Finding your trigger is a critical step in breaking the cycle because how can you fix an issue until you fully understand what’s causing it?
The next time you have a strong craving, stop for a second and recognize your surroundings.
-What are you doing?
-Where are you at?
-How are you feeling emotionally?
-Who are you with?
By taking a moment to evaluate those above questions, you can start to recognize the patterns behind your cravings and start tackling the patterns head on. Most of the time, there is a pattern. For me it was that every night I wanted something sweet. It was always after dinner, while catching up on Netflix and in my pajamas. That started on a day I randomly had extra macros left over so I had room for the dessert, no big deal. However, the pattern began when I started hoarding macros so I could fit in 2 rice cakes, with peanut butter and chocolate chips every night. I enjoyed them one time and immediately started wanting to make them fit my macros every night. This pattern wasn’t a problem until hoarding my macros every day to enjoy that dessert actually made my cravings for something sweet stronger. Plus, my craving for something sweet grew and that dessert that once satisfied didn’t satisfy any longer and I wanted something more. It just became a cycle and routine until I called myself out for it and replaced that dessert with more whole foods throughout my day.
Recognizing the patterns you have when it comes to cravings is a big step forward because now you can see them coming and start challenging your thought process around them.
1) When you have a craving, give yourself 5-10 minutes before indulging. Am I really hungry? Am I bored? Would eating an apple right now sound as good as this doughnut? If hunger is truly the issue then maybe you’ll end up eating it after you take that 5-10 minutes and that’s okay! Heck, maybe you’re not hungry and just want it anyways and that’s okay too. The big win here is taking a moment to step back and access the situation before diving head first into the box of doughnuts.
2)Find something that takes your mind off the cravings. I know for me when I’m bored, I can hyper fixate on wanting foods that I know are not in my game plan. If you can find something to take your mind off the craving like going for a walk, or organizing your closet, or calling a friend to chat, most of the time the craving will pass.
3)Eat the right foods during the day and try not to restrict too much at breakfast and lunch. Most of the time if someone is having high cravings at night or a big sweet tooth, it’s because they’re restricting their intake too much at the start of their day. They’ll skip breakfast or have a light lunch in anticipation of having a big dinner but then dinner rolls around and they feel like a bottomless pit. Sound familiar? Its because your body didn’t get enough nutrients earlier in your day. If you balance out your meals more evenly and make sure to focus on nutrient dense whole foods at each meal, you’ll be amazed at how quickly those cravings at night subside.
4) INDULGE! Neither Katy or myself will ever make our clients give up the things they love and we try to steer clear of “good food” vs. “bad food”. That being said, I’m a believer of their being a better version we can choose when searching out the “junk food”. I can bake/buy a cookie with ingredients I can read that won’t leave my gut feeling like crap, or I can buy one full of random ingredients I can’t pronounce and have a food baby for the next 3 hours. If you’re going to have a treat or are craving something, try to aim for higher quality products. Swearing off anything permanently usually leads to binging later on so remember that indulging every now and then is totally fine and good for the soul :)
With anything in life, practicing moderation and being more mindful of our habits is going to take you further than leading the course blindly. If you’re noticing that your cravings have gotten out of control recently and are throwing you off your game, try some of the tips we mentioned above. If that still doesn’t help, consider hiring a nutrition coach! They can help you navigate the reasons behind your cravings and come up with a solid game plan to gain control over them.