5 Ways to Deal With Food Cravings

Woman eating chocolate bar

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Food cravings are every dieter's nightmare. Even healthy eaters struggle with yearnings for delicious sweet or savory snacks. We all get them and sometimes we give in to them.

Sadly, those nagging hunger pangs can easily make or break your weight loss efforts. They tank your confidence and derail your diet plan. So it's important to know how to handle them.

Why We Get Food Cravings

There is some controversy about exactly why we get cravings. Some experts suggest that the nagging pangs are physiological. Our bodies crave certain nutrients when we want the result that the food might bring. For example, a candy bar provides a sugar rush. Or we might crave comfort foods as a way to increase feelings of comfort.

There are also hormones involved in hunger and cravings. Scientists know that leptin, ghrelin and other hormones in your body can change the way we experience hunger. Researchers are trying to understand how and if they can change hormones to help dieters deal with cravings and hunger.

But other experts say cravings are simply a function of habit. For example, we might snack on food when we are bored or when we are looking for a way to avoid the work that we have to do.

And fitness and health experts often tell us that food cravings can occur when our bodies are dehydrated.

So which explanation is the real answer? It's possible that food cravings are caused by a combination of both physiological and situational factors. It is also possible that different dieters are affected by different causes.

5 Ways to Bust Food Cravings

Knowing the cause of your cravings may help you calm the urge to eat when you're on a diet. But there are other ways to manage food cravings to lose weight.

Don't Go on a Very Low-Calorie Diet

If your diet is too low in calories, you're likely to have food cravings that are too hard to manage. When you following a very strict plan, it feels like you are being deprived. In some people, this leads to binge eating or giving up their program completely.

Instead, follow a healthy low-calorie meal plan that allows for some occasional treats. By making better choices and having occasional treats, your cravings are likely to decrease.

Cheat (but just a little)

You can't eat carrots to satisfy a craving for carrot cake. Sometimes, when you're really craving something, you just need to eat it. But you can do so in a way that keeps your diet on track. Save up some calories in your weekly calorie budget and have a small treat as a reward. By eating just a little bit of the food you're really pining for, you'll deal with the food craving head-on and potentially prevent overeating.

Distract Yourself

There are some days when it seems like the food you're craving is everywhere. Perhaps a coworker brings donuts to the office or maybe you pass your favorite fast food restaurant on the way to the gym. It can be hard to manage food obsession when you're faced with your favorite foods every day.

You can't avoid the food completely, but you can create a diversion so you don't notice it as much. If donuts are in the office breakroom, then eat a healthy lunch in a nearby restaurant and avoid the breakroom altogether. If you pass your favorite junk food joint on the way to the gym, find another route that causes less stress.

Learn to Identify and Manage Emotions

Cravings aren't always the result of emotions, but for some of us, there's no denying the connection. We eat when we are stressed or sad or experiencing anxiety.

If you eat in response to your feelings, you need to manage your feelings first and then tackle the food cravings. Why? Because snacking on your favorite treat won't heal emotional pain. Don't be afraid to ask for help if you experience these issues. Weight loss can wait, but your emotional well-being must be a priority.

Wait It Out

Believe it or not, sometimes the best way to deal with food cravings is to grit your teeth and wait it out. If you simply ignore it and move on, it may disappear. If you can convince yourself it's mind over matter, you may find cravings aren't such a formidable opponent after all!​

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