Our Fitness Blog
Crush Those Food Cravings!
"How do I control my food cravings?" This may be a question you have asked yourself many times or you may have heard others ask a very similar question. It is very common for many individuals to struggle with food cravings. They find themselves "being good" nutritionally throughout the day, and then, all heck breaks loose as the day progresses and the food cravings seem to be, once again, at an all-time high. This then leads to binge eating and overeating sessions (which then leads to weight and body fat gain). When individuals have food cravings, they tend to crave food such as a grilled chicken breast with a sweet potato and a side of vegetables, right? Of course not!! What type of foods are individuals craving when they have these food cravings? It may be foods like pizza, burgers, French fries, salty foods, sweets/sugars/candy, etc. Is there any hope for individuals that have such intense food cravings? Can these food cravings be minimized or even stopped completely? Absolutely.
We have to first look at one's nutrition, on a daily basis, in order to understand where these food cravings may be coming from. Typically, these food cravings arise due to an improper fueling frequency, improper fueling timing and/or improper balance of carbohydrate-protein-fat. In turn, this can create hormonal and neurotransmitter imbalances within the body which can then lead to food cravings. Therefore, step 1 is to get our everyday nutrition, spot-on. How do we do this? It is going to start with our fueling frequency and fueling timing. Each and every day, let's start to fuel the body right away upon awakening and then every 2.5-3.5 hours thereafter, all throughout the day. This is going to be absolutely critical for one's success when it comes to diminishing food cravings. When individuals start to skip meals and/or have too much time transpire in between meals and snacks, this can definitely lead to increased and excessive hunger which can then lead to food cravings and overeating.
Now that we have the fueling frequency and fueling timing dialed in, step 2 is the macronutrient balance at every meal and snack. The key macronutrient that is going to help reduce food cravings is what? If you guessed carbohydrate, you are right on the money. We first have to understand a bit about human physiology in order to get to the root cause of these food cravings. Serotonin is a powerful neurotransmitter/brain chemical that affects mood and appetite. Things such as our sleep (in terms of quality and quantity) and our daily nutrition affect serotonin levels. When serotonin levels are low, this can lead to increased food cravings as well as changes in one's mood. The amino acid, tryptophan, plays a very important role in serotonin. When tryptophan crosses the blood-brain barrier, it is converted into serotonin and this is exactly what we want. This is what leads to elevated mood, elevated energy levels, the feeling of satiation in terms of appetite, etc. So how do we ensure serotonin is being produced?
Well, all too often, individuals are drawn to food fads and diets. And the large majority of these food fads and diets call for high protein and very little to no complex carbohydrate. Herein lies the problem. When we consume a protein-rich meal, tryptophan cannot cross the blood-brain barrier. As a result, serotonin levels are going to remain low and this can lead to food cravings. But, when we eat complex carbohydrates, now we are on the right path for the tryptophan-serotonin conversion to occur. Complex carbohydrates are going to be the key in this process. Think of complex carbohydrates as the key that unlocks the door to success. When we consume complex carbohydrates, tryptophan can then cross the blood-brain barrier and, as mentioned by Judith J. Wurtman PhD, will be immediately converted into serotonin. And this is just another great example as to why fueling your body using the 9Round Nutrition principles is going to be such a big key to your success in terms of diminishing, if not completely knocking out, your food cravings. When individuals follow 9Round Nutrition, their fueling frequency and fueling timing will be right on the money. In addition, every meal and snack will be properly balanced with the right amount of carbohydrate-protein-fat. And as a result, food cravings will be greatly diminished.
Now that we have our everyday nutrition locked down and dialed in, there are some other things we can do as well to help knock out our food cravings. And much of this simply revolves around changing our habits. First off, once we start to fuel the body properly as mentioned above, there will not be much of a need for any more habit change in order to knock out food cravings. Simply by following the steps above, you will find yourself not craving the foods that you have in the past.
