4 Ways on How to Stop Food Cravings!
You know the feeling. When the chips, caramel, ice-cream, nachos are calling your name, “eat me, eat me”, and keep calling your name, “you really want to eat me, now!”, taunting you, telling you you must have them, you need them. NOW!
Ok, but is it really the foods that are calling you?
Nope… it’s your body’s “cravings” that are pestering you!
And pestering they do, and they do it well!
You know what I’m talking about, right?
Well, know this…. you are not alone!
Our bodies are amazing machines… when we eat certain foods, our bodies start to crave them… and it’s really really tough, really tough, to win that battle against cravings….
Confession time….back before I transformed to the ‘almost raw’ vegan ranks I had HUGE cravings! So much so, I would cave into my cravings in a BIG way! I’d buy tons of “stuff” (aka, chips, ice cream, caramel)… I’d bring them home… stuff my face… then part way through I would feel embarrassingly disgusted with myself, throw it all out… only to find 15 minutes later I wanted to pull the ‘stuff’ out of the garbage… (yup, I’m about to say this out loud!) where I pulled it out of the garbage and continued eating!
Yup, it’s true!
Ok, but then I got smarter… I still craved and gave into my cravings, but when I decided to stop and throw everything out… I would mix it all up with my existing garbage like coffee grounds, or anything….so there was really no way for me to pick and eat out of the garbage!
Yup, I really said that out loud! Oh my….
So I know… I really do know, how cravings can make you do crazy things!
OK, but do you all know – I think you do – that food cravings actually have NOTHING to do with hunger.
Cravings are both psychological and biological.
The most comment things we crave are sugar/sweets, carbohydrates, chocolate & salt.
For me, my food of choice was caramel, ice-cream & chips. And even though I desparately wanted to feel better and knew that the only way to do this was by changing my diet – it was the cravings that were preventing me from becoming a true ‘almost raw’ vegan. I found the cravings kept calling me back to my old ways.
The spiral continued and I just didn’t know how to break the pattern.
I finally did some research to learn more about the causes of cravings and also how best to tackle the pesky annoyances – arming myself with this knowledge did the trick for me and really helped me to better understand how I could trash them once and for all!
And now, I want to arm you with the same insight so you too can ZAP your cravings once and for all!
So first let’s talk about some of the causes of food cravings and after that I’ll tell you my top tips for tackling your cravings.
BTW – one of the main reasons I created my 10-Day DETOX is to get rid of cravings. The DETOX is specifically designed to zap your cravings once and for all (as well as improve your energy and kickstart your weight loss)! I don’t want you to struggle like I did, I’d like you to come to the ‘almost raw’ vegan side and start improving your health & wellness once and for all….
4 Causes of Food Cravings
Serotonin is that “feel-good’ chemical produced by the nerve cells within our bodies.
But did you know that 80-90% of serotonin is found in your gut/digestive system?
I had no clue.
And did you know that serotonin levels can directly affect your mood, appetite, digestion, sleep and more.
Yup, it’s true.
How about this? Did you know that eating carbs & sugar can increase the release of serotonin, however the carbs & sugars just FOOL our bodies to temporarily feel FABULOUS! So when your serotonin levels are low, your brain triggers thoughts like “OH! That croissant or cupcake are going to fix me, and make me happy again!”
For myself, on those days where I feel stressed or down in the dumps, those are the days that I’m more likely to crave sugars and carbs.
Eating the sugars & carbs can boost my serotonin (temporarily) but then it becomes a vicious cycle, a non-stop cycle of temporary ups, followed by sluggish downs, which then triggers your body to again crave more sugars/carbs, you eat them, feel good temporarily, followed by another sluggish down swing….you eat more sugar/carbs, feel good, then down swing… you get the picture!
2. Poor Gut Health
Ok, so now that you know that 80-90% of serotonin is found in your digestive system, and low levels of serotonin can directly affect our mood, appetite, digestion, sleep and more.…
But did you know that 80-90% of serotonin is made in your gut, so low levels of serotonin could also be due to poor gut health.
So we’ll want to ensure our guts are in tip-top shape. The healthier our gut, the more effective and efficient it will be at absorbing the nutrients from the foods you eat, and in turn ensure you have optimal serotonin levels.
What does that mean? There are two key things to consider when we talk about a healthy gut, the bacteria and eating fermented foods. For the bacteria we want to ensure we have the right balance of good vs. bad bacteria. But when you eat foods that aren’t healthy the bad bacteria will overpower the good bacteria, and this will start a spiral where you will have more cravings and the vicious cycle starts again. Keeping a healthy balance of good bacteria will help to zap those food cravings. How do you keep that good balance? Enjoy fermented foods, take probiotics and take steps to improve your gut health.
3. Food Addiction & Endorphins
Endorphins are essential “opiates” (yup…sounds like ‘opium’!) that make us feel really really good, calm and relaxed. Certain foods increase the production of endorphins in our body, which make us feel relaxed and calm.
So when we eat sugary foods, or salty foods our endorphins will increase and for a short time after you eat, you’ll have that euphoric feeling. It’s the exact same response that drug users feel, where they get that ‘addiction’ feeling and want to feel those good feelings more and more.
