If you desperately need to know how to stop food cravings then you’re not alone.
Food cravings can seriously derail your dieting and can undo all your progress.
These overwhelming food cravings can build up leading you to binge eat. Next thing you know you’re giving up all hope on your diet and throwing in the towel.
Usually, the worst foods for you are the ones you crave the most like carbs and sugar.
The big problem most people make when they’re dieting is completely depriving themselves of these cravings. This only causes their cravings to build up.
If you’re drooling every time you drive by McDonald’s and can’t stop thinking about pizza, cheeseburgers, ice cream, candy or pastries then you’ve come to the right place.
The bad part is we know eating these foods have gotten us to where we are yet these food cravings can feel overwhelming.
It can feel like trying to stop these food cravings is like battling the most powerful psychological force in the universe.
The good news is you can use these simple tips to stop (or at the very least lessen) your food cravings.
What Causes Food Cravings
Even if you’ve made a lot of progress dieting you may always have some level of food cravings at times.
And they may never go away completely but the good news is that they will significantly go down.
There are some lucky souls out there who never seem to have these overwhelming food cravings.
Every time you eat something (good or bad) your brain releases chemicals.
Research has found your brain is releasing chemicals in the same areas as drug and alcohol addiction.
Your mind begins to crave the chemical reward that comes with eating certain foods.
When you eat foods you like you release these chemicals into your brain. This causes you to carry that emotional association with the food in the future.
Try to keep in mind your body will cause you to feel hungry but your mind causes the cravings.
At the end of the day, willpower is rarely ever enough to stop food cravings forever.
Your dopamine driven cravings will overpower your body and mind with the anticipated pleasure of this “feel good” chemical.
Now that you know what you’re going up against it’s time to know what really works to getting rid of food cravings.
How to Stop Food Cravings When Dieting
We all have some idea on what foods we should be eating to lose weight but it’s never the ones we crave.
The truth is there is going to be a bit of a battle between you and these bad foods you crave for a while.
But according to this meta-analysis of 28 peer-reviewed studies, the researchers found food cravings will go down with dieting and exercise.
One proven way the researchers quoted was to eat foods you crave less frequently all together.
So instead of having a handful of M&M’s every day try going only every other day. Then once every three days, etc.
This will help to wean yourself off of your junk food cravings.
The researchers also found losing weight itself helps to reduce food cravings. So the more weight you drop the more of these food cravings that will start to go away.
But everybody is different and your genetics could make you more pre-disposed to overwhelming food cravings than other people.
Satiety Is Key
One of the best-proven ways to get rid of cravings is to make sure your stomach feels filled longer.
It’s a lot hard for your body and mind to crave food when you’re not hungry in the first place.
One tip is to eat more protein.
A recent study found a group eating a high protein diet with meat had fewer feelings of deprivation and a greater reduction in cravings.
Drinking more water will help to fill out your stomach.
Whenever you’re craving bad foods first make yourself drink 8 oz. of water. This study found drinking water before eating a meal resulted in less food being eaten.
Increasing your daily fiber intake will not only help the pounds fall off your body but will also fill out your stomach.
This study found eating foods lower on the glycemic index were more likely to help you feel fuller longer.
Another hidden cause of food cravings is micronutrient deficiencies.
If your body isn’t getting enough of the right micronutrients (vitamins & minerals) then you’re going to crave foods.
Try taking a greens powder like this one to make sure you’re covering your basis. I like to call it my “all-in-one nutritional insurance” for this reason.
Exercise Your Cravings Away
It might sound a little counterintuitive but exercising can help to get rid of your cravings.
This study found short bouts of exercise helped to reduce the cravings for sugary snacks.
One of the best ways to exercise is with HIIT workouts. They’re short duration exercise routines that burn a maximal amount of fat in the shortest amount of time.
Another study by BYU found 45 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise in the morning lowered one’s hunger for food.
And here’s a study by Leeds University finding exercise can actually make you want to eat healthier foods.
In the study, active adults were found to be up to 15% less likely to be tempted by higher fat foods.
The researchers found exercising could act as a buffer against food cravings.
Just keep in mind that exercising too much for too long can actually end up increasing your hunger and cravings.
Short intense exercise sessions seem to be the best protocol for lessening food cravings over longer duration workouts.
For a complete workout plan with this style of training check out The Flat Belly Formula.
Sleep More + Stress Less
If your body is constantly sleep deprived then it’s going to be very hard for you to fight any kind of food craving.
A study found those who ended up not getting enough sleep had significantly less self-control.
Plus you’ll be fighting an uphill battle against your hormones without enough sleep.
A study by the University of Chicago found just a couple nights of not enough sleep ended up increasing the amount of leptin (the hunger hormone) in the body.
Plus this caused an increase in ghrelin (the appetite hormone) causing overeating to go through the roof.
These two together will undoubtedly cause your cravings for starchy foods to skyrocket.
The better you’re able to lower the stress levels in your life the better you’re going to be at battling food cravings.
When you’re stressed out your body will release the hormone cortisol into your body.
