What do you think when you hear someone say, “Honesty, I don’t really care about burgers or chips anymore. I’d rather have a salad”? Probably that they are either lying or aren’t human.
We get it – despite all your good intentions and attempts to stick to a healthy diet, you still find yourself craving junk food - biscuits, savouries, sugar etc. Cravings attack us from all angles.
You accidentally find some ice cream in the freezer and it’s gone in a flash, or the thought of the leftover dinner that kids didn't finish keeps you up at night. You get the insatiable urge for a quick sugar fix or a cheeky Big Mac with a side of nuggets.
We have all been there. Most of us live in an unhealthy food environment - whether it's the 24 hours McDonalds nearby, the office supply of sugary treats or the bombardment of unhealthy foods on constant promotion in supermarkets. We are literally surrounded by temptation, and we grow up eating all of these highly pleasurable yet unhealthy treats. And our brains are then condition to love it but our bodies not so much.
We’re caught between wanting and not wanting - throwing the chocolate bar into the bin and picking it out again half an hour later (yep, we’ve also been there too!). But there can be light at the end of the cravings tunnel if you follow some of the tips below and listen to your body once you've commenced Saxenda rather than feeding yourself out of habit.
So check out our Top 10 Tips to reduce your cravings for the bad foods.
1. Eat Enough Healthy Filling Food
Does that one seem obvious? Okay, but are you actually doing it? Oftentimes, trying to eat healthier and loading up on veggies goes hand in hand but how long does it take initially for the sugar cravings to kick in?
A proper diet requires a good amount of complex carbohydrates (e.g. healthy starches like whole grains or legumes, lots of carb-veggies like broccoli and some early morning naturally sugary carbs like fruit). They are all energising and give your stomach a sense of fullness for longer.
2. Focus on Nutrients, Vitamins & Water!
Most people just think in terms of “carbs, protein and fat”, but what about all the essential vitamins and minerals? Your cravings for chocolate or chips could actually stem from not eating enough green veggies, and in reality, your body is just longing for some magnesium or iron but it is muddling you to make you feel like you want sugar.
Think fruits, veggies, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds. Our in-house nutritionist also points to the possibility that your body may just be thirsty, especially when you’re craving moist junk food like cake or that tub of ice cream. Try drinking a glass of water or green tea and see if you feel fuller.
3. Remove unhealthy snacks from your shopping lists
The reason why we sometimes go for unhealthy food is simply due to it being available in the house. We can only eat what we buy and if you have frozen pizza and chocolate in the cupboard instead of healthy snacks, it's quite obvious what you're going to grab when peckish or in a rush.
4. Replace, Don’t Restrict
When you think of just not eating chocolate or chips ever again, what’s your immediate reaction? Panic? Desperation? OMG!?
When you’re confronted with having something taken away against your will, your brain might go crazy and want to protect you from starving (‘cause that’s what would happen when living without chocolate, right?).
The answer is finding healthier alternatives for your favourite junk food - see our 'Healthy Sides' and 'Healthy Swaps' posts in the Members Zone for inspiration.
5. Change Your Routine
Cravings are oftentimes just a learned behaviour, and you can retrain your brain to avoid cravings. When getting comfy on the couch and watching Netflix, you might think to grab a bag of haribo or some doritos.
Instead, bring a healthy snack to the couch or, if the appetite isn't there, don't snack at all. Follow what your stomach is actually telling you rather than following the old routine and habits.
6. Stick It Out - Time Helps!
Even though this probably isn’t what you want to hear right now, the longer you haven’t eaten a specific unhealthy food, the less you will crave it. The magic lies in your body kind of “forgetting” what it tastes and feels like to have a specific junk food so it becomes way less appealing. Most cravings go within 20-30 minutes if you ignore it. For those of you with a strong craving will power, you may find it a couple of hours or a few days to crack.
But replacing the cravings with distractions, alternatives or water will help you get over the cold-turkey cravings. Going outside and moving your body, playing with your pet or kids – the fun you have doing these activities should distract you enough to get rid of the cravings.
7. Remember Why You're Doing This
You're here for a reason, aren't you? You've come to us to help you aid in your weight loss. Whether it's a few pounds or a stone or 3 stone or more, you have paid money to us to lose weight.
Following your cravings can hinder the weight loss aspect of what you're trying to achieve - remember why you're here and why you're doing this. Is the pack of custard creams worth the potential set back on the weight loss? Be strong.
8. Perspective and Detachment
When it comes down to it, cravings are just impulses, like feeling tired or hot or excited about something. As long as you make sure that you’re properly nourished and have met your nutritional needs for the day, you can relax and start to just observe the waves of wanting a certain food come and go again. Mindfulness practice definitely apply to your goal of wanting to make healthier food choices. Once you know that these urges are just automatisms created by your brain, you can kind of disconnect, knowing that you don’t have to follow them - you can make your own choice.
9. Retrain Your Mindset
Similar to the tip about changing your routine, this one works by telling yourself that you have eaten a good, nutritionally packed meal today. Do you really need to be feeding your cravings?
And what is the source of this craving? Is it habit? Routine? Emotional? We associate food with memories, traditions, people and places. When we celebrate, we eat cake.
When we’re sad, we have ice cream. When we want to treat ourselves, we order dominos or a takeaway.
By changing our brain's associations with bad foods, we can start finding healthy replacements for our celebratory food choices whilst also creating healthy habits!
10. Carving Your New Path
Forget about the concept of cheating on your diet or having a cheat meal – these exceptions are just teasing you with the types of food you're trying to now avoid!
What you are looking for is good nourishment but without losing all the fun of eating. A big part of changing your food environment is learning what healthy foods taste good, how to make healthy food taste good and knowing what healthy foods will fill you up to help your cravings take a back seat.
Much of your exposure to food is outside of your control, and we don't want you to keep fighting with yourself trying to control everything. There’s a better, gentler and ultimately more sustainable way to a healthy diet by following this tips.
If you're still struggling, contact us and our trained nutritionist will talk you through some coping techniques.