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How to Curb Cravings & Stay Satisfied

Updated on December 12, 2007

Let's get one thing straight. You should never ignore hunger. Every time you feel hungry and do not eat, your metabolism slows down, and that is the exact opposite of what you want, whether or not you are actively trying to lose weight. What you can do is make healthy choices when you feel those cravings coming on, that won't sabotage your goals (weight-wise or otherwise).

The reasons people get cravings are many, among them boredom, stress, various triggers (olfactory, visual, and/or emotional), and actual hunger. The first step to curbing a craving is to acknowledge what it is that gave rise to it in the first place. What were you doing when the craving arose? What happened just beforehand, 10 minutes ago, last night? If you can identify the trigger, that may bring some comfort, and it will certainly help you avoid those triggers (or deal with them sooner) in the future. Note your hunger level on a scale from 1 to 7, as shown. If you are at or below a 3, you probably do need to eat.

Still, recognizing the cause will not always eliminate the craving itself. Simply trying to ignore it in the hopes it will go away by itself will only make it worse. Take a deep breath, count to ten, and allow yourself to really feel that craving. What is it about this particular food that you are desiring? Is it the texture? The taste? The hand-to-mouth motion? Or the desire to chew something? Once you have broken down for yourself what exactly you have such a yen for, you can seek out a healthy substitute.

For example:

  • If you decide that you really just need the action of raising hand to mouth, get a big glass of water. Every time you feel that urge, raise the glass to your mouth and take a sip.
  • If you are needing something to chew, try a stick of sugar-free gum.
  • If you want something crunchy and sweet, munch on some fresh carrots.
  • If you crave something crunchy and salty, try a handful of lightly salted nuts.
  • If you desire something soft and sweet, a piece of fresh fruit is a great, healthy treat. (Buy what's in season for the fullest, sweetest flavor.)
  • And so on...

Steps to Success

  • Note your hunger.

  • Identify your trigger.

  • Recognize your craving.

  • Find a healthy substitute.

  • Listen to your body.

In the end, the key to curbing cravings is just this: awareness. Your body possesses its own ingrained intelligence. Listen to it. Ignoring its messages only serves to make it more desperate to make itself heard, which manifests in stronger cravings, even in binges. Avoid that loss of control by hearing it loud and clear the first time, and taking action on what it tells you. Contrary to popular belief, your body is not the enemy. It's been on your side the whole time. You just need to work with it, not against it.


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