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How To Stop Food Cravings On A Diet

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Food cravings are like the devil on your shoulder when you’re on a diet. Just when you think you’re making headway along comes a food craving that niggles at you until eventually you binge. Then it’s back to square one. Sound familiar?


Why do we crave certain foods? 

If you think you’re the only person that craves a ‘sweet treat’ after a meal then think again. More than 90% of people have food cravings. It turns out that it’s all in your head. 

You can blame the areas in your brain that are associated with memory and pleasure. Your brain associates memories with specific foods that are attached to a reward. For example, if you were allowed to eat ice cream when you did something good as a child then you might crave ice cream as a reward in adulthood too. 

We also tend to satisfy our emotional needs with food. Sad? Eat something nice. Happy? Eat something nice. And there’s nothing wrong with doing this every once in a while as a pick me up, but sometimes we can over indulge. 

The downside to food cravings is that we rarely desire fruit, vegetables and all grains, instead it’s chocolate, takeaways and pizzas. Not that there’s anything wrong with these foods, but when you’re on a diet, high calorie low nutrient foods such as these won’t help you get the results you want. Instead, you need to be focusing on a diet high in protein and rich in nutrients, whilst sticking within your calories. 



Are food cravings bad?  

Sometimes food cravings are essential. Hormones can play a big part in cravings which is why women crave certain foods during their pregnancy and also during different phases in their menstrual cycle. Likewise, you’ll notice that your body craves high carb foods when you’re hungry because it thinks it needs energy. 

However, in this day and age where food is readily accessible for the large majority of the population, those cravings are unwanted. They come in the form of highly processed, salty and sugary foods that can have a detrimental impact on your diet and health. As a result, excessive cravings can lead to overeating and eventually weight gain, which is what most of us don’t want on a diet. 


Don’t be too restrictive

One reason you might be craving certain foods is because you’ve gone cold turkey and restricted them from your diet. If you’ve removed a food you love then it’s probably going to make the diet 10 times harder. 

Although you need to restrict your calories for weight loss, you don’t need to get rid of all of the foods you enjoy. It’s much more sensible to opt for a balanced diet and choose moderation over restriction. This way, you still get to enjoy the foods you love, reduce cravings and stick to the diet. It might take longer to achieve your goal, but you’ll stick to it. 



Keep a cravings journal 

Another way to defeat your cravings is by getting to the root cause of the problem. Chances are you are craving certain foods because of a particular emotion, feeling or hormonal response. Once you tackle this then you tackle the craving. 

Keep a journal and make note of how you feel, the cravings you have and how intense they are. You might notice that you crave sugary foods when you’re tired and therefore by improving your sleep you can reduce cravings. 


Have healthier options prepared 

Say you’re craving sweet foods, instead of heading for the chocolate cupboard (which maybe you should consider removing) make sure the fridge is full of fruit that will satisfy your sweet tooth.

Likewise, opt for healthy fats and proteins that will keep you feeling fuller for longer. Both take longer to digest and will stop you wanting to eat sugary snacks between meals. Examples of healthy fats and proteins include: 

  • Poultry 
  • Meat 
  • Fish 
  • Eggs 
  • Avocado 
  • Nuts and seeds 
  • Nut butter

Remember, when you’re on a diet, regardless of your goal, it needs to be enjoyable. If you feel too restricted and can’t eat the foods you love then it’s never going to work. Cravings are natural, but there are plenty of ways you can put them on the sidelines and stay on track with your diet. 

Eryn Barber

by Eryn Barber

Eryn is a content writer who specialises in health and fitness articles. When she’s not writing, Eryn is helping people improve their strength and overall health as a Personal Trainer and is currently undertaking her Msc in Strength & Conditioning. You’ll usually find Eryn out on the trails running when she isn’t working.

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