How To Stop Food Cravings From Ruining Your Diet
One day you just decide that you’re going to do it…
You’re finally gonna lose some weight.
So you figure out a good diet for yourself, and you try your hardest to stick to it.
But, for the vast majority of people, this is a lot easier said than done!
And while everyone is different, there are certain buttons that tend to trigger those diet-destroying impulses known as food cravings.
It could be stress, time of day, specific places – anything really!
But when you’re hit with one, it suddenly becomes much, much more difficult to stick to your diet.
You want that pizza, those fries, that milkshake – even though you know that you’re not supposed to have them.
At this point, you’ll do one of 2 things…
You’ll give in to your cravings, ravenously gorge yourself, and then almost immediately start feeling guilty about what you just did.
Or you won’t give in – but you’ll feel deprived, and wonder if the whole dieting thing is really worth it anyway.
Obviously, neither of these 2 options is very desirable!
What you really want is to not have those cravings in the first place – if you could do that, then sticking to your diet would become a no-brainer.
This article will explore some strategies that will help you out with this, and show you how to finally stop food cravings from getting in your way.
How To Avoid Feeling Hungry While Losing Fat
I mean, aren’t you supposed to feel hungry when you’re dieting down?
Not at all.
You see, if you are constantly feeling hungry while you’re dieting, then something is wrong with your diet.
Yes, you may get a little hungry from time to time, since you are in a calorie deficit, but you shouldn’t be experiencing that stomach rumbling, I’ve-gotta-eat-right-now feeling.
Because if you are, then complying with your diet is going to be really, really hard – if not impossible – in the long-run.
But if you feel satiated – or at least not hungry – the majority of the time, then you’ll find that you have far fewer food cravings.
So, with that in mind, here are 4 tips to make you feel full while still taking in fewer calories and losing weight at the same time.
1) Eat enough calories
Yes, you read that right…
You need to be eating a sufficient number of calories when you’re on a weight loss diet.
If you don’t eat enough, you are going to feel hungry – it is just an inevitability.
Moreover, you’ll risk losing too much muscle during your cut, which means that you’ll have to work that much harder to put it back on again afterwards.
So how many calories is enough?
Well, you should be eating at a calorie level where you are losing between 0.5-1.5 pounds a week.
Roughly speaking, reducing your calories by 500 each day from your maintenance level will have you losing about 1 pound each week.
500 calories really isn’t very much, when you think about it – and this is where a lot of people go wrong.
They’ll enthusiastically start their diet, vowing to eat nothing but vegetables and a little grilled chicken each day.
This has them taking in a meager 1000 calories per day, when their maintenance level is 2200 calories, leaving them at a 1200 calorie daily deficit.
So, they’ll do this for a few days, feel absolutely terrible, hungry, and irritable – and then, inevitably, they’ll say “screw it” and abandon the diet altogether.
What started with the best of intentions turned into a pointless 3 day period of unpleasantness.
So instead of starving yourself like this, reduce your calories by a reasonable amount – anywhere from 250-750 per day- and then see how that goes.
If you feel too hungry, then increase your calories a little bit.
If you’re not losing enough weight per week, then simply decrease your calories by a small amount.
I promise you that if you commit to this approach, you’ll be able to find a happy balance between losing fat consistently and not being unpleasantly hungry.
2) Eat lots of protein
Getting a good amount of protein each day is necessary if you’re building muscle, but did you know that it will also make you feel fuller for longer?
Yes, protein has been found to greatly improve satiety, allowing you to eat fewer calories without getting those hunger pangs.
In addition, protein requires more energy to digest and utilize than either carbs or fats.
This means that your body is actually burning additional calories just from digesting the protein!
So, with that in mind, try to get some protein in each of your meals – and aim for at least 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight per day (if not more).
3) Eat more fiber
Most Americans don’t get enough fiber – with only 95% eating the RDA recommended 25 grams per day.
And when you’re dieting, it can be even more difficult to get enough fiber in your diet.
This is because when you limit carbs, as many diets do, you also limit the vast majority of fiber-rich food sources.
This includes whole grain bread, whole wheat pasta, vegetables, and beans.
Why does this matter?
Well, other health considerations aside, fiber also helps you feel full for longer.
For this reason, I strongly recommend trying to get at least 25 grams of fiber per day, and preferably more if possible.
Green, leafy vegetables are a great source of fiber, and won’t add too many additional calories to your diet. I would recommend spinach, broccoli, and broccoli rabe.
If you can’t figure out a way to work more fiber into your diet, then you may want to consider taking a fiber supplement like Metamucil.
In fact, I know one person who swears that drinking Metamucil completely neutralized his food cravings while dieting.
4) Drink lots of water
Just like protein and fiber, water can help keep you feeling satiated.
It is a good idea to drink lots of water anyway, for a whole host of reasons, but if you start making it a habit to consume copious quantities of water throughout the day, you’ll find that you feel less hungry in general.
One great strategy is to drink a cup or two of water half an hour before your meals. This will help reduce your hunger, so that when you do sit down to eat 30 minutes later, you’ll be less likely to overindulge.
Some Other Considerations
Now, I would be lying if I said that food cravings are entirely driven by hunger.
While that is often the most immediate impetus for cheating on your diet (“I’m hungry, therefore I must go eat”), there are other contributing factors that have nothing to do with hunger.
One of the big ones is an emotional attachment to certain foods.
These foods make you feel a certain way. They’re comforting, and the positive associations that you have with them can be very strong.
And of course, there is often another factor at work too…
Those foods that have a tons of calories, that are loaded with fat, and that you know you shouldn’t pig out on, just taste so damn good.
There is a major visceral pleasure in eating these indulgent foods, which I’m certainly not going to deny here.
So, with all of that in mind, here are 3 additional things that you can do to combat these diet-sabotaging impulses and not let your cravings get the best of you.
1) Allow yourself to sometimes eat things you love
If you deprive yourself of your favorite foods indefinitely, the craving for them will just build and build and build.
That is just human nature, after all: you always want something more when you’re told you can’t have it.
So, instead of endlessly resisting your cravings, give in to them – but make sure you do it in a calculated way.
This can take the form of a cheat meal once per week, or even more advanced calorie/macronutrient cycling, which I sometimes recommend for my clients.
So if you want pizza, have pizza – but only have it during that one meal at the allotted time.
You’ll find that by taking this approach, you’ll crave those forbidden foods significantly less – precisely because they are no longer completely forbidden!
2) Avoid feeding your cravings
The truth is that dieting isn’t easy…
Simple, but not easy.
If it was easy, you wouldn’t have more than 1/3 of the US population being classified as obese.
And yes, even by following the advice above, you are going to have those moments where you want to eat something you shouldn’t, and risk breaking your diet.
So when this next happens, you need to meet that craving head on.
You need to stare it in the face, acknowledge its existence, but also realize that your dietary goals – whatever they may be – are bigger and more important than this fleeting craving.
These cravings are by their very nature transient. So observe them, don’t feed them (pun intended), and watch them gradually disappear.
3) Know why you’re doing what you are doing
When you don’t have clear reasons for doing something, it is that much easier to find excuses to quit.
And your food cravings provide exactly this excuse to potentially break your diet, if you don’t have well-grounded reasons for being on it in the first place.
Yes, I know, you want to lose weight, but why?
Do you want to look better for a specific event this summer? Do you want to be fitter so you can be a better dad to your kids? Are you just sick of not feeling the way you want to inside of your own skin?
Dig deep, and be clear with yourself why you are dieting – because the firmer your intentions are here, the easier it will be to stick to your diet and not let your cravings get the best of you.