7 Ways to Stop Cravings for Unhealthy Foods and Sugar

Dealing with cravings and trying to get rid of them is a dieter’s worst enemy. This uncontrollable desire to eat certain types of foods, from chips to cookies, is usually stronger than normal hunger. Sugar tends to be addictive, which makes it all the more challenging to say no to eating it, especially while on a diet. It’s hard not to want something that’s forbidden! Many people who go the keto diet, a high fat, low carb diet, don’t believe that the cravings for sugar and unhealthy food choices will go away, but it does. Don’t get us wrong, every diet has its challenges, but due to transitioning a body from burning glucose to fat, many, if not all of the sugar cravings go away. The Body Reboot book explains why this is the case and offers advice on how to get started. In addition to going on a high fat, low carb diet, below are additional ways to stop cravings for foods that have no nutritional benefit. 

1. Eat food that’s high in fat and low in carbs 

As we just mentioned in the introduction, Reader’s Digest, many dieters are having success on the keto diet. This author, in particular, explains her success on the keto diet and why it worked so well for her. Maybe it’ll work for you too! 

The keto diet plan (keto is short for ketogenic) is high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet. It allows only 20 grams of carbs per day, which doesn’t leave room for many fruits and vegetables—and sweets and starches are entirely off limits. Your main food sources are fat and protein, like beef and cheese or chicken and avocados. On the keto diet, you hijack your body’s preferred quick energy source, carbohydrates and force your body to start converting stored fat into energy. This metabolic process actually burns fat from your hips, thighs, belly, and organs (fatty liver, anyone?). The keto diet plan cuts carbs so dramatically your body has no choice but to turn to your fat stores.

About four days later, the keto flu fog lifted, and I felt more energized and focused than I had felt in years. Over the next seven weeks, I lost 15 pounds and slid easily back into the pants that had been too snug two months before. The biggest change, however, came with my control over my sweet tooth. Each doughnut or cookie I came across was a challenge—but it was also an easy decision: Eat too many carbs and my body would fall out of ketosis. I’d have to start the whole process again. Would it really be worth it? The answer was plain: No.

Keto helped me accomplish my two main goals: I jump-started my weight loss and I tamed the sugar monster that had ruled me for years.

2. Fight stress

Did you know that stress can affect eating behaviors, especially for women? Healthline says if you find a way to fight stress then you’re more likely to succeed on your diet. Finding distractions and hobbies that keep your mind of food can help a lot. 

Stress may induce food cravings and influence eating behaviors, especially for women.

Women under stress have been shown to eat significantly more calories and experience more cravings than non-stressed women.

Furthermore, stress raises your blood levels of cortisol, a hormone that can make you gain weight, especially in the belly area.

Try to minimize stress in your environment by planning ahead, meditating and generally slowing down.

A study by Psychoneuroendocrinology in 2001 found that people who had negative moods resulted in them overeating and sticking to their poor eating habits. Learn how to control your stress levels and you’ll instead create ways to say no and stick to healthy choices.

To date, there are few known predictors of stress-induced eating. The purpose of this study was to identify whether physiological and psychological variables are related to eating after stress. Specifically, we hypothesized that high cortisol reactivity in response to stress may lead to eating after stress, given the relations between cortisol with both psychological stress and mechanisms affecting hunger. To test this, we exposed fifty-nine healthy pre-menopausal women to both a stress session and a control session on different days. High cortisol reactors consumed more calories on the stress day compared to low reactors, but ate similar amounts on the control day. In terms of taste preferences, high reactors ate significantly more sweet food across days. Increases in negative mood in response to the stressors were also significantly related to greater food consumption. These results suggest that psychophysiological response to stress may influence subsequent eating behavior. Over time, these alterations could impact both weight and health.

3. Plan your meals 

Another way to prevent cravings from taking over is to plan your meals. If you go on the keto diet it’s helpful if you have a list of what foods you can and cannot eat. Healthline elaborates more on how planning your meals can keep you on track and know what type of meals you plan to eat in the next week or more. 

If possible, try to plan your meals for the day or upcoming week.

By already knowing what you're going to eat, you eliminate the factor of spontaneity and uncertainty.

If you don't have to think about what to eat at the following meal, you will be less tempted and less likely to experience cravings.

4. Make meals at home 

Instead of eating out all of the time where hidden carbs tend to hang out, Eating Right suggests making more meals at home. Plan ahead, similar to creating a meal plan, and you can control the ingredients that are going into your meals. Knowing what’s in your food will help you stick to your diet and learn how to make delicious meals that taste good too. This is another exciting benefit of being on the keto diet! 

Making meals at home doesn't have to zap the last bit of your time and energy. The trick is to plan ahead. Choose options you can make in advance. For example, cook a batch of soup you can portion out for lunches or dinner during the week, or bake a whole chicken to slice for sandwiches, wraps and casseroles.

