Lately I’ve been getting lot’s of inquiries about cravings, and what to do about them in order to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight. Maybe it’s because Spring is here, and more skin will be exposed over the next month or two. During Winter months it’s almost impossible not to put on a few pounds, but it’s easier said than done to break couch/comfort/snacking mode overnight!
Here are my 5 top tips on curbing cravings in time for swimsuit season:
1. Don’t “try” to diet: Does this scenario sound familiar? Diet day #1 : Breakfast equals coffee. A few hours later, you have a few slices of an apple, or maybe nothing. Lunch rolls around and you have a salad with chicken breast...low in anything fattening. As the late afternoon comes you’re starving, but you don’t want to mess up your diet so you refrain from eating. You get home from work famished...and then continuous meal happens. You crave everything! (Dinner and snacks until your full and it’s bedtime). Then you tell yourself you’ll get back on track the next day. I’ve done it, and I’m pretty sure everyone’s done it at least once! Even if the reason for lack of eating is not to diet per say, but due to an insanely busy day, don’t do this! If you really want to see results, you need to focus on nourishing yourself throughout the day with protein rich food, lots of veggies (fiber), and healthy fats. Your blood sugar levels, energy, and moods will stay balanced and you will be much less likely to have an afternoon or evening snack attack.
2. Wait 20 minutes: Give yourself a time lapse post meal before scanning the office lounge area or your cupboards for sweet or salty treats. When you go straight for dessert post meal, it is often due to habit, or because your hormones are slightly out of whack. Your insulin levels will increase and your blood sugar levels will spike, and it will be a continuous high as you eat until you ultimately crash and feel like crap. If you crave a treat post meal, try waiting a bit and keep yourself busy during that time. Often your cravings will simply go away, and if they don’t completely, you will at least be able to restrain yourself from going overboard if you do have a small treat.
3. Drink water!: So often we get busy and forget to drink the liquid of life, and hunger can easily be mistaken for thirst. If you start feeling headachy, tired, and start craving sugar (or anything to pick you up), chug a glass or two of H20. Most likely the symptoms will go away. If you actually feel hungry after drinking water and waiting a bit, then you probably are. Eat a substantial snack instead of cookies or chips: Check out a few of my Quick and Easy Snack Ideas.
4. When you really just NEED chocolate: Chocolate can actually be amazing for cravings if you consume it right, and I don’t mean snickers bars. Dark unsweetened cocoa actually releases serotonin, your happy mood hormone, and puts you on a natural high. The problem is when you go a little overboard with sugary chocolate and just can’t stop eating it. Instead, try mixing two tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa with a tablespoon coconut milk or coconut oil, splash of water, sprinkle of cinnamon, and a drop or two of stevia. Mix it together to create a frosting like paste. It may be on the bitter side compared to what you’re used to, but it will get the mood enhancement job done. Also, you may notice over time that a treat like this becomes sweet enough, and a processed chocolate bar will actually make your teeth itch.
5. Check in with your stress and sleep levels: Most of the time when we’re craving things, it’s because cortisol (our stress hormone) is seeping through our systems on overdrive. When you’re stressed out sitting at your office desk, do you notice how it correlates with snacking? When cortisol is on overdrive, it increases insulin levels in your body, which makes you crave more sugary/carb based foods. Instead of giving in to the temptations, pay attention to that stress, and acknowledge that you need to get some of that cortisol out of your system. How can you do this? Sweat it out! If you’re at work, go into the bathroom and do 100 jumping jacks or find a stairwell and go up and down the stairs 10 times. Maybe even hold a plank or do some pushups if you can find a little space to do so. Once your done, drink some water. Then ask yourself if the cravings are still there. Even better, make sure to schedule a workout in your day! I don’t care if this is 10 minutes in your living room. Challenge your muscles and get your heart rate up in and down. As for sleep, this is essential for regulating your hormones and breaking cravings. Do you notice when you sleep less than 6 hours, you subconsciously snack all day? It’s cause you're fighting the fatigue by feeding it with a blood sugar high. This is not the answer if you want to lose or maintain a healthy weight. With that, there are many other detrimental side effects from lack of sleep. Instead, focus on winding down at a decent hour and getting at least 7 hours of Z’s.
Hope that gives you a little insight into cravings!