Ah, cravings! Sometimes these can be the pesky little things that creep up on you when you are trying to be healthy and consistent - both in the kitchen and at the gym. Whilst I believe in moderation and never depriving yourself, sometimes a craving that may seem so innocent can end up in a full blown binge that lasts several days or weeks. If you find yourself craving junk food or other bad foods constantly and forever struggle to keep these cravings in check, then read on!
Firstly, let’s talk about craving junk food. This generally happens because junk food can be addictive. One of the reasons ‘junk food’ is manufactured is to please people, so that it sells. In order to achieve this, it has to be carefully formulated so that the consumer wants to keep coming back for more, and then we say hello to cravings! When I say that it is carefully formulated, I am talking about everything from how the food looks, to how it smells, tastes, feels like in your mouth and your salivary response to it. All these factors are carefully analysed by scientists in order to create a food that is super appealing to a consumer and leaves them wanting more by tricking their brain into thinking they need it.
Junk food is often heavily processed, meaning that they can be full of artificial flavourings, chemicals, salt and sugar, all of which is perfectly measured out to make the food as tasty (and addictive) as possible. It can be really hard to resist cravings when starting a new fitness and healthy eating regime if you are used to eating junk foods on a daily basis. The thing I want you girls to remember is to stop beating yourselves up. I totally understand how hard it can be to beat a junk food craving! It doesn’t help that these foods are specifically created in order to keep you coming back for more, so always give yourself credit when you try to improve your lifestyle.
Here are my top tips on how to get rid of junk food cravings:
The Less (Junk Food) You Eat, The Less You Will Crave:
Whilst this isn’t exactly a tip, I thought I would share it for good measure. Research has shown that the less junk food you eat, the less you will crave it. This may be because you aren’t exposed to the artificial ingredients that lead you to crave it more. If you gradually start to cut junk food from your diet, you can begin to notice yourself craving it less and less, especially if you are eating a wide variety of nutritional foods.
Manage Your Stress
When talking about cravings, I think it is really important to look at how you manage your stress. For many people, there is a direct correlation between being stressed and eating junk food, and they may not even realise it. Being stressed can cause certain parts of the brain to release specific chemicals such as opiates and neuropeptide Y, which can trigger cravings for fat and sugar. Next time you are feeling stressed or have had a long day, take a moment to reflect back on it and think about what you feel like. Do you chow down on a few pieces of chocolate to take the edge off? Whilst this is okay once in a while, if you use food as a means of coping with stress, you could be eating junk food everyday and not realising the impact it is having on your body. Instead, try to replace eating junk foods with deep breathing techniques, exercise, meditation and distracting yourself.
Variety is KEY
This is one of my biggest tips! Many people want to cut junk food out of their diet and clean up their eating, but they literally can’t get salad and tuna out of their minds. It is SO important to eat a variety of foods so that you don’t get bored. If you crave crunchy potato chips with dip, swap these for carrots and hummus and if you love brownies find a recipe that is refined sugar free and made with natural ingredients. There is absolutely no reason healthy eating has to be boring, it will just take a bit more time than buying pre-packaged versions. Create a Pinterest board where you can store all of your favourite healthy eating recipes so you always have inspiration. Also remember to stock up your pantry with various herbs and spices so you can add flavour to anything. If you always use the same four ingredients in your salads, switch it up! Go to the fruit and veg aisle and try things you have never had before, this is how you make it exciting.
Remind Yourself of How You Will Feel
Next time a craving hits, take the time to figure out how you will feel after. This goes for both if you indulge in the craving, or if you are strong enough to ignore it. If you indulge in it, but really don’t want to, chances are you will be left feeling guilty and/or sick. I personally don’t like to focus on negative feelings and prefer to focus on the positive ones instead. I like to remind myself about how proud I will feel once the craving has passed and I don’t feel lethargic and bloated. Regardless, try and take that minute’s pause to really figure out if you want to go through with satisfying that craving or not.
Don’t Deprive Yourself
Ever heard the saying “you want something more when you can’t have it”? Sometimes cravings work like this as well. The more we try to convince ourselves we can’t have something, the more appealing it looks. Instead of totally deciding something is off the cards forever, tell yourself you can have it later. This way you are tricking your brain into thinking you are still going to eat that thing, and chances are by the time the craving passes, you won't want it anyway.
Don’t Buy Unhealthy Foods
This is a really important one! I know so many people who still buy chocolate bars because they store them ready for ‘treat day’. Out of sight, out of mind is the way I like to look at it. If you don’t have something to tempt you in the first place, you are less likely to eat it. If you have a craving for a chocolate bar, if it is in your cupboard you are more likely to reach for it. If the chocolate bar wasn't in the cupboard, there is the extra effort of having to go get one that may stop you from indulging altogether.
Always Have Healthy Options on Hand
Sometimes we can’t help it, we want something sweet or salty. Try to keep healthy options near you if possible, so that when a craving hits you can easily eat something else to satisfy it. For example, keep protein balls and raw slices in the fridge and natural tortilla chips in the cupboard so that if you really want to indulge you can, just in a healthier way. I always have apples and bananas in my fruit bowl at home. These are great for snacking on when you are feeling peckish.
Eat Wholesome Meals Throughout The Day
Many times cravings can sneak up on you when you are hungry. I recommend eating 3-5 wholesome meals daily that are filled with natural ingredients. This can help to keep you feeling full and satisfied throughout the day, and potentially reduce cravings. Regular intake of both complex carbohydrates and lean protein is also important, because it can help keep your blood sugar levels stable and your appetite satiated.
I hope these few tips have helped, girls. What are some of your favourite ways to get rid of cravings?
Love, Kayla xx