How to stop cravings for unhealthy food

 Who hasn't indulged in a piece of cake or splurged at a fast food stop? Many of us have a guilty food pleasure, whether it' chips or candy, and it is so easy to fall into a pattern of eating unhealthy food all the time. Yet, you can break the cycle! Here are nine ways to stop craving junk food, or at least, overcome the desire.
  • Know your triggers. Are you an emotional eater? Do your food cravings strike at a certain time of day? Do you want junk food only when you're stressed? Knowing what causes your cravings is helpful in planning on how to conquer the next attack.
  • Drink a glass of water. Sometimes you desperately want pizza or ice cream. Before you indulge, first take 20 minutes and drink a glass of water. Often, we miss cues. For example, hankering for salty food is a sign of dehydration. Also, drinking water helps curb appetite. In one study, middle-aged overweight and obese participants who drank water before each meal lost 44% more weight, compared to a group that did not drink more water.
  • Keep healthy food handy. Always have healthy food on hand, especially on busy days. It' easy to go through the fast food drive-thru when you don't have a lot of time and you're already hungry. It' worth having a plan in place and keeping your favorite healthy foods on hand at all times.
  • Make Sunday your prep day. To have healthy food readily available, it' important to make one day a week your shopping and prep day. Meal planning is critical to following a healthy diet because you're less likely to cave under pressure and get off track. Make sure to include washing and chopping all fruits and veggies on this day and storing them in an easy-to-find place, so you can grab them on-the-go.
  • Treat yourself at the grocery store. Sticking to your list when you're on a budget is always a best practice. However, allow for some favorites and add in treats. If you can't resist chocolate, plan to purchase dark chocolate squares. If you love French fries, buy potatoes to make your own homemade version. When you plan to splurge a little bit at the grocery store and get something you're excited about, you're saving yourself from an unplanned decision that you may regret later.
  • Schedule a cheat day. It may seem counterintuitive, but following a strict meal plan every day with no leniency sets you up to veer off course. When you save one day a week for a cheat meal, you'll find that you'll look forward to that day and then won't fall into the vicious cycle of feeling like you need to start over the next day.
  • Choose one indulgence per day. Do you love candy? Then, allow yourself a small piece once a day. Or, if you absolutely need your soda fix, purchase the smaller cans and make it your treat of the day. The key is choosing just one splurge, though , it' probably a bad idea to have chips, cookies and soda all in one day as they all begin to add up and you're not getting the nutrition you need.
  • Plan your pre- and post-workout snack according to the intensity. Food is critical to exercise because it helps you perform at your best and fuel your recovery for the next day. Will you be running for more than an hour at a conversational pace or joining a high-intensity 45-minute spin class? Self offers some great tips on what to eat depending on the duration of the exercise and how strenuous it is. Another option is comparing what you should eat based on whether you're focusing on strength or cardio.
  • Get at least seven hours of sleep every night. While it doesn't seem like a direct connection, sleep has a lot to do with your appetite and food choice. When we're tired, we need quick energy. Our sleep-deprived brains also associate junk food with reward, which means we think we'll feel better once we have it. Also, the later we stay up, the more likely we're going to have cravings strike, according to a study published in The Journal of Obesity. To make sure you're getting enough quality sleep, consider purchasing an activity and sleep tracker such as the REM-Fit Active 200.
We all struggle with cravings for unhealthy food sometimes. It' important to know what causes them and arm ourselves with the tools to keep them at bay. Eating healthy helps us accomplish our fitness goals and reach our highest potential. Proper nutrition helps us perform better and recover faster to conquer our next challenge.