7 Effective Ways to Curb Food Cravings By Dr. Cary Nelson, MD
Nothing derails a diet faster than food cravings. Just a few seconds of binging on fatty, sugary snacks can set you back to square one… even if you’ve done everything right for the past week!
So, if you’re serious about losing weight, getting a grip on cravings is an essential part of your diet strategy.
Now, I know from my own experience just how persistent cravings can be (even today, I still have a weakness for Heath bars!)
But there are ways to control your urges… and today, I want to share with you some of the most effective strategies I know of.
Do these consistently, and soon you’ll be in full control of your appetite.
7 Ways to Control Food Cravings
1. Avoid Extreme Hunger
By avoiding extreme hunger, you can prevent food cravings from popping up in the first place.
Here’s how you do it: Always eat at regular times, and never skip meals. When you skip, you’ll only sap your willpower… which leads directly to cravings.
Also keep healthy snacks around – things like almonds, fresh blueberries, and string cheese. For those times you do get hungry, you’ll have nutritious options ready to go.
2. Reduce Your Stress
Stress plays a major role in triggering the urge to eat, especially for women.1,2,3
When stressed-out, women are prone to frequent cravings as well as increased appetite, so they eat even more bad calories – not a good combination! 4
And not only that – stress also raises your levels of the hormone cortisol, which can lead to gain weight, especially in the belly area.5,6
And it hurts your digestive system, which leads to bloating and stomach upset. To reduce stress, exercise at least 3 times per week, and try meditating for 10 minutes at a time each day.
3. Eat More Protein
Eating a high-protein diet helps you feel full and satisfied for longer.
In one study, overweight teenage girls who ate a high-protein breakfast experienced significantly fewer cravings.7
And in another study, overweight men who increased protein to 25% of their daily calories reduced cravings a full 60%, and reduced their desire to snack at night by 50%.8
Increasing your protein intake is easy – just add foods like greek yogurt, almonds, and whey protein shakes to your diet.
4. Don’t Grocery Shop Hungry
Going to the grocery store hungry is like putting a kid in a candy store.
You have easy access to any food you want… and the worst of the worst are right at eye level – sugary cereals, cookies, and candy – to tempt you into buying.
To prevent the sweets from getting to your house in the first place, simply don’t go to the supermarket when you’re hungry!
5. Change Your Environment
When cravings kick in, sometimes all you need to do is put some distance between yourself and the food. That’s why changing your environment works – get outside and go for a walk, or even hop in the shower to get your mind on other things.
Even if it’s just for a few minutes, it’s often enough to get over the urge to eat things you know you shouldn’t.
6. Eat Nutritious Meals
When the meals you eat aren’t nutritious, it starts a dangerous cycle… and the next time you eat, you’ll want unhealthy food again. The answer is to eat healthy, balanced meals – include protein, vegetables, whole grains, fruit, and fats with each one.
If you need a guide, the “Healthy Eating Plate” from the Harvard School of Public Health is a great resource.
7. Get Enough Sleep
Daily hormone fluctuations – the natural rising and falling of the chemical throughout the day – play a big role in appetite.
And when you don’t get enough quality sleep, it disrupts the fluctuations, which can lead to food cravings.9,10
Studies show that sleep-deprived people are up to 55% more likely to become obese, compared to the well-rested.11
So get at least 7 hours of quality sleep per night to give your body time to recharge and keep your hormones at a healthy level.
Curb Cravings Recap
So there you go – 7 strategies for getting a handle on your food cravings, once and for all. And listen, these take a bit of work – don’t expect to have superhuman willpower over night!
The goal is to practice these strategies a little each day, building up your appetite control as you go. Just stay consistent, and before you know it, you’ll be able to say “No!” to your cravings, whenever they pop up.
1MN, Yau. “Stress And Eating Behaviors. – Pubmed – NCBI”. Ncbi.Nlm.Nih.Gov, 2016, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24126546.
2Hormes JM, et al. “Chocolate Craving And Disordered Eating. Beyond The Gender Divide? – Pubmed – NCBI”. Ncbi.Nlm.Nih.Gov, 2016, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25173065/.
3RW, Macedo. “Sweet Craving And Ghrelin And Leptin Levels In Women During Stress. – Pubmed – NCBI”. Ncbi.Nlm.Nih.Gov, 2016, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24879886/.
4Epel E, et al. “Stress May Add Bite To Appetite In Women: A Laboratory Study Of Stress-Induced Cortisol And Eating Behavior. – Pubmed – NCBI”. Ncbi.Nlm.Nih.Gov, 2016, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11070333.
5P, Björntorp. “Do Stress Reactions Cause Abdominal Obesity And Comorbidities? – Pubmed – NCBI”. Ncbi.Nlm.Nih.Gov, 2016, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12119665.
6Moyer AE, et al. “Stress-Induced Cortisol Response And Fat Distribution In Women. – Pubmed – NCBI”. Ncbi.Nlm.Nih.Gov, 2016,
7Hoertel, Heather A et al. “A Randomized Crossover, Pilot Study Examining The Effects Of A Normal Protein Vs. High Protein Breakfast On Food Cravings And Reward Signals In Overweight/Obese “Breakfast Skipping”, Late-Adolescent Girls”. 2016,.
8Leidy, Heather J. et al. “The Effects Of Consuming Frequent, Higher Protein Meals On Appetite And Satiety During Weight Loss In Overweight/Obese Men”. 2016,.
9Taheri, Shahrad et al. “Short Sleep Duration Is Associated With Reduced Leptin, Elevated Ghrelin, And Increased Body Mass Index”. 2016,.
10Markwald, R. R. et al. “Impact Of Insufficient Sleep On Total Daily Energy Expenditure, Food Intake, And Weight Gain”. 2016,.
11Cappuccio FP, et al. “Meta-Analysis Of Short Sleep Duration And Obesity In Children And Adults. – Pubmed – NCBI”. Ncbi.Nlm.Nih.Gov, 2016, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18517032/.