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How To Stop Food Cravings

July 16, 2023 10 min read

How To Stop Food Cravings

 Ever sat on a Sunday night and told yourself that the 'diet' starts tomorrow? 

You get to lunchtime on the Tuesday and your body is going crazy at you as all you've eaten is lettuce leaves and your body weight in water.  Your body is crying out for you to feed its cravings...

The number one complaint of my old Personal Training clients was cravings.

They wanted to know how to stop their food cravings.

It's all well and good telling someone to eat 'clean' foods, drop the processed stuff from their diet, eliminate bread and alcohol, and lower your calorie intake with intermittent fasting.

Not only is this really hard to do...

But, this has the 'side-effect' of sending your cravings into overdrive.

Sound familiar?

Willpower

Most folk would tell you to 'man-up' and use "willpower" to resist the urge of the third pain au chocolate.

I want to share with you why willpower will never work and why it sucks as a long-term strategy.

Instead, you'll discover a handful of clever little nutrition tricks that bring your appetite and cravings to check.

Leaving you with the choice of when you're gonna eat that third Pain Au Chocolate, and not be at the mercy of your urges and rampant cravings.

The importance of pastries for managing cravings

My wife and I lived in the slightly weird country of Luxembourg for close to a decade...

It was during that time I quit my 'real' job and retrained as a personal trainer.

Before becoming the top coach in the country, I was a soft round the edges guy, loving the delicious foods of the French and the portion sizes of the Germans...

And the pastries were epic.

The problem was ...my French language skills were awful.

So I never knew the masculine and feminine for a single Pain Au Chocolat. Asking for two (deux) Pain Au Chocolat was easier than remembering if it's un or une.

Yep, my Pain Au Choc addiction was fuelled by my crappy French language skills.

Today, I still don't know which 'one' it is. Maybe you can message me and tell me?

Being at the mercy of my cravings was not a good advert for my Personal Training services so I had to get them under control and quick!

I tried willpower and going cold turkey.

But I might as well have been a crackhead trying to go clean. I came out in spots, sweated buckets, headaches and more. Worse still I was grumpy and not a lot of fun to be around.

I failed, willpower was never going to cut it.

What controls your cravings and appetite

Hypothalamus 

To really help you get back some level of control, I do need to go a little sciencey.

Don't panic, this isn't like your A-level biology classes, it's much simpler.

There's a section of your brain called the Hypothalamus. It's buried deep, so it's totally subconscious, and it controls things like your temperature regulation, sexual desire, hormones and your appetite.

It's why there are such close links between how you FEEL and what you EAT.

When you starve your body of nutrients (like when you diet), it's no surprise you get grumpy, and bodily functions are way out of whack.

The hypothalamus is screaming out for all the things that make you happy...

You know, like Ben & Jerry's Cookie Dough ice cream, red wine and a family-sized pack of Doritos.

There are ways to TRICK the hypothalamus which we'll cover later.

But first why willpower is not a great strategy?

Why Willpower Doesn't Work

Willpower requires effort and energy. Especially to continually beat back the cravings and resist the urge to eat chocolate cake 'til your jaw locks up.

Whilst in the short term you might have success with willpower, it's a finite resource that depletes over time.

If you have slept poorly or had a rough day at work, the kids are driving you to distraction. It all eats away at your willpower...

You will fail at controlling your basic urges.

According to the book "Willpower Doesn't Work" by Benjamin Hardy, adapting your physical environment will make changing habits much easier...

I want to extend this by changing your 'internal' environment too.

The following simple nutritional and habitual tricks will help you change both your internal and external environment, making resisting those cravings a thing of the past.

You'll simply not have the cravings any more.

What follows are our simple steps for "How To Stop Eating Junk Food"

How to stop eating junk food

My Addiction

I'm a coffee addict.

I love the taste, aroma, and the mental kick it gives me.

However, I knew I was drinking too much of it. So I changed my environment. I removed ALL coffee from my house and office.

It's where I was drinking most of my coffee.

In order to get my fix, it forced me to go out to a cafe, socialise, sit and enjoy the coffee.

As such, I massively reduced my intake with that one simple action.

You can do the same with your food.

Cleanse the Cupboards

There's an inevitable truth... if you buy food and it exists in your cupboards or fridge, it's highly likely you'll eat it.

