Whether you’re just starting a new way of eating or you’ve been successful with a healthy food lifestyle for a long time, you probably still have cravings and days when it is more difficult to stick to your principals. I have been eating clean for almost three years now – well, with a clean mind and free of guilt. As Rome wasn’t built in a day, my body didn’t change overnight. My metabolism, mindset, and appetite were a roller coaster when I first started. I would feel completely empowered to eat clean/paleo for 4 consecutive days then go on a crazed “must find chocolate and French fries” kick. As time went on, I slowly started to anticipate these cravings, work around them, and not be so hard on myself.
Everyone experiences cravings. Some people are just better at working through them than others. Our bodies develop chemical addictions to sugar, artificial sweetener, caffeine, theobromine (found in chocolate), etc. The more “clean” your diet, the less a craving will affect you. Rumor has it, if you eat 100% clean for X months/years, you kick all cravings for good. This may be true, but I have no desire to eat 100% clean for the rest of my life. Even though I eat them only once in a blue moon, I love cupcakes and pizza too much to give them up completely.
6 Steps to Work Through Cravings:
- Drink water. Truly, you could just be thirsty. Drinking water and hydrating yourself may be the answer to whatever guilty pleasure food you think you need. When heading for the vending machine cookies and chips, drink a large glass of water first. The refreshing full belly will distract you long enough to forget about the preservative soaked snack.
- EAT. Eat something healthy and wholesome. If you have a strong craving for something terrible for you, you could be just plain hungry. Stop and analyze your craving/hunger. Fill up on lots of vegetables and some lean protein then analyze if you still need that cheeseburger.
- Give it time to pass. If a craving for a Snickers bar sneaks up on you while you’re at the movie theatre, stop before you buy. Give it a couple hours. If after the movie you STILL want that Snickers bar, then buy it and split it with some friends. Most likely, however, the craving will have passed.
- Trick your taste buds. I am always on the search for clean/healthy eating that reminds me of guilty-pleasure snack foods. A reserve of salty nuts, fruit chips, and beef jerky can go a long way for keeping cravings and hunger at bay.
- Don’t punish yourself when you slip. If someone brings cupcakes to work and you grab one, don’t think that you’ve thrown your healthy eating down the drain. If you think, “the day is shot,” you’re more likely to punish yourself by continuing to make poor food decisions. One cupcake isn’t going to ruin anything. Multiple cupcakes won’t really hurt anything either except maybe your pride.
- Anticipate your “cheats.” In my opinion, cheating is healthy – mentally and physically. Tim Ferris’s Four Hour Body has some interesting points about the benefits of a binge day. I, myself, subscribe to approximately 80% clean/paleo and 20% everything else. I enjoy eating paleo and so the 80% accounts for what I cook or buy myself. The 20% covers outings to nice restaurants, traveling, home cooked meals by other families … oh, and the occasional Starbucks Spinach Feta Breakfast Wrap.
Moral of the story: you can do it and go easy on yourself. You’re human and WILL slip up. Know and anticipate this. Love yourself for the “mistakes” and know that at least caring about how the food you eat affects you means you’re already ahead of the curve.