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5 Ways to Stop Cravings

Updated on June 25, 2009

Nothing derails a diet quicker than a killer craving for your favorite forbidden food. Some experts say that you should give in and "just have a tiny bite" but this has never worked for me. I just can't stop at one cookie, or one square of decadent, melt-in-your-mouth chocolate. I have to find ways to either prevent cravings or give myself a little extra strength not to give in. Here are five of my favorites:

1. Aromatherapy

We all know that smelling something delicious can set off a major craving. But your sense of smell can be a powerful ally in fighting cravings as well. Experts recommend using essential oils, and putting a few drops on a tissue. Here are three scents to keep you out of the cookie jar:

  • Grapefruit: Although the grapefruit diet is way too much of a good thing, smelling grapefruit has been scientifically proven to reduce appetite. Researchers think that, because the smell of grapefruit affects liver enzymes, it promotes weight loss. 
  • Vanilla: While this sounds counter-intuitive, this sweet smell actually tricks the body into thinking that sugar cravings have already been satisfied. Although make sure that your craving is just a craving, not real hunger. If you're starving, smelling vanilla may just send you straight to the next ice cream shop. 
  • Peppermint: Maybe the most effect scent of them all, research has shown that people who regularly smelled peppermint reduced their hunger cravings to the point that they consumed 3,000 fewer calories over the course of a week. That's almost a whole pound! Peppermint has even been shown to improve concentration. Not bad for a little sniffing action.

Photo by jovike on Flickr
Photo by jovike on Flickr

2. Walnuts

Try an ounce of walnuts and a big glass of water to conquer a craving. Because walnuts are high in Omega-3 fats and protein, they actually affects your body chemistry to turn off that physical urge to splurge. A generous glass of water makes you feel full while you wait for the nuts to do their magic.

3. Coffee

While sugar and caffeine cravings go hand-in-hand for many people (chocolate!) a cup of coffee may actually be helpful when you're in the heat of the craving moment. In the short term, caffeine is a powerful appetite suppressant, and it can also give you the energy boost your body may have been looking for in a carbohydrate rich treat. However, the jury continues to be split over the long-term effects of caffeine, so you should only use this as an occasional cravings buster.

4. Cut out Artificial Sweeteners

This piece of advice is more of a cravings preventer, but you might be surprised what a difference it can make in reducing your sugar cravings. Most of us assume that sugar is the enemy, and replacing it with calorie-free alternatives like Splenda, Equal, or Sweet n' Low is a smart move. Well, new evidence shows that the opposite may actually be true.

When we consume something sweet--whether it's real or fake sweetness--our body gets ready for some sugary satisfaction by getting digestive enzymes and brain chemicals going. Artificial sweeteners don't provide the body with any real sugar to digest, so the body's response is still in high gear. That means it wants sugar, the real thing, and it wants it bad. Hello cravings!

Some of you may be concerned about gaining weight if you start using real sugar, but in my experience, the reduction in cravings really balances things out. Plus, you may start being more conscious of how much you sweeting your food and drink, and learn to be happy with less. Of course, if you're diabetic, this advice may not be for you. But for everyone with a healthy glucose metabolism, give the real thing a try. Your body may just thank you. 

5. Consider a Supplement

I'll say it right now: I'm not a doctor and my recommendations here are based purely on my personal experience! But the smart doctors who wrote You on a Diet convinced me to try a natural supplement called 5-HTP to prevent cravings.

5-HTP is a derivative of tryptophan (the stuff in turkey that makes you sleepy on Thanksgiving), which is an essential building block of serotonin (the stuff in your brain that makes you happy). I've taken very low doses of this stuff on a few occasions and always find that it puts a noticeable damper on those crazy carbohydrate cravings. It's available over the counter and easy to find at most health food stores. If you want to give it a try, do some research first to make sure it's safe for you.


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