This article is about how to stop cravings, mainly cravings for food. If you have other types of cravings, i.e. addictions, to cigarettes, drugs, sex, shopping, power and control, etc., that you want to address, I recommend you read 'The Bigger Picture of Sugar Addiction', which discusses the nature of addiction in general as well as long- and short-terms solutions to freeing yourself of addiction and living a happier life.
I also have an article about the Benefits of Long-Term Alcohol Detox which may be useful to inspire you in case alcohol is your object of craving. Note that alcohol cravings can often be linked to sugar addiction and carbohydrate sensitivity.
To quit smoking, please read Allen Carr's book: The EasyWay to Quit Smoking. That is how I stopped smoking and I have no more cigarette cravings.
In terms of food cravings, it is useful to think about HALT, an acronym coined by the Alcoholics Anonymous. It stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. These are the worst causes of food cravings as well alcohol cravings. So the advice is to stop (halt) and take care of these before making any decisions about giving into your cravings. Generally, the more you can take care of your mental well-being and happiness, the easier it will be to be healthy.
Hungry: Make sure you always have healthy snacks available and plan your meals ahead.
Angry: Find an outlet for your anger and make lifestyle changes if necessary to stop getting angry. Read: How to Control Anger and Cure Moodiness.
Lonely: Make sure that you have like-minded company to help you through withdrawal. If the only people you associate with are those who promote the object of your craving, be it cake-fanatics, sugar-junkies, restaurant-connoisseurs, hard-core party people, or just other people who are not very healthy, it is a good idea to find other social groups as well to associate with, so that you don't feel lonely when the cravings hit.
Tired: Tiredness is one of the worst causes of cravings in my case. Make resting enough a high priority, especially when making lifestyle changes.
How to Stop Cravings for Food
Below is a list of what can help to curb cravings, short-term and long-term:
- Ensure that you are not hungry, angry, lonely or tired, as described above.
- Eat enough food to feel satisfied. Focus especially on high micronutrient content food. Joel Fuhrman has great advice on this in his book, Eat for Health - book summary here.
If you are hoping to lose weight, you still have to eat enough but there are efficient ways of losing weight without having to feel hungry. In addition to reading the article above, please also read: Raw Food Weight Loss - Enjoy Maximum Benefits and Quick Weight Loss.
- Have healthy foods and snacks always available, these should be wholefood-based and free of chemicals, not packaged foods.
- Sip sparkling water
- Eat coconut oil (ideally raw), only a little is needed, maybe 1 teaspoon per day
- Eat other healthy sources of fat
- Take care of underlying health problems, ideally by seeing a good nutritionist as well as a doctor. Mineral and vitamin deficiencies, yeast and parasites, endocrine system weaknesses (e.g. thyroid, adrenal glands), food intolerances, etc. can cause cravings.
If your crave carbohydrates, such as pasta, bread, potatoes, and rice, or if you crave sugar, read this: Carbohydrate Intolerance.
Also an interesting read about mineral deficiencies is: Brain Allergies, which gives case studies on the connection between mineral deficiencies, cravings and moods.
- Ensure that you eat a balanced diet of majority vegetables, enough protein, good quality carbohydrates, some fruits, some nuts, some seeds, and seaweeds in limited quantity. Don't change your diet drastically but slowly so that your digestion, taste buds and food prep skills have time to adjust ;) Many food cravings are actually the body's message that it needs more micronutrients.
- Ensure that you are not dehydrated. Many times what you think are cravings are actually thirst. Drink at least one large glass of water in the morning when you wake up, and then at least four more times during the day. You may need more, especially if you are feeling thirsty, take diuretics such as caffeine, eat sugar which is dehydrating, exercise, if it is a hot day, etc.
- Clear out food intolerances. We are often addicted to the foods we are intolerant to. These kinds of cravings will disappear over time as you stay away from the offending food. At the same time your body will heal.
- Cut out alcohol. It can make us crave junk foods.
- Cut out junk foods. Many of the chemicals in junk foods are addictive and junk foods are full of sugar and processed carbs which are also addictive, increase your appetite, make you overeat and cause weight gain and a myriad of other problems. Gradually improve your diet and you will find that living on unpackaged fresh wholefoods can be a lot easier than you thought. The more junk foods you eat, the more you crave, but the more junk foods you cut out, the less you feel you need them - after the initial period of withdrawal.
- Journal through your feelings, as it helps especially for longer-term success with stopping cravings.
- Take a hot shower
- Eat strong-tasting foods
- Avoid hypoglycaemia, i.e. low blood sugar. According to David Wolfe the main reason why we eat is because we have too low blood sugar. Seek to balance your blood sugar to stop cravings.
- Fasting on water or green juices can help to overcome cravings. Before you start your new diet you may want to fast one day. But unless you are used to fasting, a longer fast can actually cause cravings, and bingeing on junk foods afterwards. If you wanted to fast more than one day, you could do 'intermittent fasting', e.g. fast every morning until noon or fast one day per week. But educate yourself first on the correct way to fast to ensure you don't harm your health.
- Associate with positive, healthy people. If you don't know anyone, you can start by talking to people on the internet or joining an online forum.
- Daily positive affirmations.
- Distracting yourself can help, but for longer term success staying with your feelings and thoughts is much better.
- Learn to work with your body's 'felt sense'.
- See a hypnotherapist or practice self-hypnosis.
- Give yourself a lot of time and space.
- Cultivate diverse interests.
- Live your values everyday. Don't compromise.
- Keep a list of all the reasons why you want to beat your cravings.
- Focus your mind on the positive. Surround yourself with positive messages in terms of images and text... Put photographs or posters on the wall that symbolise your new, exciting life and listen to inspiring health-related podcasts, you tube lectures, audiobooks. Watch documentaries about health and read books. Find new hobbies that relate to health. The more you can inspire yourself the easier it will be to succeed.
- What you put your mind to becomes stronger and gains focus and strength in your life. So focus on 'being free of cravings' and describing in detail all the positive aspects of your new life, instead of focusing on 'not being allowed to eat this' or 'fighting your cravings'. You will be surprised how powerful this is.
- You can use a mantra, such as 'I love being sugar free', to repeat over and over in your head when a weak moment hits.
These are my tips on how to stop cravings. I explain most of the points above in more detail in: 'How to Beat Sugar Cravings', so I recommend to read that article in combination with this one, for a deeper understanding on the above points and for more tips.
The Bigger Picture Addiction
How does it feel to be a sugar addict? Withdrawing from sugar I experienced headaches, low moods, flu-like symptoms, fatigue, and cravings for sugar, carbohydrates and alcohol. Through research I came to understand the bigger picture of sugar addiction, linked to brain chemicals, emotions, hypoglycaemia, underlying stresses and traumas, nutritional deficiencies and not enjoying ones life enough.
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How to Stop Sugar Cravings
Benefits of Long-Term Alcohol Detox
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Natural Health Remedy Library: Addiction, Sugar Addiction, Alcoholism, Cigarette addiction.
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Understanding Sugar Addiction (Carbohydrate Sensitivity) from a Nutritional Angle.