The feeling of wanting more euphoria is very powerful, actually extremely powerful and the strongest of willpowers cannot overpower the power of endorphins.
There have been tons of studies on this topic including the addictive qualities of foods and ingredients founds in highly processed foods that are filled with fat and sugar that can trigger an addictive reaction.
In fact there is even some research that suggest that manufacturers add things to processed food that further enhance that addictive feeling. Yikkeees!
Staying away from packaged/processed foods will certainly help. Each of our bodies is different, some are more sensitive than others, so if you find you experience an ‘addictive’ response to certain foods, the best strategy is to simply stay clear of those foods.
4. Emotional Triggers
Ok, for me emotional eating was a definite challenge, and still is one of my challenges. It was all too common for me to grab a pint of ice-cream, a box of turtles (yup, caramel was my thing!) when I felt sadness, boredom, stress, poor self-esteem, negative body image (you name it).
There are so many emotions that can prompt us to peruse our kitchen cabinets for goodies. I mean who doesn’t want a tub of caramel ice-cream after getting ditched by the love of your life, or losing a job or just having a bad day?
Luckily emotional triggers are normally temporary and will dissipate within an hour or two. The best approach is to distract yourself with healthier food options (I know, easier said than done), or a change in scenery, go for a walk, call a girlfriend. Distract yourself from the emotion until the craving passes.
Ok now that you know my top 4 reasons we have cravings, let’s discuss some strategies that will help you to stop food cravings…
4 Tips to ZAP Food Cravings
1. Stay hydrated
Drinking lots of water is beneficial for many reasons. But one of the main reasons is that your body can be fooled that you are ‘hungry’ when really you are thirsty or dehydrated. This can also result in cravings. So the best strategy is to make sure you are fully hydrated. So make sure you’re drinking at least half your body weight (lbs) in ounces of water daily (so if you’re 140 lbs, you’d drink about 70 oz or about 9 cups of water a day). If you aren’t a big water drinker, you can add a little lemon to your water, or try hot water on it’s own or switch things up by making a cup of herbal tea.
2. Avoid refined sugar& processed carb foods
To prevent blood sugar surges and crashes that spike your appetite, you’ll need to avoid processed carbs and sweets. One trick I found helpful, is to distract yourself with healthy proteins – perhaps a handful of almonds, sunflower seeds or nut butter with celery. A small protein snack can sometimes be enough to steer your body (and mind) clear of sugary food cravings. Another strategy is to make your treats using ingredients that are lower in sugar, high in fiber and high in protein – try ingredients like dark chocolate, almond flour or chickpea flour. These ingredients won’t trigger cravings the same way as more refined & processed ingredients.
3. Exercise & take in the sun.
Getting outside for a brisk walk during the day, whether it’s -30C or +30C is a great way to exercise & take in the sun! These activities will produce endorphins better than any chocolate covered caramels – and your serotonin levels will also be boosted, which will help you to more easily ‘pass’ on the sweets & carb cravings. Even if it’s only for 10-15 minutes a day the exercise (endorphins) and sunshine (serotonin) boost will help ensure you’re not reaching for your favourite snack to try to turn your mood around.
4. Avoid trigger foods for 10-21 days.
I’m sure you’ve heard me say this already – our bodies are amazing machines and they have an amazing memory. If you feed yourself certain foods, your body will crave those foods.
So if you eat like crap, your body will crave crap. If you eat healthy, your body will crave healthy.
The trick is you have to get over the HUMP and retrain your body to let go of the old foods. The best way to do this is to avoid eating those trigger foods for a set period of time. During this time you’ll find healthier options – so instead of eating caramel, chips & ice-cream – you’ll enjoy smoothies, guacamole or hummus & veggies, chewy cashews balls, cocoa pudding. You’ll add fermented foods which are good for your gut, like homemade coconut kefir.
After 10-21 days your taste bugs will actually change their ‘tastes’, and your body will forget the triggers of the old foods, and they develop new tastes for the healthier, whole foods you have been eating for the 10-12 days.
Believe it or not, the old cravings, won’t have the same appeal – and it actually gets a whole lot easier to stick with healthy eating.
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The key? You need to pick a timeframe – I recommend 10-21 days – and cleanse your palate, retrain your taste buds to forget the old flavours & enjoy the new healthier flavours – do this for 10-21 days, and you WILL get over the hump.
Most importantly, please please please, be easy on yourself. If you do cave to your cravings, don’t beat up on yourself – just know that there are many reasons we crave foods and trust that your cravings WILL fade, they will come & go like the wind, and you most definitely have it in you to build new healthier habits & tricks to help you get to the other side!
Ok… so maybe you are worried that you’ll have to say BYE-BYE to all your favourite foods…. I say, absolutely not! But if you feel like cravings are taking control of your life, and stopping you from achieving your goals… I just want you to be well informed with these insights so you can better understand your cravings & follow these helpful tips to put you back in control!
And now it’s your turn: What’s your go-to food? Tell me more in the comments below – share your tips & tricks and let’s learn & help each other!