This stress hormone triggers you with the urge to eat junk foods higher in fat or sugar.
Plus cortisol has been linked to increases in belly fat. Yikes!
This is your body’s way of wanting to reward itself out of stressful situations. This explains why so many of us are emotional eaters.
Here’s a study finding relaxation training can be helpful for lowering the number of times people emotionally overeat.
Try taking some CBD oil to help lower your stress levels and sleep better.
Be Mindful To Reduce Your Food Cravings
The more mindful and aware you are of your food cravings the more power you’ll have over them.
This is a study found people who were more mindful with their thoughts and feelings were less likely to have belly fat.
Sometimes it can feel like these food cravings are completely overwhelming. But the more you’re aware of how you feel about these foods the more power you’ll have to fight them.
Try having a journal to track the foods you eat. Sometimes the mere act of knowing you have to write down the junk food you’re going to eat will stop you from eating it.
Plus you’ll be able to see where you can budget in some of this bad food in the future if you stick to your diet.
This will give you hope in the sense that you won’t go without the food forever.
A study by Demos found considering the long term consequences of eating junk foods was the most effective method for reducing cravings.
This was found to be a more effective way at least in this study distracting yourself.
Plan Your Meals
Another simple tip for eliminating your food cravings is to plan out your meals.
If you plan and precook your meals then you’ll instantly have them ready for you whenever cravings pop up.
Keeping the bad foods out of your house too is of the utmost importance to fighting cravings.
I have a simple rule if the food is in the house than I’m going to end up eating it.
“Out of sight out of mind” can really help you out when the food cravings start kicking in.
Keep Yourself Busy
There’s nothing worse than sitting around constantly thinking about the bad foods you want to eat.
You’ll be setting yourself up for failure!
Try taking your dog for a short walk around the block when you’re tempted by junk food.
A study found taking a short 15-minute walk helped to reduce cravings for chocolate.
Or you can whip out your phone and start playing a game.
A study by the University of Plymouth found playing just 3 minutes of a video game helped to lower food cravings.
And crazy enough sometimes just picturing yourself eating the food can help to lessen your cravings for it.
A study found those who imagined eating candy ended up eating significantly less of it than the other groups.
Or you could try picturing something else entirely.
Researchers in this study found engaging in a simple visual task really helped to lessen food cravings.
“Eat This, Not That” Method
Sometimes having total deprivation from the foods you crave isn’t going to be the answer.
Finding healthier alternatives to your food cravings might not give you ultimate satisfaction. But it’ll help to keep you going longer with your diet.
This will minimize the damage by giving in to your food cravings a little.
You’ll then be able to stick to your diet better long term than you would if the food cravings built up to the point you binge eat.
Make sure you keep your portions down.
A study in which the participants with larger bowls ended up eating 30% more ice cream than the group with smaller bowls.
The lesson here is to use smaller bowls and plates when you eat.
Sometimes no matter what you do or how much progress you make you’ll never be able to completely get rid of your food cravings.
This is why I like to have my clients go with a cheat meal or day.
Plan out all the junk you want to eat on your cheat day and then get it out of your system.
Then get right back on the wagon with your diet the next day until your cheat day next week.
Just be careful not to go too overboard. I’ve seen people go crazy on their cheat days.
Plus if you’re scheduling out the foods you’re craving it’ll give you some hope for the future.
I’ve found people are better able to stick with their diet long term when having a cheat day or meal.
How Long Does It Take to Stop Craving Carbs?
The truth is it’s going to be incredibly hard at first trying to get rid of these cravings for carbs.
Your mind is addicted to them just like it would be for alcohol or drugs.
If you know somebody who has ever tried to break their alcohol or drug addiction then you’ll have an idea of what you’re going up against.
But the good news is the longer you stick with your diet and keep exercising the more your carb cravings will diminish.
How Do You Beat Snack Cravings?
The best way to beat snack cravings is to have healthier options available at all times.
Instead of reaching for a bag of potato chips eat some low-calorie popcorn.
Making sure you’re keeping the bad snacks out of your house is critical too.
I’d go through your pantry and toss out every piece of junk snack you have.
You can check out my list of the best snacks for weight loss here.
Trying to find the one answer on how to get rid of food cravings can feel next to impossible.
Your cravings for sugar, carbs, and junk foods can seem incredibly overwhelming and impossible to beat.
But you’ll be able to significantly lower your cravings for these foods the longer you stick with the principles above.
At the end of the day, it’s probably going to take a combination of the methods above to have the biggest impact.
Willpower is rarely ever enough to get rid of food cravings so that’s why it’s important to use strategies to fight back.
By sticking with the proven strategies above you’ll be able to crush your food cravings once and for all.
Josh holds a Bachelor’s degree in Exercise Physiology and Nutrition Science. He’s a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) by the National Strength and Conditioning Association and he’s a Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) by American Council on Exercise. He’s worked as a Strength and Conditioning Coach at the high school and college levels. He has over 15 years of experience as a personal trainer and nutrition coach. He is also the author of The Flat Belly Formula. He strives to bring inspiration and results for people to live healthier lives through smart diet and exercise.