It’s hard to control cravings for food. Learn how to stop a food craving with these foolproof strategies.
I used to weigh 200lbs.
I’m ashamed to say that, but at the same time, I’m now proud to say that I’ve lost over 60lbs (well I did gain it back once and then had to lose it again) but now I’ve kept it off for over 5 years.
How to Stop Food Cravings
Food cravings felt like they were going to be my demise as I struggled to overcome my sugar addiction. Being at home in the evenings was the worst time for me.
It wasn’t until I realized that I had to meet my food craving with a healthy pleasure that I was able to finally overcome them on a regular basis.
Before I started dealing with chronic pain, my healthy pleasure was typically an evening workout that gave me a nice endorphin rush and sense of accomplishment.
When I was no longer able to continue that healthy habit, I sunk into a pit of food cravings that consumed me.
I learned I’m prone to deceive myself by thinking that the current pleasure of whatever food was tempting me will also give me long term pleasure.
But telling myself “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” wasn’t enough.
Whether you are eating keto, paleo, grain free or just trying to eat healthier, here’s what helped me overcome the temptations of my food cravings.
Talk To Your Doctor About Your Food Cravings
I wish I had done this sooner.
When I first started struggling with overeating, it was partially due to nutrient deficiencies.
I started an elimination type diet based on a food sensitivities test and wasn’t feeling satiated in the evenings.
My functional medicine doctor was helpful at identifying what I was missing.
I was magnesium deficient (more on that later).
I needed more healthy fats when I had a stool test in which I excreted no fat. My body had absorbed all the fat I had consumed even though I had eaten an avocado the previous 4 days.
I started being extra generous with my olive oil on salads and bought some MCT oil to squirt on other dishes to help me feel more satisfied.
I also learned that when I gave into my sugar cravings, I was feeding the bad bacteria in my gut. There would always be a hump in which they were craving sugar and it felt like I was craving the sugar.
When I was able to tell myself that I had eaten a well balanced diet that day and it was the bad bacteria dying off and not actually me who was hungry, it really helped.
I felt empowered.
Unfortunately, your primary care doctor doesn’t have the training on optimizing nutrition. Find a practitioner who can actually identify your specific nutritional needs.
After working with a doctor who has been trained in nutrition, like a Functional Medicine Doctor, if you’re still experiencing strong food cravings, here’s what I suggest to help you.
Pause To Recognize And Reflect On Your Food Craving
At times when the temptation to eat food that isn’t healthy overcomes me, I’ve found it most helpful to pause and reflect on why I’m feeling so hungry.
I’ll ask myself, “What emotion am I feeling along with this hunger?”
This was difficult to stop and identify because as a preteen I began telling myself that all emotions were bad and I tried to squash them.
In my young adult years, mentors helped me identify that my emotions are a good thing to be heeded.
My emotions want to help me. My emotions are trying to tell me something.
Emotions aren’t to be ignored. They are to be identified and worked through.
Here are the emotions that have come up and how I sat with them:
What am I frustrated about and why am I trying to use food to escape? Is there some immediate action I need to take to reconcile or do I just need to decompress?
Sometimes, it’s as simple as just admitting to myself or on paper what I am frustrated about and accepting that I can’t do anything about it.
Why am I sad and why am I turning to food for comfort?
Typically if I’m feeling sad I have to ask myself, what do I need to take time to grieve?
Am I craving connection? Who can I reach out to that would appreciate a call?
What am I trying to push down and be apathetic towards? Is there something I need to lament or deal with that I’m trying to escape from?
What is vexing me and is there something I can do about it? How can I change my internal conversation to calm down?
I always come to the conclusion that food won’t actually help my situation and it will only feel good for 5-10 minutes.
Not worth it.
Once I put in the internal work to identify why I was having a food craving and work through my emotions in a healthy way, then I turn to a health pleasure to help me cope well.
How to Stop a Food Craving
In order to halt my food cravings, I had to find ways to get my body feeling good. I like to think of them as healthy pleasures.
