There’s no quick or magical way to lose weight. You just have to do it the natural way – diet and exercise and stick to it – and be able to do it at your own pace.
Cravings can throw a spanner in the works of the best planned fat loss diet. After all, whoever craves celery sticks?
It’s much more common to yearn for cookies, brownies, cupcakes, chips, pizza, and other not-so-nutritious food that packs a caloric punch.
So what can you do when you get the irresistible urge to reach for the cookie jar?
Let’s talk about not only one, but five potential solutions to your craving situation.
1. Eat more calories.
You tend to experience more frequent cravings when your meals don’t fill you up.
And your meals don’t fill you up much when:
In general, meals like this will be digested pretty quickly, causing a quick spike in blood sugar and a dip soon afterwards. Then you might find yourself craving foods high in carbs, particularly sugar, because carbs give your body energy and help raise your blood sugar levels. However, these foods will cause another sugar rush, followed by yet another sugar crash, and so on. A vicious cycle of doom.
If you’re following a fat loss diet, you need to create a caloric deficit, so you need to eat fewer calories than you might be comfortable with.
However, a lot of people will cut their calories in half, hoping to lose weight faster.
90% of the time, this makes them fall victim to cravings 24/7, so they end up stuck in a loop where they set themselves an unachievably low caloric target, overeat, feel bad about themselves, don’t lose weight, continue pursuing the same unachievable target, overeat, feel bad about themselves… You catch my drift.
So, at the beginning of your fat loss phase, work out your maintenance calories, then reduce this number only by 15-30% and adjust after two to four weeks of not seeing any progress at all on the scale, in your pictures, or in your measurements.
2. Eat more filling meals.
If you already are in a sustainable caloric deficit and you still get hungry pretty quickly after a meal, focus on nutrients that make your meals slower to digest and therefore more filling.
The two most satiating nutrients are fibre and protein.
Some low-calorie, filling foods I’ve found to work really well for myself and my clients during a fat loss diet include:
3. Instead of going off plan, make cravings part of the plan.
When you crave something, it’s often because you don’t let yourself have it without splurging and thus feeling guilty afterwards.
Most people don’t allow themselves specific foods for fear that they’re “fattening”.
The truth is, no individual food makes you fat.
The only reason you gain weight is that you’re eating more calories than you expend over a consistent period of time. We’re talking weeks and months. For example, it’s unlikely you’ll gain any fat from a single day of eating more calories than you burn.
With that myth out of the way, some foods can make your diet harder. These are usually the foods that people tend to crave.
For example, a pizza can contain anywhere from 1000 to 3000 calories.
If you’re dieting on 1500 calories per day, this can be two or three days’ worth of eating. Clearly, having pizza in this example would slow down your rate of progress.
However, a diet won’t be successful unless it is sustainable, and it won’t be sustainable unless it includes some of these foods you really enjoy. If you go “off track” every two days because you’re giving into cravings, then incorporate those cravings into your plan.
In practical terms, assign 20% of your calories to anything you want every day.
So, if you’re eating 1500 calories per day, that’s 300 calories for foods you might crave. 300 calories is enough for an average slice of pizza.
This way, you can literally have your cake and eat it: You’ll feel happier, you’ll have fewer cravings, and you’ll even lose fat.
4. Ride it out.
Cravings, like hunger pangs, come in waves. Sometimes, the best approach is to hang in there.
The next time you experience a craving, tell yourself this: “I’m going to wait 20 minutes. If I still want this food, I’ll have it then.”
Eight times out of ten, in 20 minutes’ time the urge will have come and gone.
But don’t just sit there staring at the ticking clock. Get busy: Go for a walk, read a book, listen to a podcast, or call a friend. When you have nothing else to do but think about food… You’ll find yourself walking to the fridge long before the 20-minute mark.
5. Keep it out of sight.
This is an extreme suggestion, hence why it’s the last one, but sometimes desperate situations require desperate measures.
I’ve had clients in the past who were very straightforward with me: “I just can’t have this in the house or I’ll eat the whole box.”
So we agree that they won’t buy that particular food for the duration of their diet.
When they’re eating an adequate amount of calories to lose weight without starving; they’re having enough protein and fibre to feel as full as they can; and they’re including some foods they would otherwise crave in their nutrition plan, then cutting out one food altogether for a period of time doesn’t feel like such a big deal.
So, if you know Oreos are your ultimate weakness, throw them out.
After all, a fat loss diet is a temporary phase. When it comes to an end, you can start eating more calories and decide whether you want to have Oreos again.
What are your go-to strategies to deal with cravings? Share them in the comments!
A personal trainer who likes bodybuilding, superheroes, and bread.
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