The human body is nothing short of amazing: without cue, we know when to sleep, when to wake up and when go to the bathroom. Your body maintains a temperature of 98.6 degrees, repairs itself when wounded and performs the miracle of pregnancy and childbirth if you are a woman. It hardly ever makes mistakes. So, we must trust our bodies and look closely at the foods, deficits and behaviors in our lives as the underlying causes of our cravings.
Although cravings are often viewed as weaknesses, they are actually important messages meant to help our bodies achieve balance. When we experience a craving, it’s our job to deconstruct it. We must ask ourselves what our bodies want and why.
I know what you’re thinking: “It’s not possible to totally stop cravings. Everyone has them. This is bullshit—she’s not human.” Well, you’re not entirely wrong.
Allow me to rephrase: I promise you it IS possible to rid yourself of nagging cravings for comfort food. You should always have cravings for healthy food.
Honestly, I never thought the day would come that I would be writing about this, because I was a sugar addict myself for the longest time. Not only that, but I loved bread and pasta. So, how did I get over it? By slowly reconditioning my mind and body, over the course of several years, with patience and persistence. It’s not easy, but there is light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s worth it. In fact, it is one of the most empowering accomplishments to never feel deprived and truly enjoy food.
So, here’s how I do it:
- I drink a ton of water. Being properly hydrated is key. If you are not drinking enough water, you can mistake dehydration for hunger which often leads to sugar cravings.
- I meditate daily. When you are stressed, you are more likely to seek out comfort food. Meditation calms us and facilitates mindful eating. Mindful eating is a practice that allows you to tune into your body’s needs and be thoughtful about how you nourish yourself. Stopping to think before you eat is incredibly important.
- I make sure that I’m living a balanced life. Being dissatisfied with a relationship or having an inappropriate exercise routine, being bored, stressed, uninspired by a job, or lacking a spiritual practice may all cause emotional eating. In this case, food is used to fill a void or as a substitute for entertainment. I make a habit of checking in with myself, to ensure I am not neglecting important aspects of my life.
- I found healthy replacements for the junk foods I was craving. Often times, cravings come from foods that we have eaten recently, that were eaten by our ancestors or are from our childhood. So, I replaced the cravings I was having with nutritious versions of the food. White flour pasta was replaced by brown rice or quinoa pasta, standard ice cream was replaced by nondairy ice cream or acai sorbet, milk chocolate was replaced by 70% dark chocolate, etc. It takes some adjusting, but eventually you will become so used to the new healthy foods, that you won’t miss the old ones. And, when you do have the old ones, they will taste different and not as good.
- I added new foods to my diet. Healthy foods that I never used to eat —like quinoa, kale salads, smoothies and chia pudding—have became the foundation of my diet. Nowadays, I look forward to having my Chocolate Chia Oatmeal instead of an English muffin with jam. I don’t even think about the alternative anymore.
- I exercise daily. There is something about putting in an hour or more of intense physical activity to look and feel your best that will make you maybe not want to have that ice cream sundae. It’s kind of like working for money and not wanting to squander it on something stupid. Similarly, you want to see your hard work at the gym pay off with a rockin’ bod instead of cancelling it out with dessert.
- I educated myself. Yes, I am that person who always reads the nutritional labels and will drink and eat nothing that I don’t understand. Once you learn about nutrition, there is no turning back. Those foods that I used to love like Doritos are no longer great to me, because I don’t actually even consider them as food anymore. I’ve learned how to recognize commercialized masquerades.
- I keep a balanced diet. When your body is properly nourished by a well-balanced diet of whole foods, you are unlikely going to have cravings.
- I drink little to no alcohol. This is major. Not only does alcohol weaken your inhibitions, but it depletes your body of nutrients, thereby naturally causing cravings.
- I do not deprive myself of treats. Dark chocolate is a part of my daily diet. I love an acai bowl when I’m in the mood for something sweet and decadent. Refined sugar and flour are never on my mind. If someone else is having cake, I may have a bite or two, but it’s because I want to and not because I need to. There is no guilt associated with what I eat. Now, I enjoy every single bite, knowing fully that I deserve it. Healthy food is awesome, because it feels good while you’re eating it AND makes you feel great afterwards!
Remember to focus on progress, not perfection, on the journey to zero cravings. It is a definitely a long one, but you can do it!
Kristy Rao is a Certified Health and Nutrition Coach and native New Yorker. She works with clients nationwide to create holistic, personalized plans to achieve weight loss and natural beauty. Follow her on Twitter @KristyRao and on Instagram @KRHealth