Here’s what worked for me:
Drink Herbal Tea
I’m sure that I was also dehydrated but I wanted something satisfying. I decided to drink herbal teas as a substitute to a sugar binge. (No caffeine here!)
My absolute favorite herbal tea is red raspberry leaf. I also enjoy red clover, dandelion root, nettle leaf, and lemon balm.
I made the mistake of buying wormwood after reading about its health benefits.
Do A Face Mask
It’s hard to eat when you have slimy goo on your face or you’re trying to keep one of those slippery sheets on.
It also just feels good to take care of yourself with a healthy pleasure.
Take An Epsom Salt Bath
This might be one of my favorites. I didn’t know until I had been doing these for years that epsom salt is actually a form of magnesium that is absorbed through your skin.
If you’re a woman whose food cravings tend to come before your menstrual cycle, I highly recommend epsom salt baths. Some of the foods we crave, like chocolate, are high in magnesium.
Whether you’re a man or woman, it’s also difficult to wander into the kitchen when you are in the bathtub.
Paint Your Nails
Overcoming food cravings by painting my nails is something I did earlier in my journey. I didn’t want to mess up my hard work or get nail polish on my food, so I would paint my nails and then sit tight for an hour or two before getting up. By that time, the food craving usually passed.
It also just feels good to take care of yourself in this creative way.
At times, I’ve wondered if my food cravings are because my body is craving endorphins and other feel good hormones.
Try pursuing, connecting, and being intimate with your spouse instead of giving into your food cravings.
Later on in my health journey, I was able to find gum that didn’t have any ingredients I’m allergic to. Chewing gum is a helpful alternative to stop food cravings.
Brush Your Teeth
You know that mint toothpaste is going to make whatever you’re craving taste reeeeal funky.
Call A Friend
When I am isolated, I make less healthy choices. As an extrovert, I have a high need for connection with others. I realized I was reaching for food because I was craving connection.
At times, I’d try calling a friend or two to chat and distract myself from the temptation and by the time the call ended, I usually forgot I was feeling hungry.
The year that I started gaining weight was my first time living alone as an adult. Looking back, I was feeling isolated and lonely and was turning to food for comfort and connection.
Other Healthy Pleasures
If you don’t have chronic pain, here are some healthy pleasures to try for an endorphin rush:
- Do an exercise video
- Go for a walk
- Go workout at a gym
Do The Next Best Thing
At times, the best way to move on from a food craving is to do the next best thing.
What’s next on your to do list? What should you be doing right now instead of stuffing your face?
How to Curb Your Cravings
If you have enough self control to go in the kitchen without over indulging, frozen berries are delicious. I stock up when they are cheap and keep them on hand.
However, I’ve tried eating healthy foods but still ended up overindulging.
One time I ate a 3lb bag of carrots in one sitting.
I felt awful afterwards.
A wise man once said, “Complete abstinence is easier than perfect moderation.”
Sometimes it’s easier to just not get up when you’re being tempted. If you have a regular time you are tempted to binge, grab a cup of water, and park your bottom down while it passes.
The Ultimate Answer to Food Cravings
While navigating my health issues, emotions, and healthy pleasures are all wise choices, Ultimately, I realized that my intense food cravings needed a bigger answer.
No food was going to save me from all my problems.
All of the emotional work I did led me to realize my dependence on God.
God is my comfort. God is my salvation.
Even though food may tempt me and tell me that it has all the answers, it doesn’t.
Only God himself can truly satisfy my emotional cravings for connection and relationship.
I am a sinner in need of a Savior. And God sent His Son Jesus Christ to die for my sins and he rose again from the dead to prove that he is God.
Alongside all of the mental work and healthy pleasures, I’ve learned to turn to God in my weakest moments and admit that I am hungry and I am being tempted beyond what I can bear and I ask for his help.
And God shows up.
The next time you face a food craving, I encourage you to turn to God, even if you are unfamiliar with Christianity and ask him to help you overcome your food craving.
You can learn more about him by reading the Bible. I’d recommend starting with the Gospel of John.
What helps you overcome food temptation?