We have all experienced cravings. Those times when there seemed to be an insatiable, innate need for a certain food. They can appear out of nowhere and consume your thoughts. If you find yourself fixated on not-so-healthy food options every time a craving strikes -- you are not alone.
Believe me. I am all for treating ourselves every now and then. I also believe in the power of listening to your body. If the body is sending strong enough signals or "cues" that it wants something, it may very well be deficient in a particular nutrient.
However, be mindful of the factors at play when you are making these decisions.
Is this food you are craving something you TRULY want? Are you reaching for those sugary or overly salty snacks out of habit? Boredom? Dehydration? Fatigue?
If you find snacking or indulging in unhealthy foods because you "crave" them constantly, read on to explore how to address these feelings and reframe your habits on a small scale.
Cleanse Your Kitchen
If your pantry or refrigerator are filled with tempting treats, it can be hard to resist them simply because they are THERE.
Start by filling your kitchen with healthier foods.
Managing cravings is less about willpower than it is about convenience. Making healthier options more convenient is essential to reducing the hold those cravings has on you.
Try to avoid buying the not-so-healthy options. Making better, more nourishing choices more VISIBLE to you. If there are fruits on the counter instead of candy, you're going to reach for what is there.
Keep it simple by having fast yet nutritious options on hand (like my signature clean protein bars! ;)). Incorporating more foods rich in protein and fiber will help reduce unhealthy cravings in the long term. And consistently making the healthier choice will retrain the taste buds over time.
Speaking of making healthy food more accessible - don't forget the glory of meal prep. Let's be real. When you come home hungry after a long day, the last thing you want to do is prep and cook a meal from scratch (well, maybe you love it - but you see what I mean).
When cravings strike, we want instant gratification. So, we end up ordering takeout or reaching for whatever snacks are within a 2-foot radius.
If, however, you had an abundance of healthy options already prepped and ready to eat, thanks to your made planning skills and foresight, you'd be in a much better position to fuel your body in a more mindful way.
Even something as simple as washing and cutting fruits and veggies as soon as you bring them home from the store makes you more likely to eat them. This is an example of "removing barriers" to healthy habits.
And if you really don't want to make the food yourself, check out healthy, homemade food providers (mine is found at http://www.jaimephealthcoach.com/menus).
Swap the Sugar
Teaching your brain how to crave healthy food can often be as simple as replacing the bad with the good. Simple, direct swaps. Reaching for naturally sweetened foods, like fruit, can help retrain the taste buds to PREFER the taste of whole food sources rather than overly sweet, hyper-palatable foods loaded with artificial sugar and preservatives.
In fact, a study done by Kaiser Permanente recently suggested that cutting out added sugar for just two weeks could change taste preferences. After the 2-week period, 95% of the participants found sweetened food to be TOO sweet - and cravings reduced significantly as a result.
Small Habits Equal Big Changes
If you want to build lasting habits that work in favor of your health and wellness and not against it, START SMALL. Learning to love the taste of healthier foods is not exception. It takes time, persistence, and giving yourself grace.
A compilation of many small choices adds up to BIG transformation over time. Start by implementing ONE small change and then move on to the next. Some examples include drinking a glass of water as soon as you wake up in the morning or taking two cookies out of the package rather than bringing the whole package to the couch.
ALL OF OUR TINY CHOICES MAKE UP OUR DAY. ALL OF THESE DAYS MAKE UP OUR LIVES.
The next time you experience a food craving, pause. Ask yourself why is this craving coming on? Stress? Emotions? Comfort? Hunger? Convenience? Boredom?
Will this craving be one you listen to? Will it actually make me feel better or solve a problem?
What else might I like better that's less convenient? Would eating this later be satisfying?
Cravings are an absolutely normal, healthy, realistic part of being human. Do not adopt an all-or-nothing mindset about wellness and how you eat because you think you have no willpower!
Just be a little more aware of the reasons behind the cravings, and don't deprive yourself cold turkey. Be INTENTIONALLY Well.