Six Reasons You’re Battling Cravings
Cravings are the #1 struggle I hear about from women trying to nail down their nutrition. If you’re struggling with food cravings and feel out of control around certain foods, especially at night time, these six culprits are possibly to blame.
You need more sleep.
Less than 7 hours of sleep? Yeah, probably not cutting it. The quality and quantity of our sleep has a strong effect on the hormones that influence both our satiety (leptin) and hunger (grehlin) – as well as things like fat loss and muscle gain.
When we are sleep deprived, even just for one night, our body decreases leptin, our satiety hormone, and increases ghrelin, the hunger hormone, causing us to want to eat more.
THE FIX: Not only is sleep crucial for overall health, but it’s a potent tool for reducing cravings. Aim for 7+ hours per night, especially if you want to see improvements in your body composition.
You’re afraid of carbs.
Carbs get a pretty bad rap and always take the blame for weight gain. But the only thing that will EVER cause you to gain weight is consistently consuming more calories than your body burns.
It doesn’t matter if those calories come from carbs, fats, “clean” foods, protein, organic food, green smoothies, French fries, pine cones or the nectar of Greek gods.
If you’ve been fearful of carbs and skimpin’ on them, chances are your body has been screaming at you to give it some carbs!
THE FIX: Eat adequate amounts of fiber dense/unrefined carbs (potatoes, brown rice, sprouted grain bread, oatmeal, starchy vegetables like butternut squash, etc) throughout the day. Start by including them in your pre- and post-workout meals.
The amount of carbs needed is different for everyone. So experiment with the quantity and type of carbs you eat to find an amount that leaves you feeling full, satisfied, and without cravings, while still reaching your goals.
You’re a stress case.
Stress is everywhere. Whether its stress over finances, an overbooked schedule, a dirty kitchen, lack of sleep or being robbed at gun point – our body doesn’t know the difference.
Regardless of the source of stress, our body treats it the same, and it’s stress response directly affects our food intake.
When we’re stressed, our body initiates the fight-or-flight response. Hormones are released to provide energy and then replenish energy lost from “fighting and fleeing”.
Unfortunately, our bodies don’t understand that we now work desk jobs and don’t expend very much energy, but it still leaves us craving sugar and carbs for quick energy sources.
To make matters worse, foods high in sugar, salt, and fat elicit a strong response from our happy/calming hormones (like serotonin), making us want them even more during stressful times.
THE FIX: As a society we will never be totally stress free, but we can remove or avoid the stressors that are in our control like unhealthy relationships, poor time management, an overflowing inbox, negative self-talk, etc.
We can also learn to not only manage stress, but to expect it so we can ebb and flow with it, and implement stress-reducing activities like long walks in fresh air, laughing with friends, exercise, reading, journaling and many forms of self-care.
You’re not eating enough protein.
I know, us fitness people seemingly never shut up about protein. But there’s a really, really good reason behind that – protein helps control appetite by keeping us fuller longer because it takes a lengthier amount of time to digest.
So even if you are eating an adequate amount of calories, if you’re not eating enough protein, you could be left craving sweets, feeling hungry and unsatisfied.
THE FIX: You can find protein in animal sources like chicken, turkey, beef, pork, fish, greek yogurt and eggs, as well as protein powders and bars (look for ones with 15g+). Plant based sources like tempeh are also good options.
If you are a woman, start by aiming for 3-4 palm sized portions per day, or 20-30 grams per meal if you are eating 3-4 meals per day.
You’ve been dieting for too long.
If you’re trying to be in fat loss mode 365 days a year…you’re going to have a bad time. For most women, diets tend to equate to battling against their body, and when we fight our bodies, our bodies fight back.
So if you’ve been in a caloric deficit for several months, or have been yo-yo dieting for a while, your body most likely has heightened its ability to pursue food and make it seem more alluring than usual. You’re also probably just really effin’ hungry.
THE FIX: Take a break from fat loss and focus on simply maintaining for a while. Give your body and metabolism a breather. I know it’s scary, but it’s a great time to work on strength and performance and even putting on a little muscle in the meantime – which will help your metabolism in the long term. Work on implementing normal eating behaviors like tuning into your body and eating when you’re hungry and putting the fork down when you’re satisfied.
Your meals aren’t satisfying.
More often than not, cravings and overindulging are directly caused by feelings of deprivation. Trying to white knuckle our way through our diet always has consequences, particularly cravings and compensatory overindulgences.
Feeling sufficiently satisfied with our daily meals and actually enjoying the way we eat makes it a lot easier to keep cravings at bay and ditch the “cheat meal” mindset that could be sabotaging your progress.
So if you’re finishing your meals feeling physically full but like something is still missing, or you’re bummed forcing down plain salads with fat-free dressing and plain chicken and asparagus, this is for you.
THE FIX: First make sure you’re eating enough protein and plenty of veggies consistently every day. Next, build some more satisfaction into your daily meals.
Include small amounts of more satisfying foods like cheese, breakfast meats (bacon, sausage), avocado or guacamole, nut butters, dark chocolate, red wine, cream in your coffee, etc. to help “take the edge off”. These foods aren’t your typical fat-loss friendly foods, but we usually don’t need to eat large amounts of them to feel satisfied.
So if you sprinkle them in moderately, they shouldn’t be an issue. A small handful of extra calories in the form of “built in relief” can prevent eating hundreds extra or more later on during compensatory binge. More satisfaction = more consistency.
If you’re a woman who wants to incite sustainable, positive change in her life by building a healthy, strength-based relationship with food, fitness and her body and filter through ALL the BS…
I want to help you! Reach out for more info: Erika@HurstStrength.com
**Online coaching available**.