Say So Long to Cravings Forever!

Follow our research-proven tips and never regret a single morsel you put in your mouth again

June 10, 2013

Let’s face it—even the most disciplined among us will fall prey to strong cravings sometimes (or often!). This doesn’t mean that we’re weak-willed; in fact, there are lots of biological reasons cravings can come down on us like a ton of bricks—hormonal, emotional, blood sugar dips, lack of sleep, or even expending extra energy during training.

“Your thrifty genes control the hormones that boost your appetite and make you crave food,” explains Scott Isaacs, M.D., author of Beat Overeating Now “The good news is that there are realistic ways to handle these cravings as they emerge.” Check out our tips and you’ll be able to outsmart those pesky cravings once and for all.

Craving Buster: Seven solid hours
Of sleep, that is. Studies linking our bio- logical clock—our circadian rhythms that roughly follow a 24-hour cycle—to our cravings are on the rise. Scientists researching the “clock genes,” as they’re referred to, have new proof that the brain runs on one “master clock,” and our organs run on their own individual clocks. Keeping your hormones in balance will keep your clocks running in sync, alleviating sudden, seemingly irrational cravings. “One way to keep all of these hormones in sync is to maintain a regular sleep schedule on the weekends,” Isaacs explains. “A good night’s sleep prevents an increase in the stress hormone cortisol, high levels of which lead to more cravings. Really, your sleep schedule is as important as the hours you clock getting your z’s.” Waking up at the same time seven days a week will help the body regulate its circadian rhythms, thus reducing cravings. So remember to set that alarm!

Craving Buster: Healthy salt subs
“Unless your blood pressure is high, there really is no reason to cut salt out of your diet,” Isaacs says. “My fit patients who sweat and work out lose a lot of salt. So when their bodies are telling them to grab a bag of potato chips, the truth is they could be in need of sodium. Understanding that will help you make smarter choices to satisfy your need for it.” If you have the urge to down a stack of Pringles, opt for a healthy savory option instead, such as a homemade high-fiber bean soup. It will fill you up and dampen your salt craving!

Craving Buster: Regular treats
“Everyone knows that dark chocolate isn’t bad for you in moderation. What you may not know is that, if timed right, you may be able to beat your cravings altogether by eating a few squares,” Isaacs offers. The trick is to treat yourself before the craving hits. This is especially helpful before your menstrual cycle, when cravings will grow stronger. “If you know that they’re coming, prepare for them in advance. Taking care of them early with a small amount of something healthy like dark chocolate will keep you from going overboard with more unhealthy sweets later.”

Craving Buster: The sunshine vitamin
Most of us have just come out of a long, dark winter and are, therefore, lacking vitamin D. “Vitamin D is not found in food naturally, only in foods that are fortified, such as cereal. Understanding that you could be deficient, particularly during the winter, will help you get ahead of that deficiency with a supplement,” says Isaacs, who recommends taking anywhere between 1,000 and 5,000 milligrams a day. “Although vitamin D is called a vitamin, it acts like a hormone in every sense, transmitting the body’s chemical signals through the bloodstream to target receptors scattered throughout your body.” Disrupting this delicate system may play a part in sudden cravings.

Craving Buster: Uncooked cornstarch
Francine Kauffman, M.D., an endocrinologist and former president of the American Diabetes Association, just launched a line of nutrition bars and snacks called ExtendSnacks, which curb cravings by stabilizing blood sugar for up to nine hours. Her patented snacks are the only ones on the market that contain an uncooked cornstarch, along with proteins and fats. Turns out, uncooked cornstarch, while still a carbohydrate, is a low-glycemic carb that won’t make you crash on the insulin roller coaster like its cooked version will. “Through clinically conducted glucose monitoring, we’ve discovered that the fiber and uncooked cornstarch metabolize so slowly that they have minimal impact on blood sugar,” Kauffman explains. So go ahead and munch on one in the morning, noon, or at night... whenever your cravings strike (you can find them at drugstore.com).

Craving Buster: Mini-meals
If you’re not hungry, it might be tempting to skip the snacks or mini-meals you normally eat in order to save calories if you’re looking to shed some body fat. But that method can actually backfire. Eating on a schedule is an important factor in keeping your hormones (and cravings!) in check. “The two hormones that you’re trying to stabilize by eating regularly are ghrelin, the hunger hormone, and peptide YY, the appetite-suppressing hormone. These hormones, which are made in your gut, work together in tandem,” Isaacs explains. “You might not feel hungry enough to eat at those times, but you need to, anyway. This helps balance hormones and prevent hunger later, when you’re likely to overeat.”