Ahh, cravings! Despite our best efforts, the desire to eat certain foods can get the best of us at times. These cravings can lead to poor food decisions that can derail even the most dedicated of healthy eaters. From cookies to potato chips, the foods we crave usually offer us little in return other than extra fat, sugar and salt we simply don’t need (and often feel better without).
Before you beat yourself up over your cravings, keep in mind that they are completely normal and experienced by almost everyone. Your desire for highly palatable foods containing sugar, fat and salt is rooted in biological need and is not innately bad. Unfortunately, it has become way too easy to satisfy these cravings.
Although you may not be able to completely avoid the foods you crave or turn off your impulses, it is possible to change the way you respond. By doing so, you can eat with confidence knowing you have control over these “junk” food cravings — and not the other way around.
What Causes Cravings
Cravings happen for many reasons, but research has shown that we often crave the foods we love most when we restrict them (Think: strict dieting) and/or when our meal plan lacks variety. In some instances, cravings are triggered by the thoughts of foods we’ve given up or haven’t had in a while.
In fact, if you make changes too quickly or are too restrictive, you may find your cravings intensify. Why? Because some of those highly palatable foods we’ve come to love activate pleasure centers in our brain that keep us wanting more. Shut off the supply, and get ready for your brain to throw a fit. (This is why we encourage enjoying all foods and making gradual diet changes.) By doing so, you’ll give your brain and taste buds time to adjust and also discover creative ways to add flavor, color and enjoyment to your plate without relying heavily on sugar, fat, or salt, like so many manufactured foods tend to do.
How to Identify a Food Craving
When a food craving strikes, it’s usually pretty easy to identify because of the intense drive behind it; however, pinpointing your exact need or desire may not always be simple. This is especially true if the craving you experience feels more general than specific –– like when you want something, you just don’t know what.
If you struggle to know what your body is trying to tell you, consider keeping track of your emotions when you eat or experience cravings. This can help you notice trends in your eating habits and allow you to better understand and process the signals your body is sending.
5 Tips to Curb Junk Food Cravings
Knowing why and when your cravings occur can help you prepare to deal with them. Whether you are changing your environment to experience them less often or are developing ways to respond differently, it is possible to overcome most junk food desires. Here are a few ways to set yourself up for success:
Although we may never be able to completely avoid the foods we crave, we can change the way we approach them. By implementing a few of these strategies you can overcome cravings and begin enjoying the foods you love in a realistic and balanced way.