As a recovering donut addict, I know how cravings for sugar, junk food, cheese, light fluffy balls of dough covered in chocolate (insert your go to vice here) can be overwhelming and it feels all but impossible not to give in to your sweet tooth. The busy schedule of a Beyond Mom can often lead to grabbing that one last sugar cookie or bag of chips. After all, it’s been a long day right? The problem is when we do give in, we usually feel incredibly guilty and start beating ourselves up and immediately promising to spend 10 more minutes on the elliptical the next day. But what’s worse than the self chastising is that rather than feeling satiated, a funny thing happens where we actually end up craving more of the bad stuff. It’s a vicious cycle and we’ve all been there.
When I first gave up eating gluten and dairy as my doctor recommended due to my autoimmune disease (I have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis), I’m not going to lie, it was hard. My brain felt like it was on auto pilot and I could not stop obsessing over all of the food I could not have. I would even have dreams about donuts and imagine the days when we would be happily reunited at my local Dunkin D’s. I felt so deprived and the thought of all the yummy food I could not have, made me pretty miserable. That said, once I fully committed to giving up gluten and dairy, which are basically vehicles for consuming sugar, this phase of misery only lasted a few weeks as I eliminated sugar and the nasty cravings that come with it from my body. I’m happy to say my days of uncontrollable cravings and feeling deprived are pretty much over. But I’m not special. And I mean that it in the sense that it is entirely possible for all of us to put an end to cravings, for good.
Beyond Moms, here are a few tips that helped me along the way.
Balance Your Blood Sugar
Swings in blood sugar are the major reason for cravings, so if you have a tendency to raid your refrigerator before bed or the vending machine around 3pm, you need to work on stabilizing your blood sugar. The biggest culprit of these cravings is SUGAR. If you can eliminate sugar and artificial sweeteners from your diet, it’s realistic to say 100% of your cravings will go away. I always say, sugar begets sugar, and if you’re anything like me, once you have a little, you NEED more. Immediately. The key is to combine healthy protein (fish, organic eggs, lean meats, nuts, legumes), good fats (extra virgin olive oil, unrefined coconut oil, olives, nuts, seeds and avocados) and good carbs (beans, vegetables, whole grains and fruit) at every meal. This is going to leave you feeling full and will stabilize your blood sugar, ultimately leading to less cravings.
Eat a Nutritious Protein Breakfast
I can’t tell you how many of my clients do not eat breakfast or worse have a sugary sweet start to the day (if coffee and fat free blueberry muffin sound familiar, I am talking to you). Eating a healthy breakfast will help reduce cravings. Period. Eggs are a go to staple, but nuts and seeds are a great option (chia seed pudding) and if you’re on the go, prep a protein shake and drink it as you run out the door. Check out my recipe for Cinnamon Health Smoothie.
Have Small, Frequent, Fiber Rich Meals Throughout the Day
Starving yourself is never a good idea, but especially when you are trying to reduce cravings. It actually works against you. Eat every 3-4 hours and have some protein with each snack or meal (lean animal protein, nuts, seeds or beans). Don’t eat carbs without some type of fat (e.g. Apple with almond butter. Dried dates with almonds. Dark chocolate with nuts).
Manage Your Stress
Anything stressful can trigger hormones that activate cravings. If you have the urge to eat, STOP. Ask yourself 2 questions “What am I feeling and what do I need?” Is there something else bedsides food that will help you get what you need? Creating a stress management program goes a long way in reducing cravings. Adopt techniques such as deep breathing, meditation and self care.
Get 7-8 hours of sleep
We all could use a little more sleep, but you may not realize lack of sleep is seriously driving your cravings. A recent study by UC Berkeley showed that high-calorie foods became significantly more desirable when participants were sleep-deprived due to impaired activity in the brain that controls judgment and decision making. Other studies have found lack of sleep leads to increases in ghrelin, the hormone that makes you feel hungry, and decreases in leptin, the hormone that makes you feel full. Basically, you stay hungry and start craving high-calorie, high-carbohydrate foods. Either way, the research is in, get some sleep!
Sarrah Hallock is a Holistic Health and Wellness Coach and the founder of Cinnamon Health Offices in New York City and Los Angeles.