Chocolate. Ice Cream. Pizza. Potato chips. Candy. Do you have food cravings for these and other tempting foods? If you are on a journey to lose weight, chances are good it won’t take very long before food cravings will strike. Here are 3 steps to conquer your food cravings forever and find lasting weight loss.
What Happens During Food Cravings?
Food cravings are an intense desire for a particular food or flavor. Often food cravings are for foods that are salty, sweet or high in sugar, fat, and calories.
Picture it. You’ve decided on a new healthy routine. You are motivated and inspired to lose weight, feel stronger, and make lasting changes.
No more bowls of ice cream before bed and enough with the mid-afternoon snacking. You are determined to make it stick this time.
It doesn’t take long…maybe it’s a few days (or who are we kidding here, maybe a few hours) after you have resolved to eat healthier…when a food craving strikes.
- You smell a pizza from a near-by work party and suddenly your mind can think of nothing else.
- You are at home with little ones and their french fries look crispy, hot, and delicious.
- In the evening you cannot stop munching on potato chips or popcorn.
- Chocolate seems to call your name and you can’t resist picking up the latest flavor of M&Ms from the check out line at the grocery story.
What about all that wonderful willpower and resolve you had just a short while ago? Why do food cravings seem so irresistible in the moment?
Why Your Food Cravings are So Strong
Everyone has food cravings at times, but for most people these are a passing desire. They might eat the food or might not depending on if it’s handy.
For those of us with food and weight issues, food cravings are often a much different experience. The cravings feel incredibly intense and almost impossible to resist.
Why is this?
The reason why some people have intense, almost out of control food cravings is that we have conditioning ourselves to make our food cravings stronger with our behavior.
I know it’s not very fun to think about the fact that you have contributed to your own intense food cravings.
It’s much more pleasant to think food cravings are your body trying to signal that you need something or some type of hormonal imbalance, but the reality is that the majority of the time food cravings are for emotional reasons.
Each time you give in to any type of craving, you make it stronger. If you’ve been in the habit over the years of giving in to your food cravings, you’ve continued to strengthen those desires over the years.
When I was 100 pounds heavier, I gave in to my cravings constantly. They became stronger and so the cycle continued.
Changing your habits is going to require effort but rest assured it can be done. While food cravings will never go away totally, you can decrease your food cravings, and their severity, by not continually giving in to them.
When Food Cravings Come on Suddenly
Food cravings often come on suddenly and are for one specific food or type of food. According to Mayo clinic, this is an important distinction to understand because this signals that food cravings are for mental reasons vs. true physical hunger.
- Comes on gradually.
- Is open to different foods.
- Comes from the stomach.
- Is patient (especially at first).
- Stops eating when full.
- Is sudden.
- Is often for a specific food.
- Comes from the head. (But may be felt in the body.)
- Is urgent.
- Does not stop when full.
Start to pay attention and notice if your hunger and food desires are from physical hunger or emotional hunger.
3 Steps to Conquer Your Food Cravings Forever
Use the following 3 steps to conquer your food cravings so that you can achieve your weight loss and healthy eating goals.
In our Faithful Finish Lines Christian weight loss program, we have a specific strategy we teach for how to manage food cravings. While we teach women in the program a more detailed approach, this overview will help you get started immediately.
Especially when you are first working to get rid of the habit of giving in to food cravings, it can be quite challenging! This step-by-step approach makes it more manageable.
Here are the steps for how to deal with a food cravings. We call these the 3Ps.
Use the 3Ps to Beat Food Cravings
- Pause. Stop. Breath. Often people find this to be the toughest part. Food cravings feel immediate and urgent. But remember this is just a feeling. Your “toddler brain” is throwing a bit of temper tantrum, but you can override this with the logical, adult part of your brain. Wait at least 10 minutes before choosing to take any bites. Often the craving will pass.
- Pray. Ask God for his guidance. He has promised not to leave you without a way out from under temptation. (Click here for more Bible verses to use during these moments, including printable cards.)
- Plan. We highly encourage women in our programs to plan what they are going to eat the next day. Maybe writing your desired food into tomorrow’s plan is the smartest strategy. You can still enjoy it, but not in the moment of giving in to a craving.
FAQ about Food Cravings
Wait 10 minutes. Research shows that the majority of food cravings pass in 9 minutes or less. For a more in-depth approach, use the 3Ps which is to 1. Pause 2. Pray and 3. Plan.
While food cravings never go away completely, part of the reason your food cravings are so strong is that you give in to them regularly. The more you practice saying “no” to food cravings the more they will diminish.
Yes and no. All of our bodies have built-in hunger mechanisms that tell us when to eat and the food we need. However, many of us have disordered mechanisms due to years of unhealthy eating patterns. Also, our current food supply is engineered by food scientists to be over-consumed. Intuitive eating is possible with training and effort, but many people are not able to use this method early in weight loss.
There’s a popular notion that specific food cravings mean your body is depleted of key nutrients that lead to the craving. While there might be a bit of truth to this, it’s largely a myth used to make you feel better about your food cravings and sell health and fitness magazines. Most cravings are driven by thoughts about food, triggers from seeing or smelling foods, or our desires to eat for emotional reasons.
While your food cravings will never go away completely, by using the 3Ps to conquer food cravings, you’ll be able to master them rather than allowing them to master you. With these skills in place, you’ll be able to reach your weight loss goals – and stay there.