You decide you want to lose weight. You buy new trainers, water bottles and join a gym. You throw out all the junk food in your house and start a new dietary regimen of clean eating. You keep up your new lifestyle for three weeks. You feel much better, look much better and the weight on the scales has dropped. Then it happens.
You get a craving — small at first, then it builds. It builds to the point that all you can think about when you close your eyes at night are pizza slices and chocolate ice-cream. You fight the urges at first, for a day to two, but then your friend mentions she’s getting takeaway and before you know it you’ve eaten a whole pizza, a whole tub of chocolate ice-cream, and since you’ve already messed up your diet you decide to check off all the other cravings that kept you up at night that week.
Monday you start again. By wednesday, it happens again.
Cravings and hunger are a huge problem to people who want to lose weight. The body doesn’t care that you don’t have a toned mid section. When you deprive yourself of food, a red flag goes up because the body thinks it’s starving. If losing weight were easy then we wouldn’t have an obesity epidemic. That said, there are some easy tricks to follow to make it less difficult and keep the cravings at bay. Below are my favourite 8.
1. Eat More Fiber
Fiber is essential at keeping cravings at bay. It works via two mechanisms:
- It digests slowly making you full for longer.
- It stretches you stomach making your brain think you’ve eaten more calories that you actually have.
Fiber is found in vegetables, legumes and bran based cereals. Aim to get 12/15g for every 1,000 calories you consume.
2. Do Some Light Cardio
People who combine weight loss with cardio are always more successful than those who do either or. This obviously down, in some part, to the added calories being burnt but it’s also down the psychological aspects of it. Self Perception Theory states that when we see ourselves performing a particular activity we associate the stereotypical traits of that activity to out own character. When we see ourselves doing healthy disciplined things we become more healthy and disciplined.
3. Drink Decaffeinated Coffee
One of the main ingredients used in weight loss supplements and pre-workout drinks is caffeine. It makes us more energetic and as a result we end up burning more calories. Many people believe it also acted as an appetite suppressant so when a study showing decaffeinated coffee was actually better, everyone was surprised.
Drink some decaf throughout the day to keep your appetite in check. The added benefit with this is that you can drink it later than you would regular coffee.
4. Eat Fruit
Fruit usually contains fiber which is great but it also contains a sugar called fructose. The moderate amounts of fructose one would get from eating some fruit everyday helps refill liver glycogen and control hunger. People in studies often report feeling less hungry when they consume fruit.
As a tip, stay away from fruit juice. Eat whole foods only.
5. Eat Lean Protein
The research shows protein is more satiating (both long and short term) than carbohydrates or fat. If you don’t eat much protein, don’t expect to be able to control your hunger very well on a diet.
Furthermore, protein has the highest thermic effect (it raises your metabolism), regulates blood glucose and helps you hold onto your muscle when you diet. High protein isn’t just for bodybuilders. If you’re on a diet you should be aiming for at least 0.6grams of protein per pound of your ideal bodyweight.
6. Try Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting is quite simply eating within a certain time frame. For instance, if you aim to eat 2,000 calories per day you could have four 500 calorie meals or you could have two larger more satisfying 1,000 calorie meals and fast for the remainder of the day. As counter-intuitive as it seems, many practitioners of intermittent fasting say they don’t experience any hunger while fasting.
For more benefits on Intermittent Fasting, this Health Today article has it all.
7. Manage Your Stress
Stress triggers cravings. Studies have shown that even watching stressful scenes on the news triggers people to overeat. Moreover, when we feel stressed we tend to try and counteract those feelings through pleasure inducing activities such as smoking or binge eating.
Conveniently, one of the best stress delivers is actually exercise — ever heard of the runner’s high? If you’re already doing that meditation, socialising or, for the introverted amongst us, alone time might also help.
8. Be Flexible
If you think back to the scenario at the beginning of this post you’ll notice that the person I was describing was experiencing all or nothing thinking. This is a symptom of perfectionism. When perfectionists mess us a single aspect of the diet, they binge. In their mind, if they’re not perfect they’re useless.
To keep cravings at bay you should indulge in them with mindfulness. If you allow yourself a small piece of chocolate everyday you won’t eat a whole tub of chocolate ice-cream at the end of the week.
There is no such thing as the perfect diet or for that matter the perfect dieter. The old saying “Eat well 80% of the time and allow yourself 20% of flexibility” is often misinterpreted by dieters. They thing it means “Eat perfect on 80% of the days and binge eat on 20% of the days.”
If you follow all of these steps and at the end of the day feel like a small treat go ahead. Contrary to popular believe the most successful long term dieters aren’t OCD about their eating habits. They’re just smart and mindful.