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I give in to almost every single craving…
It’s true! That wasn’t just a sneaky opening line to get you to read this post. Today we are going to talk all about what cravings are, what causes them and how to be successful in your efforts to combat cravings.
A handful of years ago I actually experienced an immense amount of cravings on a daily basis. I told myself I had a sweet tooth, when in actual fact I had an everything tooth! A sweet tooth, salty tooth, wine tooth…you get the picture. My cravings were a direct result of a number of factors: what I ate, what I drank, how much I slept and the amount of exercise I participated in.
Let’s get started from the top and discuss why your food choices, hydration habits, sleeping routine and exercise schedule dictate the amount and severity of the cravings you will experience.
A craving is a brain made sensation that creates a desire for a certain taste – sweet, sour, salty or savory. Cravings can also create the desire for escape, stress reduction or relaxation.
Cravings are caused mostly by imbalanced hormones. The challenge with this answer is that hormones are something of a buzz topic in the health and wellness industry right now. Imbalanced hormones happen to all of us, all day, every day. When we experience hunger, this is due to an increase in our hunger hormone Ghrelin. You could argue that feeling hungry is a hormonally imbalanced state. There is nothing wrong with being hungry, we eat and then ghrelin production ceases. But cravings happen when we have chronically imbalanced hormones.
There are five steps in the combat cravings plan. When I focus on even a couple of these items I notice a stark difference in my ability to overcome cravings because I simply do not experience as many as I used to!
Ok, I know this one sounds crazy. In order to stop craving sweets and refined carbohydrates, we need to stop eating them as often? Yep, that is correct.
Unfortunately, a lot of quick snack foods like muffins, cookies, crackers and candy actually create a hormonal and mental state that increases cravings. When we stop eating these types of foods as frequently, we experience less cravings for them. This is one of the main reasons I go out for a warm, freshly baked muffin once a week. This is one of my favourite foods and I love my ritual, but having a muffin every day or every other day actually leads me to crave more sugary, starchy foods. How do I know? I tried that strategy…and its true, a muffin a day creates a muffin top, ha!
Adopting this approach has also helped me to change my palate over the years. I crave sugar less because I eat it less. Fresh berries, dark chocolate or real maple syrup are plenty sweet enough for me these days. And yes, I used to be a sugar-aholic, just ask my old roommate Amy about the sugary things I used to bring home!
Before you skip right by this one and say ‘yada, yada I know I need to drink water’ hear me out. This one MATTERS. To this day I feel a sharp increase in cravings for sweets when I am dehydrated. I’ll make this simple for you:
You need to be drinking at least 2 litres of plain water each day, for your health and to combat cravings. Being adequately hydrated tells your brain and cells to lower hunger signals and supports regular cell functioning. This means we are much less likely to feel the need for a quick sugar kick to keep our energy up.
Sleeping less than 6 hours a night changes our entire hormonal situation. We secrete more Ghrelin (our main hunger hormone that is also involved in craving creation) and we secrete less Human Growth Hormone (a hormone that is vital in helping our muscles recover).
The combination of higher Ghrelin and lower Human Growth Hormone does wonders to make our cravings ramp up. Getting 7-8 hours of sleep is a great goal to help you experience less craving craziness.
When we increase our exercise duration, one of the first hormonal changes we see is an increase in Ghrelin. This hormone is produced by our stomach and is responsible for the empty, growling feeling we experience in our gut. The more we exercise, the more our appetite increases.
When I stopped teaching hours of fitness classes each week I noticed a sharp decrease in my hunger and cravings. I am certainly not telling you to stop doing what you love, but if your biofeedback cues are out of control, then changing up your exercise routine to include more targeted training rather than simply hours of exercise duration will do wonders for your craving levels.
As I said, I give in to almost every craving I have these days. To be fair, I experience very low amounts of cravings as compared to 3-4 years ago, but I also have a better strategy when I want something sweet. I listen to my body, I rarely use willpower because I know it will boomerang back into a bigger craving later, I keep dark chocolate in the house and limited other sweets, I have small bites and then get out of the kitchen and do something else.
The key to mastering your cravings is to create a lifestyle in which you have minimal cravings to start with! Then, like I told you in the opening sentence, you can give in to most of the cravings you have because they simply will not happen as often as you may be experiencing at this current moment in time.
Kicking cravings to the curb is vital when it comes to living a lean lifestyle, and the only way to see sustainable change is to begin taking the steps to create a lifestyle shift. Your lifestyle is how you LIVE. Join me for the next 5 weeks as I coach you on all the ways to eat, move and think for a lean life. My newest program The Lean Living Jumpstart is open for registration until Saturday May 30th only. Grab your fully designed workout schedule including videos, a 30 page nutrition guide with recipes and a flexible menu plan and access to our private coaching group plus oodles more from June 1 – July 5 when you sign up HERE.
Have a great weekend and hope to see you in our fabulous jumpstart group this June!