How to stop food cravings

Have you ever been driving in your car and felt the sudden need to pull over – for food?

Whether you were leaving the house for a quick errand and couldn’t stop thinking about a bag of potato chips or coming home from work and the urge for fast food hit, at some point, we’ve all encountered food cravings.

Examples of common food cravings

Though there are many universal food cravings that tend to strike the majority of people ­– such as the craving for a chocolate chip cookie or the craving for French fries – most people have their own individual weaknesses. They are often based on cultural or social traditions and norms, though in some cases, they could indicate a nutritional deficiency.

Craving something crunchy

When you crave something crunchy like pretzels or potato chips, you could be yearning for the salt, which could indicate you are thirsty and need to drink more water. However, you could also be stressed and want the release that biting into something with a crunch produces.

Craving something sweet

Sugar releases serotonin, the feel-good chemical, which fires off in your brain. If you’re craving sweets, you may actually need a mood boost. Sweets are often given as rewards in our youth as well, so you could crave a sweet treat when you feel you’ve done something worth celebrating.

sweet candy

comfort food

Craving starches

If you want starchy white carbs like bread, pasta or crackers, your craving comes from the same place as your craving of sweets; your body treats them the same way. If you’re mentally or emotionally exhausted and need a boost, you may crave these calorie-dense foods.

Craving comfort food

When you’re feeling down, you may crave the foods your parents made for you when you were sick or sad as a child. Chicken noodle soup, meat loaf, lasagna, mac and cheese and mashed potatoes are all examples of heavy comfort foods that you may still believe will make you feel loved.

Occasional food cravings can be normal, but when they become constant and overwhelming to the point that your life has begun to revolve around food or if they are leading to weight gain, it’s time to seek a solution. Here’s everything you need to know about how to stop food cravings.

Accept that food cravings are rarely physical

Let’s think back to the times when you were unable to stop cravings and gave in to your eating impulses. It’s usually not a craving for something healthy. In fact, food cravings often result in binging, or eating so much that you feel like you can’t control yourself. After a while, when you feel like you can’t take it any longer, you buy yourself the burrito and a side of nachos or mindlessly eat an entire container of ice cream while watching television.

Here’s the thing about binging: You’re not seeking to consume a certain type of food; you’re looking for a specific emotion. When learning how to control food cravings, you need to realize that what you really crave is feeling a certain way. You think a particular sort of food is the only way to fulfill this need, even though you rationally know better. That’s why you turn to food when you’re feeling anxious, stressed or like you need to reconnect with yourself. You think that a certain type of food will be able to reset your emotions, but that’s hardly ever the case. In fact, you usually feel pretty terrible after an episode of binging, and find yourself wondering how to stop craving junk food altogether.

How to stop food cravings naturally

The best way to learn how to control food cravings is to modify your behavior. When you can control your triggers and learn to be in charge of your own emotions, you can stop food cravings naturally. Here are some ways.

Examine your focus

person craving burger

When you’re experiencing food cravings, it’s because you’re allowing your mind to focus entirely on the sensation of eating. Remember, where focus goes, energy flows. Your desire takes the form of thinking about what it would be like to smell and taste your preferred food, be it donuts, French fries or chocolate chip cookies, and you’re already envisioning how it will feel to “reward” yourself once you fulfill the craving.

The next time you begin to feel like this, notice your bad habit. What kind of mood are you in when your food cravings kick in? Is it a certain type of food that you usually crave? When do you begin to lose focus on your daily life and start shifting your thoughts toward food? The more you recognize these negative thought patterns, the quicker you’ll be able to stop them in the future.

Find what makes you feel good

Now, what if instead of giving in to your food cravings, you found another outlet that made you attain the emotion you’re after? How to stop food cravings involves finding a suitable – and healthier – replacement that actually fills your deeper need. If you’re looking to feel more joyful, why not try swapping out binge eating for a walk around the block or reading a story to your children? If you’re overeating because you think it will take your mind off stressful thoughts, why not try doing something like finding a podcast or a new author you’re wild about?

It’s going to take practice at first. You’re used to giving in to your cravings, seeking out comfort in food. But over time, your mind will shift once you begin to integrate new, healthier habits into your life. Now when you’re stressed, you know you have an upcoming episode of your favorite podcast to fall back on instead of stopping through the drive-thru for a burger.

coffee and a notebook

Have a plan in place

have a plan

When it comes to how to control food cravings, if you don’t have a plan, then you plan to fail. If your cravings hit at a certain time every day, make sure you have a healthy snack close by that you can turn to instead of seeking out junk. If your cravings are triggered by a certain event – such as your co-worker putting donuts in the break room or the ice cream truck rolling up in your office’s parking lot – plan to be out of the office at that time. Many people give in to food cravings because they are unprepared. They forget to pack a lunch based on their sustainable health diet, so they end up hitting the nearest fast food joint because their hunger triggers a craving for junk food.

Develop your willpower

Sometimes, how to stop craving junk food is just a matter of willpower. You know it will taste wonderful, but you don’t like how it makes you feel or the impact it has on your health. So how do you forgo the immediate gratification and just say no? One way to increase your willpower is to visualize your end goal. Do you want to lose weight? Lower your cholesterol? Have more energy to play with your kids? Keep this image in your head when faced with temptation and it will be easier to turn it down. Another way to increase willpower is to occasionally give yourself a treat. Let yourself have one of those office donuts on Friday morning, for example, but not the rest of the week. When you know you won’t be deprived of the treat forever, you can more easily cut the craving off before it takes over.

develop willpower

You’re in control

woman eating

The biggest thing to remember when it comes to how to fight food cravings is that you’re in control. As Tony Robbins says, “You can’t always control the wind, but you can control the sails.” You’ll always have good and bad days, and sometimes you’ll be tempted to fall back into old habits. Maybe there’s a major transition going on at work, and the old you would have wanted to unwind with a cheesecake after leaving the office. But the new you recognizes that eating that cheesecake won’t make you feel any better. You need to process your emotions in a constructive way instead.

You’re in charge of your emotions, and you have the power to stop giving in to your food cravings. Will there be times when you still think about going through the fast food drive-thru? Of course. But now you know that just because you’re experiencing a craving doesn’t mean you need to indulge in unhealthy behavior. Commit to creating new, lasting habits that will make you feel better physically and emotionally today.

Ready to drop unhealthy behavior?

Learn how you can abandon bad eating habits and achieve a healthier lifestyle today by reading Tony Robbins’ free Ultimate Health Guide.