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9 Ways to Overcome Food Cravings

Natalie
Stein
October 10, 2023
9 Ways to Overcome Food Cravings
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In this article:

  • Cravings are strong desires to eat foods that you may not need. They can lead to weight gain.
  • Cravings are often for high-calorie-dense foods such as desserts, fast foods, starchy foods, and fatty foods.
  • Causes of cravings can include hunger, thirst, seeing the food, and hormonal imbalances.
  • Getting more sleep, managing stress, and planning ahead for cravings can help you manage them.
  • Lark offers a friendly and encouraging program that can help you choose nutritious foods and achieve health and weight goals 24/7 when you use the app.

Focusing on nutritious foods and planning your meals and snacks can be effective strategies for weight loss, but what happens when you have cravings for less healthy, high-calorie foods?

Caving into your cravings too often can get in the way of weight loss and healthy eating intentions, but there are many ways to beat cravings. Here are some strategies for staying on track despite cravings.

What Are Cravings?

Cravings are strong desires for foods, and they happen to the best of us! They’re often specific, and aren’t always triggered by hunger. More often than not, the food you’re craving is likely to be sugary, salty, fatty, or all three! Here are some examples of high-calorie foods that you may crave.

  • Fatty foods, such as fried chicken, ribs, and cheese
  • Sweet foods, such as cake, pie, ice cream, chocolate, and cookies
  • Starchy carbohydrates, such as bread, pasta, and potatoes
  • Fatty fast foods, such as pizza, burgers, and fries

Not surprisingly, people who have more cravings tend to have higher body weights since they may be consuming more high-calorie foods.

Causes of Cravings

Cravings can result from a variety of factors. They can be due to hormonal changes during pregnancy or with the menstrual cycle, but are more often due to other reasons.

Triggers for cravings may include the following:

  • Hunger
  • Seeing the food or an image of it, such as in an advertisement
  • Smelling the food, such as passing by the mall food court
  • Hearing something that reminds you of the food, such as music at a party that makes you think of pizza and soda
  • Imbalances, such as changes in hormones due to sleep deprivation or excessive stress
  • Emotions and feelings, like stress, celebration, or sadness

Tips for Overcoming Cravings

As strong as cravings may be, there are many ways you can combat them when they hit and prevent them in the first place.

1. Get Enough Sleep

Food may be on the mind when talking about cravings, but sleep deprivation may be at the root of the problem. When you’re tired, you’re more likely to want high-fat and sugar-sweetened foods. You may also have less energy to resist temptation or to prepare a healthier alternative.

 Lark can help you improve sleep hygiene to support higher quality and adequate amounts of sleep. You can also use Lark to track sleep and receive sleep coaching.

2. Manage Stress

Stress or emotional eating can lead to excess calories and stubborn pounds. If you notice that you have a lot of food cravings, it’s possible that too much stress is causing them. Here are some simple ways to manage stress:

  • Be physically active
  • Meditate
  • Practice yoga
  • Journal
  • Draw, read, or scrapbook
  • Hang out with friends
  • Practice deep breathing and visualization exercises

Lark can help you manage stress, too. Click here for stress management tips.

3. Eat Before You’re Starving

When you’re starving, you may be unable to look past high calorie-dense items in favor of more nutritious, lower-calorie foods such as vegetables and lean protein. Aim to eat when you’re moderately hungry instead of waiting until you’re starving. Eating regular meals and snacks can help with this.

You can also get in the habit of assessing your hunger levels before each meal. Rate your hunger on a scale of 1-10, where 1 is stuffed and 10 is starving. You should eat when you’re around a 6 or 7.

4. Drink Water

Sometimes, cravings can be the result of thirst. That’s because your brain can mistake thirst for hunger. This is especially likely if you have a non-specific craving, or the desire to eat something without having a particular food in mind. If you’re hungry at an unusual time or soon after eating a meal or snack, it can be a good idea to have some water first to see if your hunger diminishes.

Aim for 8-16 ounces of water, and then wait for 5-20 minutes. If you’re still hungry, it may be time to prepare a small and healthy snack.

5. Avoid Triggers

Seeing and smelling foods can put them into your mind and lead to cravings, even if you weren’t thinking of those foods before you saw or smelled them. Here are some tips for avoiding cravings resulting from these types of encounters.

  • Put food away when you’re not eating so you’re less likely to see it by accident.
  • Take a different route if your usual route involves passing by a restaurant or store that has foods or beverages that you crave. This might include a doughnut or coffee shop on the way to work, or a burger joint or pizza place while coming home.
  • Avoid the break room or walking by the receptionist’s desk if these places tend to have high-calorie snacks available to you.

6. Delay

Delaying before you give into your craving can let the craving pass or weaken so that you eat less of the desired high-calorie food, you opt for a healthier option, or you skip a snack entirely. Here are some ways to delay.

  • Log the craved food in Lark and decide whether you want it to stay in your record
  • Go to the bathroom or check the mail so you leave the scene
  • Make a phone call from another room
  • Drink water, especially ice water since it takes longer to drink If you can delay for a few minutes, your craving may pass.

7. Have a Healthier Swap

If you’re hungry but hadn’t planned a meal or snack at the time you have your craving, you can have some raw vegetables to fill you up. Adding a bit of lean protein, such as cottage cheese, a hard-boiled egg, or a half-cup of beans, can keep you fuller for longer.

You can also try healthier swaps for your cravings. Here are some examples.

Instead of… Try…
Potato or tortilla chips, or white crackers
Popcorn, baked kale or radish chips, small serving of salted nuts or peanuts
Sweets, such as candy or cookies
Fresh fruit, yogurt, or oatmeal
Cheese
Vegetables with a small serving of low-fat cheese
Chocolate, such as ice cream or brownies
1 ounce of dark chocolate
Soda
Sparkling water

8. Get Active

Taking a walk to delay can help you ride out a craving, but being active consistently can help reduce cravings. A review article describes several studies linked activity to reductions in food cravings. Studies were on aerobic and muscle-strengthening exercise, and foods tracked included fatty foods, savory foods, carbs, and sweets. In other words, the evidence is strong for using physical activity as a strategy to reduce cravings! You can log your activity with your personal Lark coach.

9. Eat Healthier

Avoiding high-calorie foods that you crave may help reduce cravings. In one study, f participants were asked to follow a reduced-calorie diet for 2 years. Those who reduced their consumption of high-calorie foods that they craved ended up having fewer cravings for those types of foods. This was true regardless of which type of weight loss diet they had followed, as well as which foods they craved.

A review article describes what happened among people who reported having chocolate cravings. They first lost weight, and then stopped eating chocolate. By the end of 12 weeks of maintaining weight and avoiding chocolate, they reported craving chocolate less.

How Lark Can Help

When you know how to manage food cravings, you can prevent them from getting in the way of losing weight or improving health. Lark can support your efforts as you track cravings and manage stress, and use features such as food, physical activity, and sleep tracking to support a healthy lifestyle that can beat cravings. Your personal Lark coach is available 24/7 to help you reach your goals through small changes in your daily life.

Click here to see if you may be eligible to join Lark today!

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