Use shortcuts such as pre-cut or frozen veggies and keep staples on hand such as broth, herbs and lemons for flavoring and salad dressings. A quick and easy idea is to turn leftover beef into stew with beans, no-salt-added diced tomatoes and pre-cut veggies.

5. Work on mindless eating habits 

Eating Well urges us to be more mindful when we are eating. It’s easy to graze and nibble on something while you’re working or watching tv. However, when you’re not eating mindfully you may find you’ve gone through an entire bag of chips without even thinking about it. Do yourself a favor and think about what you’re eating as you eat it. 

You’re eating alone, so you reach for your phone and text, scroll the ‘gram or play games. Or you read the paper, watch TV or use your computer. All of these distractions take your attention away from eating and make it harder for you to really experience and tune in to how satiated/full you are. That can lead you to eat more than you’re really hungry for, either now or later. Aim to be more mindful when you eat and really tune into how hungry and full you are.

Healthline explains how to use mindful eating in the form of mindfulness to your benefit: 

Mindful eating is about practicing mindfulness, a type of meditation, in relation to foods and eating.

It teaches you to develop awareness of your eating habits, emotions, hunger, cravings and physical sensations.

Mindful eating teaches you to distinguish between cravings and actual physical hunger. It helps you choose your response, instead of acting thoughtlessly or impulsively.

Eating mindfully involves being present while you eat, slowing down and chewing thoroughly. It is also important to avoid distractions, like the TV or your smartphone.

One 6-week study in binge eaters found that mindful eating reduced binge eating episodes from 4 to 1.5 per week. It also reduced the severity of each binge.

A study by Complement Therapy  Medicine from 2010 explains how important it is to teach yourself the difference between physical hunger and cravings for unhealthy food. Understanding the difference will help you make better decisions moving forward. 

OBJECTIVES:

The purpose of this study was to pilot a brief (6-week) group curriculum for providing mindfulness training to obese individuals, called Mindful Eating and Living (MEAL).

SETTING AND DESIGN:

Participants were recruited through a local Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) in spring 2006. Data was collected at three time points: baseline, completion of intervention (6 weeks), and 3-month follow-up (12 weeks).

INTERVENTION:

Six weekly two-hour group classes (with two monthly follow-up classes). Content included training in mindfulness meditation, mindful eating, and group discussion, with emphasis on awareness of body sensations, emotions, and triggers to overeat.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES:

Key variables assessed included changes in weight, body-mass index (BMI), eating behavior, and psychological distress. In addition, physiological markers of cardiovascular risk were evaluated including C-reactive protein (hsCRP), adiponectin, low-density lipoprotein (LDL), and plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 (PAI-1).

RESULTS:

Ten obese patients enrolled with a mean BMI of 36.9 kg/m² [SD±6.2]. The mean weight was 101 kg/m² and the mean age was 44 years (SD=8.7; range=31-62). Compared to baseline data, participants showed statistically significant increases in measures of mindfulness and cognitive restraint around eating, and statistically significant decreases in weight, eating disinhibition, binge eating, depression, perceived stress, physical symptoms, negative affect, and C-reactive protein.

CONCLUSIONS:

This study provides preliminary evidence that a eating focused mindfulness-based intervention can result in significant changes in weight, eating behavior, and psychological distress in obese individuals.

6. Don’t keep tempting foods around 

Eating Well reminds us not to have tempting foods in your home. Think about it: If the snacks are there then it’ll be more tempting to grab and eat them. 

It’s hard to resist temptation when it’s staring you in the face. You're much more likely to grab cookies, candy or ice cream if it's always in your house. Do yourself a favor and keep tempting foods out of your sight. If you’re going to keep irresistible snacks at home, stash them inside a cupboard (maybe on a top shelf?). Keep your fruit displayed proudly out on the counter and pre-chop veggies so they're ready for snacking.

7. Drink less caffeine

Another way to control cravings is to drink less caffeine. No, we’re not suggesting you should stop drinking coffee in the morning. However, as Eating Right brings up, if caffeine is affecting your sleep schedule then you may have a hard time sticking to your diet.

Too much caffeine can interfere with sleep, make you jittery and cause you to lose energy later in the day. Keep your caffeine intake in check by limiting regular coffee to 3 cups or less per day, and watch what you put into it. Too much sugar isn't good for your teeth.

Need to wean off? Try switching to half decaf or tea, drink plenty of water and eat small, frequent meals to keep up energy.

The keto diet can help you kick cravings to the curb and after you’re on a high fat, low carb diet, saying no to unhealthy foods will be much easier. Check out the Body Reboot book to learn more about the benefits of this amazing diet. If you want a free copy of the book, help us cover shipping and visit this page to get your free copy before we run out! 

Sources: Healthline, NCBI: Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2001, NCBI: Complement Therapy Medicine 2010, Eating Right, Eating Well, Reader’s Digest

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