Simply go to your fridge and cupboards right now with a couple of plastic bags, and throw out all the addictive, high-calorie foods you regularly crave. (even better, take the non-perishable stuff to your local food bank, so you don't feel like you're wasting food)

Now you've probably heard about this strategy before and resisted.

It's likely you have a family or at least someone you share the kitchen with. This makes this action more difficult if others in your household are not on the same journey as you.

I'd set a new rule, especially if you're doing the shopping for the household.

Simply do not buy sweet treats, cake, cookies, or ice cream for the house.

Tell your kids they can STILL have treats, but they are NOT allowed in the house.

Make your home 'clean' of the things you crave most.

Taste over Volume

Taste over volume, the ultimate portion control

I mentioned earlier ways to trick your hypothalamus into thinking it's been satisfied, this is one of them (more to come)

Taste is one way to trick your brain into thinking it's been given the required nutrients.

Unfortunately, VOLUME seems to be the thing we're attracted to, especially if we're eating out. It's what we consider as getting value for money when the plate is piled high.

Recently one of my favourite tricks is to go to a good sushi restaurant where I know the dishes are going to be packed with great flavours in relatively small quantities.

I never feel like I've gone hungry and my taste buds have been satisfied.

So choose taste over volume with your meals, especially in the restaurant.

Don't Give Up Chocolate

Chocolate is necessary for managing cravings

People have asked me how to stop eating chocolate. But saying you're going to give up chocolate goes against all our basic desires.

In fact, saying you're gonna quit anything has the instant effect of you wanting it even more.

Instead of going cold turkey, buy the BEST chocolate you can afford.

You could spend £5 on a couple of kilos of cheap 'slutty' chocolate from the local petrol station. But it's better to buy a couple of premium chocolates from the fanciest truffle maker in town.

Savour and enjoy the best rather than gorge yourself on cheap.

Start the Day with Fats

Start the day with fats to manage cravings

Looks like a fat-intense meal?

And you'd be right, the GOOD FATS in eggs, salmon and butter, have a high-calorie content BUT help massively reduce appetite.

Plus, overall your daily caloric intake is LOWERED because you don't snack.

Let's put some science behind this madness.

A study led by Maria Luz Fernandez, PhD, professor in the Department of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Connecticut, investigated the differences in post-meal hunger and daily caloric intake when eating a breakfast of either eggs or carbohydrate-rich bagels.

Although the two breakfast options contained an identical amount of calories, the researchers found that adult men who consumed eggs for breakfast:

  • consumed fewer calories following the egg breakfast compared to the bagel breakfast
  • consumed fewer total calories in the 24-hour period after the egg breakfast compared to the bagel breakfast
  • reported feeling less hungry and more satisfied three hours after the egg breakfast compared to the bagel breakfast

Now, if you're a coco pops addict, I'm probably facing an uphill battle trying to persuade you to make the changes to your breakfast.

So let's call this a challenge.

For one week, change to eating eggs and salmon for breakfast, and see for yourself. I guarantee you'll not have those mid-morning visits to the snack machine, or 'needing' a muffin from Costa!

Yes, you read that correctly. ADD fat to your breakfast.

The old-school nutritionists out there will be shaking their heads and priming their fingers ready to scorn me on Facebook for saying such nonsense.

However, there's a method and science behind my madness.

But first, there's a problem with asking you to change your breakfast.

I could ask my old personal training clients to do a million sit-ups a day or jog around the park dragging a lorry tire behind them.

And they'd do pretty much all of it, without question!

But, getting them to change their breakfast habits was practically impossible.

It was like trying to steal their firstborn child from them! No matter how much I reasoned with them, they did NOT want to give up their coco pops!

The few I did manage to influence reaped all the rewards experiencing little in the way of the dreaded mid-morning munchies. And answered the eternal question "How to stop thinking about food" all the time!

Hit the Hay

Sleep to help with food cravings

As someone who's been a lifelong insomniac, simply telling you to just get more sleep seems a tad hypocritical.

Each week I'd generally have 2 nights of OK sleep, and 5 nights where I'd lay staring at the ceiling for hours on end, 'waiting' to drift off.

However, over the last few years, my sleep has improved dramatically with some easy nutritional and environmental changes.

Nowadays I generally only have a bad night once every few weeks.

 The upside to better sleep is less cravings.

