We all crave junk food every now and then, but if we give in to those food cravings too often, it can be highly destructive to our ability to keep our weight goals – whether that be losing weight or keeping it off.

How to Beat Food Cravings that Plague You

The trick to being able to overcome food cravings, particularly ones for junk food, is to be able to recognize when you are most likely to binge, and how to curb the urge when it arises.  In fact, it’s even better if you spot the symptoms of your temptation before they start to take over.  The sooner you can act to correct the situation, the more likely you will be to succeed.

This can include knowing your habits and what brings on food cravings as well as having alternatives handy to help eliminate the cravings without actually giving in to them.  This can take some trial and error, but over time, you can master it very effectively.

Start Paying Attention When Food Cravings Happen

When you find yourself craving foods that you know you shouldn’t be eating, start paying closer attention to what’s going on, when it’s happening, and what you want.

For example, most people have food cravings for salty, sweet, and starchy foods in the evening. It is also at this time that hunger levels reach their peaks, according to a study that was just published in the Obesity journal.

If you haven’t yet identified when you are most likely to reach for the bag of chips or long for that candy bar, it’s time to keep a journal. This will allow you to track your habits and feelings.  It will allow you to become better acquainted with how the food cravings come about so you can design a strategy to effectively beat them.

Journaling is easy. Every time you are tempted, write down what you want, what you’re doing, how you feel, and the time of day. It won’t be long before you start to see trends forming.  You might find that it’s something as simple as feeling tired mid-day, which makes you want something sugary.  It could also be that you tend to reach out for comfort foods after you feel especially stressed.  There may even be people in your life who cause you to crave certain foods for any of various reasons.

Knowing Your Food Cravings Trends and Overcoming Them

Once you’ve found your food cravings rhythms, use the following tricks to help yourself to overcome them.

Start an earlier bedtime

Night owls are far more likely to have junk food cravings in the evening than people who head to bed at a reasonable hour. This doesn’t mean that you’ll need to hit the hay right after dinner, but it should mean that you’ve called it a day before late night TV begins.

Don’t eat in front of the television

This will likely be challenging at first, because it can be fun to chomp on your favorite snack while you watch a great show, but it rapidly becomes a habit. Soon you’ll start craving food just because you’re watching television, regardless of whether or not you’ve recently eaten. By giving yourself this rule, you’ll gradually break the habit.

Be prepared with alternative foods

Virtually every kind of food has a healthier or lower calorie alternative that will help you to beat the craving instead of giving into it.  For instance, if you tend to want something sweet in the afternoon, instead of grabbing a candy bar, go for a bowl of berries.  If you usually want chips, try popcorn instead.  If you can’t get enough of cakes and other sweet baked goodies, have a piece of toast with half a banana mashed on it (don’t knock it until you try it. You’ll be surprised).  If you have these foods handy or ready to be prepared when these cravings hit, you can divert your actions and eat something good for you instead.

Chew mint flavored gum

This helps you to beat cravings in three different ways. The first is that it keeps your mouth busy, so you won’t be able to eat anything else. The next is that it tastes good, so it will satisfy the craving for flavor. The third is that it signals to your brain that you’re feeling content. The act of chewing is a natural stimulator of the hypothalamus in the brain, which causes serotonin – a feel-good chemical – to be released.

Once you’ve tried these things, if you really have the need to indulge, make sure that you have healthy, tasty snacks on hand so that you will be able to make more sensible choices. You’ll feel better about yourself and will stop being a victim to your thoughts of treat foods you should save for rare occasions.