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February 25, 2019

Unhealthy Food Cravings: 13 Ways to Kick Them

food cravingsUnhealthy Food Cravings

Are unhealthy food cravings sabotaging your efforts to lose weight and improve your health? If so, you are not alone. Most of us struggle with food cravings. Most Americans are addicted to foods high in sugar, salt, an unhealthy fats – all of which are found in high-calorie junk food.

We may not see our addiction to sugar though, as we are introduced to refine sugar shortly after birth and don’ t know life without sugar in it. The French in the 1700s referred to sugar as “crack” and with good reason. Sugar produces the same cravings and withdrawals as cocaine. Don’t believe me? Here’s a study.

Succumbing to food cravings kills any efforts to lose weight. You can be good all day with your food choices, but boom….. it’s late at night and bam! You give into temptation and reach for an unhealthy snack. And just like that, you have largely undone 23 hours and 45 minutes of self-control.

Today we discuss 13 strategies to deal with food cravings.

Willpower – Forget It

So what can you do to deal with your cravings? Well, here’s what not to do. DO NOT rely on your willpower. Willpower doesn’t work for a vast majority of us. If tempted frequently enough, long enough, most of us will succumb to temptation – not just with our food choices. We will succumb to nearly any temptation, if presented with an option long enough.

And, one thing we are presented with throughout the day is a whole cadre of unhealthy food choices. It’s almost inescapable. We have unhealthy food surrounding us almost everywhere we go.

Strategy number one. Do not have unhealthy food in your house. Period. Don’t think you can buy a bag of chips and then not eat the bag. You bought the bag for a reason….so you can consume the bag.

At the office avoid going to places where unhealthy foods may be as much as possible – the break room or vending machines. Take healthy snacks with you to work. Again, do not rely on your ability to resist temptation.

Each time you resist you expend energy – physical and mental – which weakens you for the next temptation that presents itself. You may get through the day, but then at night when you are tired, you will give in and have the snack you were wanting all day.

Here are 12 strategies to deal with food cravings, plus the one we just discussed.

13 Ways to Stop the Snack Attack

  1. DO NOT keep unhealthy foods in the house. If unhealthy snacks are in the house, you will eventually eat them.
  2. Eat more protein and healthy fats. Both curb the appetite and provide a sense of satiny. If you are hungry less than 2 hours after eating, you did not get enough protein in the previous meal.
  3. Drink water. We frequently confuse our need for water for the desire to eat. Drink water and wait 20 minutes. If still hungry then you are most likely hungry.
  4. Exercise regularly. Regular exercisers have more self-control. Discipline in one area leads to discipline in other areas. Exercise is a stress reliever, too (see controlling stress below.)
  5. Get plenty of restful sleep. Sleep deprived individuals are 55% more likely to become obese. Poor sleep increases food cravings.
  6. Plan your meals.
  7. Avoid getting extremely hungry. Doing so leads to overeating.
  8. Control your stress level. Junk food and stress go hand in hand. Stress leads to emotional eating. It also causes the release of cortisol which leads to weight gain.
  9. Limit intake of high glycemic foods. These are foods that cause a rapid spike in insulin the fattening hormone.
  10. Take spinach extract. Spinach extract is a hot topic these days. 5 grams of spinach extract (capsule or powder) has been shown to reduce chocolate cravings by 95% and can facilitate weight loss. Spinach extract stimulates the hormone GLP-1 which causes satiety. There is a whole class of diabetic medications that stimulate GLP-1 and the entire class is associated with weight loss.
  11. Don’t shop for groceries when hungry. Doing so will increase the odds of you buying unhealthy foods. Unhealthy foods are usually placed at eye level in the grocery stores.
  12. Keep healthy snacks on if you need to cave into your cravings. See this article of ours on health snacks.
  13. Consider either intermittent fasting or go the opposite direction and eat regularly throughout the day – 3 meals and 2 or 3 snacks. Both seem to work for control cravings. One strategy may work better for you than the other. Here’s an article of ours on intermittent fasting.

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Dr. Joe Jacko

Dr. Joe is board certified in internal medicine and sports medicine with additional training in hormone replacement therapy and regenerative medicine. He has trained or practiced at leading institutions including the Hughston Clinic, Cooper Clinic, Steadman-Hawkins Clinic of the Carolinas, and Cenegenics. He currently practices in Columbus, Ohio at Grandview Primary Care. Read more about Dr. Joe Jacko

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