We’ve all felt it. A food you love pops into your head, and suddenly nothing else will satisfy you. Whether it’s your favorite candy bar or a salty bag of chips, food cravings can be intense and hard to ignore once they start—and they have little to do with physical hunger. The best way to conquer cravings is to figure out what causes them and stop them at the source. Keep reading to find out how!

 

 

1. Awareness is the key.

Knowing the difference between true hunger and a craving is the first step in overcoming that craving. When you feel a craving, ask yourself: am I hungry? If the answer is no, then ask yourself: what am I feeling right now?

 

2. Start looking for patterns.

If you find yourself always reaching for a bag of cookies at 3 p.m., you may be experiencing an afternoon slump and need a break.You could make a plan that includes a healthy snack and a 15-minute walk outside for fresh air. Or, if you’re craving a salty snack a few hours after your morning workout, you may need to rehydrate with coconut water and a healthy snack.

 

3. Deal with feelings.

Feelings are OK to have, whether they are good or bad. We tend to want to push bad feelings away to escape from them (sometimes by eating ten cookies). Try practice sitting quietly with whatever feeling you are experiencing, without judgment.

 

4. Eat a balanced diet.

 When your body is getting the nutrients it needs, cravings will often disappear. Eat a colorful array of fresh produce, clean protein and healthy amounts of fats every 3-4 hours to feed your body what it needs to thrive.

 

5. Stay hydrated.

Drinking a glass of water before a meal will help your body determine how much food you need to be satisfied. It is also important to rehydrate after losing water during a workout. After an intense workout, your body can be depleted of electrolytes including sodium and potassium. This can cause cravings for salty foods.

 

6. Get quality sleep.

Sleeping enough each night will help keep your hormone levels even. Going to bed and waking up each day at approximately the same time will help your circadian rhythms stay in balance. Rest (quality downtime) is equally important. Sometimes a craving results from not being able to relax.

 

 

Cravings aren’t necessarily a bad thing, but we need to learn to listen to what they’re really trying to tell us. The next time a craving hits you out of nowhere, take a moment to ask yourself what you really need. And sometimes, a treat is what you need—so eat the cookie without the guilt.