Today I’m going to talk about cravings. You know those nasty, nagging feelings that you just have to have something to eat? Cravings are very real, and there’s something I want you to understand about cravings. Cravings aren’t just this pain in the butt thing. They are your body’s way of trying to tell you that it needs something. We love to beat ourselves up over having these cravings. We think that we should just be able to get over it, but that’s not how it works.
Especially in this time where we are being told to stick around the house, our schedules have been turned upside down, and we’re likely a bit more stressed, those cravings may be stronger than ever before. But don’t worry. This isn’t abnormal, and you can conquer those cravings. They can be controlled!
Unfortunately, our bodies don’t speak the same language that we do. It would be great if they could just say exactly what they need so that we could feed them the right thing in a healthy way. “Hey, I need some iron, so why don’t you eat a salad full of dark leafy greens.” That would be awesome, right? Instead, our brain knows that the ooey, gooey treat or the salty, greasy snack we ate before immediately made it happy and so that is what it craves. It doesn’t matter that your body crashed and burned five minutes later. It just remembers that it made you feel better!
Cravings are typically the result of something that we put into our body or don’t put into our body. They can also be the result of our circumstances, such as too much stress or being too tired. So, understand that cravings aren’t just because you are broken and can’t get a grip on things. They really, truly happen because your body needs something in the way of nutrients. Here are a few tips for getting those nasty cravings under control.
Eat Often (Avoid Getting Really Hungry)
When your body doesn’t get enough fuel, it goes into protection mode and just wants you to eat anything, and it doesn’t care what you eat. Then when you do eat, the flood gate opens, and you eat anything and everything and way too much of it. Sound about right? If you are one of those people that forgets to eat because you get busy, try setting an alarm on your phone to remind you to eat. Even if you aren’t hungry, eat, because if you wait until you are hungry, those cravings will kick in. A good rule of thumb is to try to eat every three hours.
Eat Nutritiously (and Often)
Ideally, the food you are going to eat often is going to be nutritious too. That’s kind of a given; I know. But honestly, I’d rather you eat something that isn’t crazy nutritious than not eat at all, because if you don’t, that hunger will fuel your cravings. However, if you eat nutritiously, you are going to feel better, and if your body is getting what it needs – proteins, carbohydrates, and healthy fats – you’re going to have less cravings. You will likely see that shift in just two to three days if you eat nutritiously and eat often.
Drink More Water
Yes, there are a gazillion health benefits that water will provide you, but that’s not the only reason to drink water. It will also fill you up so you don’t get as hungry. The most important reason of all though, is that drinking water flushes the toxins out of your body. Guess what those toxins do? Yep! You guessed it – they cause cravings. Those toxins also make you hold on to unwanted weight. One more reason to start loading up on water.
This one includes the first three tips, and I almost just included it in with them, but I think it deserves its own spot. When you crash and burn on the weekend or holiday, you fill your body with junk. You eat too much of the wrong food. You drink things that don’t fuel your body the right way, and simply hop off your meal plan. I think we’ve all had a time like that. The trick to overcoming those times is to double up on tips 1, 2, and 3. Eat often, eat extra nutritiously, and really load up on the water. Do it ten-fold even because it will help your body get rid of the junk you filled it with and set up a new pattern that your body needs to get back on track.
Don’t Eat Like a Bird
This is my personal favorite. How many times have you started a new plan and decided that you were going to eat a healthy breakfast, a salad for lunch, chicken and broccoli for dinner, hit the gym hard, and not eat anything that wasn’t on your plan even if you got hungry? That might sound healthy, but that’s how we crash and burn and end up having cravings. Why? Because we’re not birds. If we eat like a bird and try to continue the activities that we normally participate in, we deplete our energy stores and cause a crash and burn situation where we start craving anything and everything. We lose control because we didn’t give our body enough fuel. If you start a new plan and notice that you are craving things by the middle of the afternoon or evening, or if you are waking up starving, it means you have cut back too much. You’re hangry! You shouldn’t be mean, tired, and cranky when eating healthier. Be sure that your plan includes hearty, nutritious meals and snacks. It will make you happy and energetic instead.
No More Guilt and Shame
Cravings are your body’s response to it needing something. So, if you are beating yourself up over these cravings, all you’re really doing is sending out stress signals to your body that makes those cravings even worse. Don’t let the fact that you went off your meal plan be the basis for going off your meal plan. It’s a nasty, vicious cycle. Instead, say, “Yep, I got off track and I’m starting over.” Instead of starting over and going all in and changing everything (again), try making just one small change. I’m all about making small tweaks that are easy and sustainable so you get excited when you succeed and want to change just one more little thing. Building those little changes creates big results.
Before I get to the last tip, I want you to keep an open mind. It’s probably going to make you mad and you’re going to want to tune me out and stop reading. You’ve probably heard it a million times before, but that also means that you probably really need to keep reading.
You are absolutely certain you can’t do it.
You don’t have time.
You’ve tried before.
You’re simply too busy and you’re done trying to make it happen.
But hear me out.
Fight Stress and Get Enough Sleep
I know, I know. I’m not the first person to say this to you. But I don’t expect you to work a miracle overnight. I’m a busy mom too. I get it! All I want you to do is just think about the smallest of tweaks that you can make that will help move you in the right direction. These two things go hand in hand because if you are too stressed you can’t sleep and if you don’t get enough sleep, it makes you stressed. They also play a HUGE role in cravings. If you can just make the tiniest of changes, you can see big results. Try going to bed just 10 minutes earlier or try to be more consistent with the time that you go to bed each night. You’d be amazed at how much better just 10 minutes of sleep can make you feel, and that consistency can carry over into your nutrition and how consistent your healthy eating habits are. To handle stress, try taking a minute to do some deep breathing or try your hand at adult coloring. I know you think you don’t have time, but how much time is it costing you to be stressed out and not sleeping?
I know that some of these tips are easier than others, but the most important takeaway here is that the cravings you are having are a signal from your body that you need something. You can help take care of those needs by making some of the tiniest changes. Even one little change at a time. You don’t have to tackle them all at once. Little by little, one little tweak at a time, you can beat those cravings and put them in their place once and for all!