’ve found to help though? Combining less-than-healthy items with nutritious options—like chocolate and fruit, for instance. Indulging just the slightest bit may end up taming your craving.
8. Eat your “trigger” foods less often.
From fast food to candy, I’ve seen the impact this has on my diet first-hand. The more you practice self-control over your intense cravings, the easier it’ll get to say no in the future. Before you know it, you won’t even crave the same foods. It’s amazingly powerful.
9. Drink water.
A lot of the time when we think we’re hungry, we’re actually thirsty. I’ve always found this fact to be so bizarre, but lo and behold, when I drink some water, it often cures my sense of hunger. I also find that feeling of fullness, even if just water, makes me lose my appetite for food (when I don’t really need it).
10. Plan your meals and snacks.
There’s a reason why health fanatics rave about meal prep. Not only does this part of meal planning take the guess work out of how to eat healthy all week—it also removes the temptation that comes with the freedom of “winging it” for every meal or snack.
Multiple studies have shown that when you’re stressed, you’re more prone to having bad food cravings, not to mention it can mess with your metabolism. There are a million reasons why you should limit stress in your life. If you can’t reduce these pressures, actively try to improve how you cope with them and incorporate relaxing parts to your day.
12. Make it homemade.
If you’re good at trick #1—not keeping the junk food around—you always have the option of making a homemade version from scratch. I do this all the time. While it’s not completely overcoming the craving, it allows you to have complete control over what goes into the food, so you can make it a little healthier. Plus, you might not over-indulge by the time it’s prepared.
13. Chew sugar-free gum.
This is a tip I use all the time when trying to avoid free donuts or other desserts at the office. Although it’s not exactly what you want, I’ve found it can help to chew fruity or minty gum, since it at least tastes good and has lasting flavor.
14. Flee the scene.
When you know you’re about to give into a craving? Leave the house to go for a walk, or maybe go to a different room and keep busy. Distancing yourself from what you’re craving can help you move on and stop dwelling on the desire for the unhealthy food.
15. Eat balanced meals to prevent nutrient deficiencies.
Although cravings can be purely mental, rather than signals of what our body needs, in some cases a craving may indicate we’re deficient in a certain nutrient. For example, some attribute chocolate cravings to having low magnesium levels (if so, mind = blown). The argument is: we crave foods because they’re rich in the nutrient we need. Read more about it on Healthline here. If you’re having intense cravings, your diet might just be the culprit.
16. Practice intuitive eating.
This is a pretty loaded philosophy, but to put it simply: intuitive eating is when you eat strictly to nourish your body. You pay attention to hunger cues and feelings of fullness to guide when you eat. And if you’re hungry, you don’t deny food—you give yourself the freedom to eat whenever your body needs to. Basically, it’s being extremely mindful as you eat, always focusing on how your mind and body need food, rather than wanting it. Read more about the 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating.
What’s a food you seem to always be craving?
Do you have any tricks for getting rid of cravings?