When you sleep poorly you wake up tired and reach for the first energy-rich foods you can find to keep you functional for the day.

One of the changes I made was enriching my diet with magnesium. Which helps with natural sleep patterns.

You can get magnesium from leafy greens other fruit & vegetables such as bananas, as well as from effective supplementation too.

Change is Good

Change habits to control cravings

This is one of those external environment changes you can make.

We're creatures of habit.

And it takes effort to force a change.

By changing WHERE you shop for your food, you initially become more aware of the food you chuck in your basket. This strategy has a short-term effect, but it's a great way to get some positive changes occurring.

If you do your shopping online to be delivered, DELETE all your usual preferences, or switch stores entirely.

For the last few years, Sam & I have ordered some of our food from Gousto. An online food delivery service.

Each week we get delivered all the ingredients for 4 dishes. Whilst not 100% "clean" foods, it's still pretty healthy with its fresh, high-quality ingredients.

Even if you're a bit rubbish in the kitchen like me, preparing the Gousto meals is super simple and I feel like a god in the kitchen when I cook for my wife.

It also gets you out of a food rut and helps feed your body a variety of nutrients which has a massive impact on your cravings. 

Evaluate Your Circle

So, I've told you to eat chocolate, add fat to your breakfast, and even take away your coco pops...

Now I'm telling you to ditch your mates for new ones!

All in the desire to quit the cravings?

Here's my reasoning... If you commonly find you're eating cakes or ordering the full-fat hot chocolate with ALL the additions, look at WHO you're with when you order.

I can guarantee it's the same folk each time.

Whilst your cafe buddies may not be directly a bad influence on you... it's likely you feel more comfortable ordering the bad stuff around certain friends.

Either vary your cafe buddies or at the very least, make a pact with your current friends to challenge you if you order the hot chocolate with whipped cream, marshmallows, sprinkles and fudge sauce.

The Holy Grail

Since you've got down this far in my article, you're probably interested to know my MOST effective method for killing cravings.

And to be fair, this is perhaps the 'easiest' way of all the tips.

Consume More Vegetables.

Yep, not exactly rock and roll.

However, eating more vegetables gives your body a WIDE range of nutrients. This is what your body (and brain) wants, and your cravings 'gland' will stay VERY quiet.

Vegetables are your friend to fight cravings

Eat enough vegetable nutrients and you'll simply not desire those high-energy, sweet sugary things any more.

You'll not feel hungry and your hypothalamus will be one very happy part of your brain.

Unfortunately, our diets are regularly devoid of vegetables (sorry but potatoes don't count).

During my years as a Personal Trainer, my most common phrase when looking at a week-long food diary would be...

"Show me the vegetable!"

Often, there would be less than 5 portions of veg in a whole week, let alone a day!

So how do you get more vegetables in?

This takes effort for some people. It's not part of their daily habits. So start simple.

Veggie Tricks

Spinach.

Probably the most versatile and nutrient-rich 'green' that's readily available in the supermarket.

Forget kale. Spinach kicks sand in the face of kale... and it's way tastier too.

Remember that breakfast tip from earlier... in the last 30 seconds of cooking your scrambled eggs, chuck in a handful of spinach, and stir that in with the butter and coconut oil...

It adds a different texture to the eggs and packs in 1 of your five a day.

Cucumber and Carrot Sticks.

Yeah not the most dynamic of tricks, but make sure you chop up a job lot of carrot and cucumber at the start of the day, then if you feel the urge for a muffin, munch on some sticks.

It'll curb any cravings you have and give you a bunch of raw nutrients too.

Switch Out The Potatoes

I've got nothing against potatoes. I love them too. But for your evening meal, instead of doing something potato based with your meat or fish, switch them for some other vegetables.

Broccoli, sweet peas, and carrots seem to be our most common switches.

But be sure to alternate, because chicken and broccoli get old really fast!

BONUS tip, make sure you spice up the veg with chili flakes, garlic and butter... that'll make any veg taste infinitely better.

Flood Your Body

Your cravings can go a little overdrive if your body is lacking in essential vitamins and nutrients.  That's why we created Lean Greens!  Our little tub of goodness just gives you that top-up vitamins, minerals and veggie power your body needs when life gets in the way of your best intentions.

So now it's over to you.

Time to conquer your cravings for good. Good luck!

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