Hey everyone, below is Part Three of our series on fat loss: Why Your Hunger and Cravings are Getting the Best of You: 5 Tips for Minimizing False Hunger and Constant Cravings.
When it comes to obtaining fat loss the most difficult part is usually controlling hunger and cravings in order to create a caloric deficit. Sure, figuring out which of the 10,000 systems out there will actually bring results is tough, but once you have that figured out, sticking to a specific amount of food is often the most difficult task. (For help on figuring out which fat loss systems to trust, read this.)
We all have a limited reserve of willpower and if we want to be successful we must do our best to reduce the amount of willpower required wherever we can so it’s available when we need it.
No matter which fat loss plan you choose, it will inevitably involve some element of resisting temptations at one time or another. In order to avoid those delicious looking cookies or that extra helping of dessert (when it’s not a planned indulgence) keep the tips mentioned below in mind.
1. GET ADEQUATE SLEEP
Surprise, surprise, sleep is important! Among the many other benefits of getting adequate sleep, increasing your level of available self-control and decreasing sugar and carbohydrate cravings are two of the most important factors for fat loss. Not only will you crave less high calorie foods when you’re caught up on sleep, you’ll have more self-control to resist them!
If you need more convincing to get your rest, check out Dr. Kirk Parsley’s Ted Talk on YouTube. He gives a multitude of other reasons to make sleep a priority. As much as possible, sleep quantity and quality should be prioritized while dieting for fat loss.
2. BALANCE STRESS LEVELS
The same goes for stress. Whether it’s excess exercise, working too much or spending time around negative people, stress will sap your willpower and can significantly increase cravings due to the effects of cortisol on blood sugar.
5 minutes of deep breathing in the morning and before bed can do wonders for stress levels. Anytime you catch yourself holding your breath, pause for a minute and take a few deep breaths. Leo Babauta has a great quick reminder post on breathing on his Zen Habit’s website. Check it out and remember, just breathe.
3. SAVE YOUR CARBOHYDRATES FOR THE EVENING
This is by far one of the BIGGEST game changers we have come across when it comes to appetite control. Not many people know about this, but when you avoid carbohydrates during the day cravings are significantly reduced. This happens because insulin and blood sugar are kept at a stable base level. You don’t experience the rollercoaster-style spike and crash of your blood sugar like you do after a high carbohydrate breakfast.* (This is why you will be starving by 10am after that bowl of ‘healthy’ oatmeal in the morning.)
If you’d like more information on this dietary approach, check out Intermittent Feast by Nate Miyaki. It’s a to the point, nothing-but-the-facts approach to fat loss nutrition. What we do for ourselves is essentially Intermittent Feast with a few minor tweaks here and there to suit our preferences.
4. LIMIT HYPER-PALATABLE FOODS
Hyper-palatable foods can be defined as anything that makes you crave more as soon as you finish eating it. Your normal satiety signals are ignored and as a result you are likely to overeat. Combinations of sugar or starch with fat and salt as well as most processed foods tend to be hyper-palatable. Chips, chocolate bars, pizza and ice cream are great examples of these types of foods. These are the foods that make you go back for seconds even when you are already full.
While we don’t advocate eliminating these foods completely (which can lead to binges later on), it is important to limit how often you need to use your self-control. We have found that it is generally best to avoid keeping hyper-palatable foods in the house if you actually want to limit them. This uses our laziness to our advantage and prevents unnecessary or unplanned overeating when we are tired or low on self-control. (This is a perfect example of setting up a sustainable system as we recommended in our first blog post.)
Practicing self-control is good, but counting on your self-control constantly is just setting yourself up for failure. Go out and buy these foods when you really want them, but don’t buy more than you plan on eating at a given time.
5. GET EXERCISE, BUT DON'T OVERDO IT
Exercise naturally reduces hunger and cravings. If you dropped and did a set of push-ups and squats or went for a quick jog every time you got a craving you would rarely feel the need to give in to that craving. Not only does exercise remind you of your fat loss goals, but just 5-10 minutes of exercise will often cause those false cravings to vanish!
Be careful, however as overdoing medium or high intensity exercise (60+ minutes of running, sports or circuit style weight lifting 4 or more times per week) without adequately increasing recovery time and food intake can cause your cravings to get out of control. There is a balance that needs to be maintained between exercise, recovery and food intake. If you throw off that balance you will see your cravings begin to skyrocket.
As we said last week, it’s important to pick one or two strategies to work on and then wait until those are fully incorporated into your life before you try to apply another strategy. Focus is key to accomplishing what you set out to do and we can only focus on so many things at once.
To gain some momentum, pick the habit that you think will be easiest to apply or the one that motivates you the most. When you have successfully incorporated that habit into your life, go back to our post and pick one or two more. Set an alert each week in your calendar to remind yourself to go back and add another habit if you're ready for it or recommit to the habit you picked the first time if something got you off track.
That’s it for this week!
Hit us up on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram with your favourite methods for reducing hunger and cravings, there are many more that we weren’t able to mention in this post.
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Derek & Rachel
Live For Today Fitness
Check out our other blog posts in this series here: