Hiyyaa! It’s been a while since you’ve seen a real blog post from me, huh? I love writing and sharing my health coaching wisdom with you, I have just been juuuuuust a bit preoccupied with my newly launched course and its success!! Today, we are going to talk about why you prefer Haagen Dazs, Ben&Jerry (oh, who am I kidding) and why PMS is indeed a justification for your next pint. I’m kidding! Let’s talk about how to manage your cravings without harming your neighbors.
I love how many women truly inspire eating healthier and taking steps to nourish their bodies. All that grocery shopping, meal prepping, food chopping, macro counting…Endless days of thinking about something you can’t have, and exercising your willpower with The Rock’s strength. I get it. In fact, there are days when I still deal with cravings (this is after 6+ years of healthy eating, balanced hormones, stabilized weight and abundant energy). Because if they tell you they don’t crave that pizza or nachos…
Especially, when you’re transitioning from one way of eating to another, cleaning up your nutrition and cooking methods, changing your exercise routine (I get way more cravings when my training regimen is too rough), getting off the pill or just having had a baby, and multiple other factors that will take pages to mention…cravings are a part of it. If you add our busy, overfilled lives, lack of self-care or care at all, extreme exposure to hyper-palatable foods AND excessive marketing campaigns to force you to indulge yourself in the aforementioned “tasty” foods… It’s hard!
Good news? Just like you can practice any other skill, heal most maladies and improve any quality you have, you can work on cravings management.
Before we get to 10 proven ways you can manage your cravings like Michael Phelps before his next Olympics, let’s look at the overall concept real quick.
Cravings 101 for women
I was thinking – what is a craving? A conservative definition states that “Cravings are hedonic responses to food characterized by their intensity and their specificity.”
Even though it often feels like cravings are those little characters of Inside Out living in your head, I want you to understand: it’s not them, it’s you. No, nothing is wrong with you. Most people have cravings (the question is how often, how controllable, how dependant are you on them?)
Why women have cravings?
- Physiological reasons (your hormones are out of whack, high blood sugar, medical conditions, pregnancy, etc.)
- Psychological/emotional reasons (anchoring to the events of the past, coping mechanisms, addiction, etc.)
- Nutritional deficiencies (lack of vitamins and minerals, lack of real foods in your diet, overconsumption of highly inflammatory foods, etc)
(Alexandra Jamieson states there is a bacterial reason, too – which I find fascinating!)
Remember, the areas of your brain that promote the cravings are the same areas that responsible for addiction, drugs, and alcohol dependencies. You probably have heard already that most people place sugar addiction in the same category. I don’t blame them. It’s real.
The number one way to manage cravings:
One of the best ways to deal with cravings is eating lots of wholesome, nutrient-dense, high-quality food. That will send 95% of your cravings away, I guarantee! Take care of your body and stay away from “restrictive” mindset where you feel deprived. Nobody is kicking that pizza out of your hand, friend. It’s YOU who wants to take care of YOU that’s why you’re choosing better foods for your body.
Now let’s talk about other methods that could help you attack those cravings, whether they were caused by another sad scene in This is Us or by your blood sugar plummeting.
Here’s how you can make it easier when The Cravings Empire Strikes.
10 Proven Ways to Manage Cravings Every Woman Should Know
1. Stabilize your blood sugar.
If you’re chugging a glass of orange juice followed up by a muffin, and then snack two hours later with a granola bar…Your body 1) spikes up glucose, drops it, spikes again and exhausts your pipes in a matter of hours, let alone years (leading to medical conditions such as insulin resistance, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, etc). 2) never taps in fat storage to create long-lasting energy 3) causes hunger and more cravings. A vicious circle! Ditch sugar and you’ll crave less sugar in the long run. Ditch processed foods and your blood sugar will become normal.
2. Eat healthy fats.
Especially, in the morning (see #1). A good source of protein (eggs, sausage, lean meat, steak mmmm) and good fats (avocados, grass-fed butter, coconut oil), some cheese if you tolerate it will ensure you feel full, satiated, and happy. You don’t need banana bread to make your body happy. Healthy fats will bring you so much more of sustainable, long-lasting energy (think marathon, not sprints), mental clarity, better vitamin and mineral absorption, easier weight loss, lower cholesterol, and many more benefits.
3. Eat your damn carbs.
That’s right, I said it. This health coach is getting frustrated with carb phobia. If you’re a woman who didn’t do well on keto if you have any thyroid or other hormonal issues if you’re active if you are stressed…Eat. Yo. Carbs. Just choose the good ones, pinky promise? Vegetables, low starch, but not the pop tart kind. Check out this guide.
4. Address the root cause.
Get to the bone marrow of your cravings because if it’s the fact you have 487 emails in your inbox and a deadline tomorrow, it’s not about food! If you snack while binging a show every time, it’s not about the food. Find what’s bothering you. Separate. Leave the food behind and tackle stress, sleep deprivation, hunger, thirst (last two are best satisfied with H2O and real veggies and lean meats + good fats), etc. People often confuse thirst with hunger and don’t even realize that a large part of the population is chronically dehydrated.
Here are a few ways I manage cravings (that I know are caused by sentimental, stressful, or addiction-like patterns that I had in the past (I was a bag-of-CheezIts-a-night girl then):
- Tell yourself it’s not about food.
- Teleport yourself in time where you have eaten food. Even if it helped, you’re still stuck with the real deal problem.
- If you know that the hyper-palatable food you’re craving is going to make you sick, exaggerate it in your mind. Think about Charlotte and Harry getting sick after their gourmet French meal.
- Distract yourself. Go for a walk, meditate, journal, cry. Don’t give in.
- Take a nap if you can or go to bed early instead of opening and closing your fridge door debating on “being good ro bad” tonight. More methods to handle emotional eating are here.
Subbing is my favorite. You can create some fantastic versions of your pizza, Chinese, ice cream, etc. using much healthier ingredients that are now available nearly everywhere at decent prices.
You’ll spend as about much time on making something healthy and resembling your favorite treat as you’d drive to the store to get it. Don’t keep those in the house if you know you’re an abstainer (find out your tendency according to Gretchen Rubin). A few of my favorites recipes reside here and here.
6. Eat enough.
If I had a dollar for every woman who’s scared to eat more, I’d take them all on a cruise on Dreamliner. Seriously, I can’t emphasize it enough – if you’re eating fruits and vegetables, meats and healthy fat that support your metabolism, your body will thank you by burning stored fat instead of making you fluffy. Don’t be scared to eat because if you undereat, the fight-or-flight mode kicks in and your hormones protect you from starving by saving that fluff.
7. Find your favorites.
I’m a big fan of lists as you know. Make a list of your favorite recipes, substitutes, and snacks. Experiment with your cravings. Craving ice cream? Eat a piece of cheese. Didn’t work? Eat a pickle. You know what I’m saying? Tried almond flour pizza dough and wasn’t a fan? Make a cassava one! Allow yourself to take care of YOU at any cost.
8. Check your health markers.
Because things might be out of whack. Consult with your doctor, do a decent blood panel, check vitamin and mineral deficiency, because even a small percentage of deficiencies can cause major craving storms that perpetuate themselves.
9. Handle your stress and sleep.
Duh! Often when we jump into eating healthier, we don’t think about these two. Most likely, we think about how we need to exercise more (so happy to de-stigmatize this for you, friend ;). Get enough sleep and manage your stress, because if you get hangry, it’s most likely the fact you stayed up too late on Instagram or have an important meeting coming up. Take care of those dimensions of your health.
10. Check in with your mind.
Addiction, grief, abuse, trauma, sickness, separation, and any kind of painful experiences from the past can be tied up with your cravings. But not only the negative experiences affect us. In fact, one of my major cravings on Sundays was…pancakes. I grew up with my mom making wheat flour pancake and served them with jam for decades. What I did is I replaced them with Paleo pancakes, and the craving was replaced by a healthier option. Now it’s a tradition for me monthly, and when I skip it, I don’t even feel like I’m missing out. Investigate what’s going on with you. If it was a spaghetti and meatballs night in your family, in a busy dining room full of laughter and warmth, create the experience and atmosphere, not the exact meal. It’s easy to trick your mind, trust me. Leverage your desire to become the healthiest you ever wanted to be, and treat your body with kindness.
What about you? How do you manage your cravings?
Author: Anya Perry
Anya Perry battled boring diets, low energy, and declining health for over 10 years before she found what works. Now, she helps women achieve their dream state of health, fitness, and vitality… without the struggles, battles of miserable diets and yo-yo results. She can’t live without coffee and challenges.