Everyone gets cravings for doughnuts, potato chips and candy bars every now and then. But when you’re on a journey toward improved health and fitness, a junk food craving can be a huge obstruction on your path to success. Sometimes, it’s okay to indulge rather than deny yourself. Still, knowing how to fight cravings is a great tool in your health arsenal. Have these five strategies in place to stop cravings before they ruin your fitness progress.
Stock Your Fridge with the Right Foods
Get Enough Sleep
Research shows that when you sleep less than the recommended seven to eight hours a night, you leave your body and your willpower vulnerable to snack attacks. According to a study conducted at UC Berkeley, sleep deprivation impairs the brain’s prefrontal lobe, which is involved in judgment and decision-making. Not getting enough sleep is directly linked to poor food choices. Equip yourself with the strength to fight cravings by getting the appropriate amount of sleep.
If you are experiencing intense craving for foods you shouldn’t be eating, you could be thirsty. Hunger is one little-known side effect of dehydration. Your stomach tells you it wants food, but what your body really craves is H2O. Drinking eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day can prevent dehydration and maybe stop you from reaching for a snack that you don’t need. The next time cravings strike, drink a glass of ice-cold water. If the desire to eat persists after 30 minutes, which proves you really are hungry, then grab a healthy snack. When your body is properly hydrated, you naturally eat less.
Another preventative strategy to fight cravings is minimizing stress. Stress weakens the body’s defenses and reduces self-control, making it more likely that you give in to junk food cravings. Again, the prefrontal cortex of the brain is at play in your defense against these cravings for sugar or fat. Stress inhibits mechanisms such as impulse control and the regulation of emotions and desires.
When times get tough, have a plan in place to help alleviate your stress, like scheduling a fun activity, a relaxing spa visit or a session in the gym. If the stress is too much to cope with on your own, confide in a trusted friend or seek counseling.
A simple but effective tip for stopping cravings in their tracks is distraction. Do anything but give in to the hunger. Phone a friend who shares your passion for health. Social interaction takes your mind off your cravings. If your friend is also health-minded, she can offer you positive support or encouragement. Need some other options for distracting yourself from the French fries in your head? Read a book or take your dog for a walk. Hours later, you’ll realize that it was only boredom. Keeping yourself preoccupied helps you to ignore, and eventually forget, what you were craving in the first place.