What causes Junk cravings and how to fight them?
Table Of Content
Time to Read: 7 Minutes
As much as you want to stay on track, you are going to have cravings. Not going to lie, these are hard to overcome. I really wish a good workout could out run a bad diet, however, this is not possible (trust me I have tried it more than one time :(). However, over the last few months I have come up with a few things that have helped fight through cravings and may even help you!
Are you having a craving or temptation? The two things are hugely different and once you understand this, you can fight whatever you are having better.
Cravings are body’s sign to cry out for a particular nutrient/ vitamin/mineral that is missing out in your diet. My most popular example to help understand this, is chocolates! Coco beans are loaded with magnesium and when your daily diet lacks magnesium, you will crave (cry out for) chocolates. Women during menstrual cycles may relate to this. Green leafy veggies such as spinach and even some dry fruits are loaded with magnesium. Having these will help you curb your cravings for chocolates. Chocolates also boost your serotonin levels (feel good hormone) in the body, thus craving for them are higher when you feel depressed/ sad/ anything negative. Try natural mood boosters like watching a funny movie, weight lifting (ok thats only for crazy people like me), playing with a puppy etc. Psychologists refer to cravings as 'emotional hunger' also. You might be really happy and want to reward yourself with junk or on the contrary really sad and want to reward yourself with junk. Cravings are when you want one particular thing like chocolate or fried food and could be related to your mood or lack on nutrients in your body.
In short when you are craving for a particular food item, look up what that food is high in, you maybe low on some micronutrients. A wholefood, high- carb, plant based diet however will leave you with very little cravings. Think of it this way, if you are getting enough magnesium or vitamin C, you might crave chocolates. Animal meat and dairy do not have these micros, they are only found in plants, so if you do not eat enough veggies and fruits, you will continue to have cravings.
What are temptations then- well, you saw someone eating pizza from your favourite joint and you desired to have one too. You were tempted because you saw someone eating it. Best way to check if you are having a craving or temptation is to practise delayed gratification. Tell yourself you will eat/ give- in to whatever you feel like eating but after a few hours. A temptation will generally die within a few hours but cravings may stay with you for weeks.
Hormonal imbalance also leads to cravings, like in the case of pregnancy. You may want to get yourself checked for thyroid, PCOS, Vit D etc to better understand why you might be constantly craving food.
If you workout or are into any kind of fitness, you are probably eating 5-7times per day. I get HANGRY when I don’t have food around me every few hours. This is because you have trained your blood sugar to drop every few hours. If you slowely and gradually switch to eating only one meal a day, your blood sugar will learn and you will no longer feel hungry. However, during this time of switching, you will have a lot of cravings. Its just a sign from your body that your blood sugar is dropping and completely normal.
This is why it is important to talk to your dietitian to try and keep your new meal plan as similar to your old one especially when it comes to food timings. 1800 calories is the same weather you divide it in three meals of 600 or 5 meals of 360. If you are someone who snacks a lot, prepare and keep your mid- meal snacks handy in advance, or pick from readily available stuff like fruits, coconut water, nuts, raises and prunes, dairy free mylk’s (google it) etc. I have noticed people end up making wrong food choices when enough right food is not available around. Plan your in- between’s as soon as you wake up and have them ready to go.
It is not up to me to say how many meals you must have per day. This depends on how much cooking time you have, what your activity is like, what your metabolism is like etc. But to avoid cravings, stick as close to the meal timings you are already used to.
Temptations rise from restrictions that do not have an end date. If you are on a body transformation plan or following any kind of a fairly strict diet, make absolutely sure to include one or two cheats per week. When I am back from vacations and see a little belly popping out (again NORMAL!), I get over conscious and plan to go weeks without cheats. Every single time I have done this, I have failed. After day 9, I binge cheat.
Instead adding one or even two cheat meals a week will keep you on track longer and have some social life to look forward to through the week. Make a cheat meal list a week in advance and remind yourself that you will let your body cheat if you stay on track rest of the week. This way you can keep temptations at bay but still enjoy food you love.
On an average I eat about 35 meals a week (5 per day times 7 days), even if I eat clean 90% and allow 10% cheat, that means I can still cheat 3.5 meals per week (wait is my math right? I hope so!). 90%- 10% is an excellent ratio to maintain for losing weight. As long as you eat the remaining 32 meals right, you will still stay on track! Actually better since you will not be tempted to eat stuff out of your plan.
Most of your cravings also happen when you are dehydrated. Doesn’t have to be water, add in herbal teas, smoothies, shakes, plant based milk’s etc. This was a game changer when I tried multiple steps from the book How Now To Diet. I generally start my day with a fruit and chia smoothie, have a protein and dates shake post workout, a green monster smoothie sometimes for breakfast, herbal tea in the evening, Iced cafe and Starbucks when I can. So you notice even though I may not drink water all the time, I am taking in liquids all through the day- and a LOT of it!
Water keeps your belly full and still not bloated, its going to keep your temptations away, trust me.
See if your cravings have a pattern. If need be, write down what you crave when. Do you crave more towards month end’s? Could be if you are into marketing and sales and have huge month end targets, stress makes you crave food for comfort. Do most of your cravings rise during weekends? Social activities makes me more tempted to binge eat personally. Are the PMS dates the worse?- Hormonal fluctuations. Prepare accordingly. I personally use my cheat meals over weekends so I can give in to my temptations but still stay on track. Use this patterns to your advantage and not against you.
Listen closely to body signals and be prepared accordingly. Meal preps around these patterns will also help. Most friday’ s I prepare food for the next 3-4 days and put it all in the fridge. Since I do not like wasting food, I eat what I have prepared and cheat no more than 1-2 times out of my 10 weekend meals.
And last, please do not stop living over the obsession of food! A little bit of belly fat is a sign of a happy you. It is a reminder of all the late night pizza and movie nights with your man/ woman, it is all the post legs day cheat Chinese food and momo’s that you most enjoy, it is popcorn fight during the movies, it is the treat you gave yourself for when you were too happy- or too sad, it is knowing that street food will make you sick the next day but still having it because it tastes so freeking good, it is the driving 20 miles to your favourite dessert joint just because you felt so, it is all the stamps in your passport and walking endlessly to find the “best” vegan ice cream of that place, it is your happy times, it is your love, it is OKEY!
Those extra 5 pounds do not define you. Do not make falling for temptations a habit and understand why you crave certain dishes, but do not give up on small pleasures for a flat belly- been there, not worth it ;). Plus, a healthy flat belly is a long process, stick to the plan and eventually you will get there sooner than you realise. Enjoy this process, this journey!
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