The good news: The fitter you are, the easier it is to keep your appetite under control. The bad news? We all slip up sometimes. Thankfully, there are strategies you can employ to tame cravings and avoid a downward spiral. Use these tips from Lona Sandon, MEd, RD, assistant professor of clinical nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern, and Mark Hyman, MD, author of The UltraSimple Diet (Pocket Books, 2007).
Your nutritional needs increase with exercise, so it’s important to eat small, frequent meals to curb cravings and keep your metabolism high.
- Substitute for what you’re craving. If the ice cream aisle at the grocery store is calling your name, try buying frozen yogurt, fruit bars or sorbet instead.
- Don’t skip meals. Research has shown that meal-skippers consume just as many calories (often more) each day than those who never skip a meal. The difference is that when you skip a meal, those calories tend to come in the form of binges on carb-rich, refined foods, which then cause you to crave more refined foods.
- Clean out your cupboards. Remove any junk food that you tend to crave. If it’s not available, you’ll be less likely to eat it in a moment of weakness.
- Don’t forget protein. Eating protein provides long-lasting energy and doesn’t cause the blood-sugar spike and crash that refined sugars do. “Protein in moderate amounts helps to maintain lean body mass when limiting calories,” Sandon says.
- Allow yourself simple pleasures. Deprivation will lead you down a road toward binging. If you’re craving potato chips, it’s better to eat a small handful than to deny yourself, only to consume the whole bag later.
- Take one day at a time. It can be daunting to think of weeks and months of following a strict nutrition plan. So don’t. Instead, focus on what you eat today. And if you do have a moment of weakness, remember that tomorrow you can start fresh.