Whether it’s chocolate, potato chips or pizza, most of us regularly find ourselves longing for something we don’t think we should be eating. Some emerging research suggests that cravings left unchecked may ultimately lead to even greater overindulgences; in fact, many experts agree that giving in to that initial urge for a small sweet may actually help bolster willpower against later temptations.
But, if your cravings are consuming you and impeding your weight loss success, try these 12 tricks to keep them in check:
1. Stay hydrated
Many times we confuse thirst for hunger. Drinking water can stave off inopportune urges to indulge by removing thirst from the equation.
2. Plan your meals
When you find yourself “hangry” with few food options, it’s easy to justify splurging on a quick, unhealthy meal, or taking a trip to the vending machine. Avoid putting yourself in that situation by prepping your meals ahead of time and keeping a variety of your favorite healthy snacks on hand.
3. Pack the protein
Some studies suggest that increasing your protein intake may help to limit cravings and potentially even the desire to snack at night. Sub in an egg or low-calorie protein shake for cereal in the morning, swap out regular yogurt for Greek yogurt and incorporate chicken and beans into your meals to boost your protein consumption and keep yourself feeling full throughout the day.
4. Show your food some love
Close your laptop, shut off the TV and silence your phone. Focusing solely on the food in front of you forces you to relish every bite of your meal, gives your brain time to process fullness and prevents distracted snacking.
5. Treat yourself
Splurge on the finer things—a robust olive oil, a rich dark chocolate, a savory steak. You may find that a little bit of high-quality food may keep you satisfied longer.
6. Snack often, and snack well
Keep an arsenal of protein- and fiber-rich snacks on hand to clobber cravings and maintain satisfaction. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that you get the majority of your calories from nutrient-dense foods. Avoid empty-calorie, carb-heavy grab-and-gos like pretzels and chips, and instead graze on fruits, veggies and nuts.
7. Take time to de-stress
Excessive, unhealthy eating may be set off by day-to-day stress and can trigger a cycle of stress-induced eating, followed by eating-induced stress. Cathartic exercise such as yoga, running or kickboxing can help you shed that tension and stay in charge of your mind and body.
8. Rest up
Poor sleep can weaken willpower and may disrupt fluctuations in the hormones that can affect your appetite. Emerging research suggests that sleep-deprived people are more likely to become obese, compared to people who get enough shuteye.
9. Eat before grocery shopping
Going to the grocery store on an empty stomach is setting yourself up to succumb to cravings and impulsive food purchases. You’re more likely to stock up on the foods you need to stick to your planned healthy eating regimen if you write out a grocery list and fuel up prior to hitting the aisles.
10. Start off strong
Some research suggests we have limited stores of self-control that are depleted via exertion as the day goes on. Kicking off your day with a healthy breakfast will get you off on the right foot, and, as previously noted, planning out your meals in advance and grocery shopping with a pre-written list will help keep you on track by ensuring your pantry is stocked with the healthy foods your need to begin day on a nutritious and energizing note.
11. Confidence is key
The better you feel about yourself, the more likely you are to continue exercising willpower. Practice positive affirmation and gratitude for your body and health.
12. Remind yourself of the payoff
When you feel like you’re about to cave, distract yourself with an activity that reinforces your reasons for wanting to lose weight. Trying on those jeans you want to fit into can reignite your drive and motivation and help you resist the urge to break your healthy eating regimen.