Why you get cravings and how to beat them

No amount of will power will beat a craving. Get it out of your head that simply resisting cravings will win – it won’t. It might get you through a day or two but in the end your body will demand you cave in and induldge in that ‘treat’ you’re longing for.

If you want to make serious in-roads towards successfully beating off cravings for good you need to know a little more about them. Firstly, why are you craving things in the first place. Here are a few reasons we crave:

  • Lack of nutrients or poor nutritional choices
  • Habit and routine
  • Smell and other senses
  • Addiction

That’s pretty much it. There aren’t a lot of places your cravings come from, now that we know the origin we can make simple changes in our lifes to prevent them before they arise.

Okay, I get it – it’s hard to irradicate them all together but trust me, with a few simple lifestyle changes you can dramatically reduce those urges to fall off the wagon.

#1 Lack of nutrients or poor nutritional choices

Your body needs certain nutrients to function at its best. If it doesnt get them it’ll tell your brain to go looking for them. The problem is most people don’t know where to find (let alone understand what) they’re looking for. For example; if you’re feeling tired or low on energy you may be running low on elecrolites (Sodium postassium or magnesium), you could fix this problem before it hits by including avocado (see my post on avocados vs slimming world) into your lunch. Avocados are rich in postassium and magnesium.

Do you know which foods contain the essential nutrients your body needs daily? If not, go do some research and ensure that poor nutrition isn’t causing you to crave foods. It may not be that you’re lacking in nutrients but instead be that your blood sugar levels are out of control. If you’re eating too much food or too many starches or sugars you be experiencing a blood sugar crash. You’ll be craving all sorts of high energy foods if this is case. Understand how to control your insulin levels through your dietary choices to reduce the possibility of this happening to you. My plan is nutritionally balanced to ensure you’re eating the right foods to keep insulin stable and get the essential nutrients your body needs.

#2 Habit and routine

Habits are behavours put on autopilot by your body. If you do a task (good or bad) often enough your body will autopilot the activity so that less brain power needs to be attributed to it. Think about your week. Are there certain things you always do? For example are you the type of person who can’t sit on the sofa at the end of the day without a glass of wine or packed of sweets or crisps? Do you always have to have a few beers on a Friday and Saturday night? Are you so set in your ways that at 10am the girl who serves you your latte and muffin at the coffee shop knows your family and kids names?

These are habits. When I tell a client they need to ‘quit’ a certain habit that is holding them back I am often faced with resistance. They’ll try to justify why they shouldn’t need to give it up. Comments like; ‘Yeah, but I don’t want to be as strict as you are’ or ‘But that seems a bit extreme’ and ‘I don’t think I could go without that’ are common. The problem with these statements is they don’t serve you well. The body will ALWAYS want what it gets the most. If you feed it crap regularly it’ll want crap regularly. If you feed it well it will want that. The only reason you want what you want is because that’s your routine. The key to ‘uninstalling’ bad habits is gradually replacing the cues that happen directly before you engage in the habit you want to give up. For example, your Friday routine may be such:

  1. Finish Work
  2. Get in your car
  3. Drive home
  4. Stop at the shop and buy beer
  5. Arrive home
  6. Open beer
  7. Drink beer

If you follow this exact pattern each week it’ll be very hard to quit your beer drinking habit. Take a look at the current routine and see where you can intervene and change the course of action. If you try to intervene at point 4 but not stopping this isn’t going to work for long. You’re simply resisting the urge to follow your existing pattern and as soon as you have a stressful day at work you’ll cave in. You need to look earlier in the pattern at around point 1 or 2 before you get too close the end result. Change the course of direction early enough in the sequence and your body won’t recognise the routine and won’t expect the same outcome. For instance after you finish work you could:

  • Go to the gym
  • Cycle home
  • Drive a different route home

All of these things divert your brain from thinking it knows the routine and will make quitting this habit more likely.

#3 Smell and other senses

Have you every walked passed a bakery and smelled the cakes, the instantly wanted one even though a few minutes earlier you didn’t feel the need to eat anything? Smelling and seeing nice food starts a thought process which ends in you wanting the food you’re encountering. Your brain will connect the dots from initially seeing or smelling it and come to the end result of eating it and the way that food makes you feel. Try to avoid entering environments that will put you at risk of seeing or smelling these treats because once you do, it’s literally you verses your will power!

#4 Addiction

You’re going to have to face it you’re addicted to food. Don’t worry it’s not your fault. It’s the food companies fault, they purposely put addictive chemicals combined with the exact quantities of sugars and fats in products to make your brain go nuts for them! In 7 day lifestyle programme we don’t fight this, we embrace it. It’s not good to go cold turkey and vow never to eat these products you so love because no matter how much you try you’ll always go back to them when you need comfort from food. In my 7 day plan we schedule these treat foods once per week as a reward for a successful week. Over time you’ll come to want these less and less and you won’t feel like you’re missing out. I used to be addicted to crisps and chocolate, now I hardly ever crave them because I know I can have them as rewards each week without hindering my progress or health. Some weeks I choose not have them at all.

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