If you are struggling to stick with a nutrition plan due to food cravings, there are several areas to examine. It is not always simply a matter of willpower! You can support your body to reduce cravings:
1. Eliminate sugar and artificial sweeteners from your diet
This is actually the biggest one – sugar is extremely addictive to most people, meaning that if you start your day with sugar, you will want sugar all day long. Artificial sweeteners are no better because they trick the brain into thinking it had sugar and perpetuate cravings too. If you can cut out all of the sweets in your diet for 3 days, your cravings will go down dramatically. If this isn’t enough, take a more dramatic approach, for five days: eliminate all sugars, grains, starches and fruits for 5 days only. During this time eat every 2-3 hours with meals containing protein, vegetables and healthy fats. Your cravings will settle down in this time, and then you can reintroduce some starches and fruits again in healthy moderation.
2. Determine if hidden food allergies or intolerances are triggering cravings
A common symptom of food intolerance is unreasonable cravings for that food. This is why a food intolerance test is often a first step in a weight loss program. By identifying any food intolerances, we can remove some of the triggers for overeating. If there is a food that you need to have every day, this may indicate an intolerance – for example, a strong craving for large amounts of yogurt; needing eggs daily or even cravings for healthy foods like almond butter and bananas. The good news is that testing for food intolerances is quite simply done with a blood test.
3. Balance your blood sugar levels
When blood sugar levels are out of balance, in cases of hypoglycemia, insulin resistance and poor glucose tolerance, carbohydrate cravings occur throughout the day as the body attempts to compensate for the imbalance. To correct blood sugar imbalance, it is essential that you eat regularly through the day, and emphasize meals containing protein, vegetables and healthy fats with smaller amounts of low-glycemic carbohydrates. Avoid sweets, and all-carb meals and snacks as they create an imbalance in blood sugar that leads to further cravings.
4. Rebalance your intestinal flora
An imbalance in your intestinal flora, especially with too much yeast can create unreasonable and intense sugar cravings. If you have been on many antibiotics in your life (even in early childhood), have ever taken oral antibiotics for your acne, have been on birth control pills for more than two years, or are prone to yeast infections, it is very likely that you have too much yeast. Sugar feeds yeast, and too much yeast in the intestinal tract results in strong cravings for sugars of all types.
5. Get enough sleep
A common side-effect of sleep deprivation as an increased appetite as your body looks for ways to increase energy levels. If you are getting less than 7 hours of sleep per night, or your sleep quality is poor, address this to reduce your food cravings. Along the same lines, one of the key secrets to losing post-baby weight is to prioritize your sleep.
6. Try supplements that help reduce cravings
If you still feel that you could use additional support in reducing your cravings, there are a few supplements that may help. For most people vitamin D and omega-3 fats from fish oils are recommended. Fish oils improve your body’s tolerance to blood sugar and insulin and also support emotional stability. Chromium is another helpful supplement when blood sugar imbalance is present; and for some people with persistent carbohydrate cravings as well as a tendency for depression 5-HTP may be appropriate (but do not combine with SSRI anti-depressants). Finally, fibres such as glucomannan found in “PGX” products are helpful for people who have intense carbohydrate cravings and poor blood sugar stability.
I hope that these tips are helpful in reducing your cravings, as they are often physiologically driven, and not simply a matter of will-power.