Let's say that you have created a habit of snacking on a candy bar when these food cravings hit. All we need to do is replace this candy bar with another source of fuel and BAM! A new habit has formed. This is where the K II Kookie Bar will help you to create a new habit. This Chocolate Chip Crisp energy bar not only tastes great but has the perfect balance of carbohydrate-protein-fat. By replacing the candy bar with the K II Kookie Bar, not only will you be creating a new habit, but you will also fuel your body properly. And this will help lead to a successful reduction in your food cravings.
Now that we have set our body up, physiologically, for success, let's discuss one more important component of crushing food cravings; and that is willpower. Before we get into this, we first have to be sure the stage is set properly. To do, we have to first set up the body for success, physiologically, as mentioned above. If we do not set this into motion correctly, no matter how much willpower one has, physiology is going to win. It's been often asked, 'can willpower be trained?' As discussed in the book, The Power Of Habit, the answer is yes. Willpower, much like muscles, can be trained. There are a number of steps we can take to do this. One has been mentioned above; simply substitute the food you are craving with a better choice and start to create a new habit. Also, we have to ask ourselves a key question, 'how bad do I want to achieve my goals?' This is that one-on-one conversation we have to have with ourselves. Pull that chair in front of the mirror, take a seat, and ask that person starring back at you, 'how bad do you want it?' We have to ask ourselves if giving into the food craving is more important than achieving our goals.
Virtually every time individuals give into their cravings, they feel miserable; both physically and mentally. They beat themselves up for giving in to their cravings. So, write these feeling down. Write down how bad you felt after you gave in to such food cravings. Also, write down how amazing you felt, physically and mentally, when you resisted the food cravings. Keep these close by, that way, if the food cravings start, take a step back, read aloud to yourself both of these feelings and ask yourself, 'how bad do I want it?' I have no doubt which decision you will make because you want to feel amazing. Just imagine, as each day goes by and you successfully beat these cravings, how amazing you will feel, both mentally and physically. You are starting to create a new habit and this is the new you. Like so many successful things we achieve in life, this takes time, effort, energy and patience; and the payoff will be amazing. Your willpower may be tested every time in the early stages, but sooner than later, you will be in full control and you will have crushed your cravings. Treat this no different than your workouts as you train your muscles. The workout may be challenging, a struggle and it stretches your comfort zone. And you may even feel like you cannot complete it. But, you push through, you persevere and you complete your workout. How great is this feeling? It's amazing, right? You are so proud of yourself, as you should be. Well, let's treat training our willpower the exact same way; continue to push through and persevere and just like successfully completing a workout, you will feel amazing!
Now, after all that discussion about willpower, I do not want folks beating themselves up thinking that they do not have any because they always give in to food cravings. I'll bet you have a lot more willpower than you even know and here's why I say that with confidence. Sure, there is a mental component to food cravings, but it stems from human physiology and brain chemistry. Why do we crave simple sugars, typically, when we have food cravings? Well, it's all physiological. Rememebr above we disucussed tryptophan crossing the blood-brain barrier and immediately being converted to serotonin? This is the exact reason why. Remember, the body is very smart and its going to get what it wants, whenever it needs it. If brain chemistry is off, serotonin low, the body is going to change this, how? It is going to create these food cravings and guess what? You are at the mercy of your body. It wants and needs serotonin, hence the food cravings. You 'give in' to these food cravings, thinking you have no willpower. But you do have willpower, and a lot of it! So, watch this; you get your fueling frequency, fueling timing and macronutrient balance on point and you will feel as if your willpower increased 10x. Almost immediately people respond by saying things such as, 'I do not even want those foods anymore!' 'I used to crave sugar and now I do not even think about it!' 'I used to think I was an emotional eater; but now, my food cravings are completely gone and I realized I am not an emotional eater.' Point being, once you fuel that body right, get the brain chemistry on point, your will power will increase right along with it!
If you are ready to crush those food cravings, simply follow the steps above and you will be absolutely amazed at how your body starts to respond. We look forward to hearing about your success story and how you were able to Crush Those Food Cravings.
Workout Smart, Eat Right, Get Results™!
Dr. Rick Kattouf II
2x Best-Selling Author
9Round Nutrition Coach
Named One of America’s PremierExperts® in Nutrition & Fitness
Named One Of The World Fitness Elite® Trainers Of The Year