As I sit at my kitchen table, waiting for my chicken and veggies to bake, all I can think about is what else I could be eating in the meantime. Chips? Yes, please. Cookie dough? Don’t mind if I do. A bowl of cereal? Well, why not! 

Okay. Take a deep breath. Stay strong. After another 8-hour day, it’s easy to opt for something quick, easy and, more than likely, unhealthy; yet, I didn’t lose the last 16 pounds by crawling back into the junk food cupboard (don’t lie - we all have one). It’s been a surprisingly difficult challenge and, at the end of the day, my biggest struggles have all amounted to one thing: cravings. 

First, before we can delve into conquering our cravings, it’s important to understand why they happen. You’ve probably all seen the well-loved-by-Pinterest mantra, “You’re not hungry. You’re bored.” Although this probably isn’t completely true, cravings are dominated by your brain while hunger is dominated by your body. So, you’re more likely to experience a major craving when you’re sitting at your desk at work or school than when you’re on the move.

In short, your body releases “feel good” chemicals like dopamine when you experience pleasure, allowing you to perceive happiness and that delicious brownie as being equal. (Which, in reality, they still might be…) That’s why, when you’re having an especially rough day, you crave comfort foods - typically foods that happen to be high in fat, sugar and/or calories. 

When you’re trying to lose weight, though, craving such foods is a sure slide backwards. Unfortunately, there’s not a set way to cut cravings altogether, but there are a few things that might help. 

  • Eat smaller meals throughout the day, as opposed to three large meals. This is a great weight-loss tip overall, as it helps dissuade you from overeating. However, eating small, lean meals throughout the day can help keep your appetite at bay while also maintaining your blood sugar levels. If it’s been six hours since you ate last, however, it’s easy to give into that bag of chips on the counter.

  • Anticipate and control your triggers. If there are certain situations or events that cause you an especially large amount of stress (family holidays, anyone?), try to remind yourself that food won’t actually soothe your stress. Likewise, if you know that going to the movies makes you crave buttery popcorn, try sneaking a healthier snack into your purse instead. 

  • Drink more water. Water is magic. Water helps you feel full, plus being even a little dehydrated can trick your body into thinking that it’s hungry. Next time you’re craving something unhealthy, try reaching for a glass of water. It may not be as instantly satisfying, but it’ll help you avoid a guilt hangover later.

  • Cut yourself some slack. If you’re always telling yourself, “No,” then you’ll always be longing for something out of reach. Once in awhile, you need to let yourself off the hook. After a week of strict, healthy eating, let yourself eat out on Saturday - just remember not to overdo it.

Overall, conquering cravings can be the most challenging part of living a healthy lifestyle. Keep in mind, though, that you can’t expect perfection!