Cravings – the dreaded word for many when they are trying to eat healthy. Those cravings can be controlling. They can be annoying. They can be distracting. They seem to be most troubling right when healthy patterns and good intentions are getting started. So, what can be done about them? Are they just an inevitable part of eating healthy? Just have to fight through them? Ignore them?
Let’s break down the term “craving” to better understand what’s really going on. A “craving” is generally triggered by one of three “cues”:
Salivation: Eagerness for food generally at the sight of or in anticipation of a certain food. A craving can be generated from our senses. This type of cue is the easiest to conquer with self-control and self-discipline.
Hunger: A physiological feeling of discomfort in response to your body’s need for energy. When you are hungry, your body is trying to send you signals for energy. Certain food preferences or “cravings” are stronger when your regular diet is not nutritious and inadequate energy or nutrients are provided.
Ravenous: Extreme hunger often resulting in the desire for high energy foods directed by your body’s urgent need for energy. (i.e. nearly impossible to make healthy choices)
When you can recognize which “cue” is triggering your craving you are one step closer to correctly dealing with your craving. I’d like to recommend that you try my “Three Rules of Three” to help you get past your “craving”:
- 3 Minutes: When you find yourself face to face with that coveted item, distract yourself for 3 minutes – chew on gum, drink some water, take a quick walk, step outside – whatever it is, leave the food for 3 minutes. Generally after 3 minutes, you are able to push past the desire to indulge.
- 3 days: It takes 3 days after “indulging” for your body to stop wanting that item. Your body is quick to make patterns and it wants to repeat enjoyable experiences. So, when you find yourself “craving” certain foods at certain times of the day your body may be seeking to recreate a certain experience. 3 days without can generally break that pattern.
- 3 food groups: Always include 3 DIFFERENT food groups (reminder your food groups include fruits, vegetables, dairy, grains, and protein) in every meal or snack. For example, instead of snacking on a handful of almonds and expecting to feel satisfied, have a few almonds, a string cheese, and ½ cup of blueberries. A very satisfying snack that will ward off any further “needs” or “wants” until your next meal or snack.
The great news?? Cravings do not have to be your struggle. Being consistent with good nutrition leaves your body with plenty of nutrients and adequate energy. The sign of a very good diet is relatively no cravings. Your body is no longer trying to “signal” to you that it needs something. Healthy eating is not about restriction, it’s about providing sustaining foods that leave you NOT needing or wanting anything more.
Meagan Hovendick MS, RDN, LMNT