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Let’s face it… we all have them. For some of us, it’s the mid-afternoon crash, others it’s late at night, but whenever it is, most of us have found ourselves buried fist deep in a bag of salted popcorn, digging for that last chocolate chip morsel or licking the bottom of the ice cream bowl. The pure bliss that we feel while our dopamine levels soar sky-high immediately gives way to feelings of guilt and shame, often resulting in an emotionally taxing cycle that leaves us even more stressed and anxious than we were in the first place. So how can we jump off this moving train of food cravings? Well, in addition to learning to be more gentle with ourselves and letting go of self-judgment, here are a few tips to find more balance and manage food cravings. 

1. Lack of Nourishment 

By nourishment, we aren’t talking food. Our relationships, careers and spirituality are all sources of nourishment for our mind, body and spirit. Being bored, stressed, uninspired or unfulfilled may all trigger emotional eating. As an attempt to fill a void in our lives, eating sweet and salty foods may serve as a substitute. Create a sense of self-awareness about your feelings and behaviors and try to communicate with the people in your life. Cultivating a sense of self and an understanding of what motivates us helps us to combat the need to fill an emotional void.

2. Hydrate

Lack of water and dehydration can be disguised as hunger. A good practice is to drink a tall glass of water before any meal or when hunger strikes, and gage your craving level after your H20.

3. Get Your ZZZ’s

Between long days at work and overscheduled weekends, most of us are walking around sleep deprived. When our bodies are in need of rest, we are most sensitive to stress and our blood sugar levels fluctuate. This causes cravings for sugar, processed foods and stimulants. Aim for eight hours of sleep. Schedule it in and make it a priority.

4. Get Moving

Research repeatedly shows that exercise helps to combat anxiety and depression, which can also trigger food cravings. Ditch the all-or-nothing attitude; your workout does not have to include a hard core sweat session in a cycling class. Keep it simple with a walk outside, get some fresh air and just start moving. When your craving strikes, opt for a short walk instead. You may even nip your craving in the bud before it can rear its ugly head.

5. Avoid Processed Foods. Period.

Anything that comes in a package, has ingredients that you can’t pronounce or lasts on your shelf for years… toss it. Aside from clogging your arteries and increasing your dress size, these foods contain addictive substances that aren’t all too different from dangerous drugs. That’s right – it’s less about lack of willpower and even more so a physiological response. The more processed foods you eat, the more your body will crave heavy carbohydrates and other harmful foods. Stick with whole foods, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and foods in their natural form.

6.  Protein

Eating too much protein or too little protein can cause cravings. Often when we are craving sugar it is because we need more protein in our diet. Try adding more protein at each meal. Vegetarians take note: protein does not need to be meat, fish or any other animal protein. Plants, legumes and other vegetarian protein sources are a great option. A serving of protein is approximately the size of the palm of your hand.

7. Follow Popeye: Eat Your Spinach

Spinach, or other dark leafy greens such as kale, collards or mustard greens, provide incredible nourishment to the body. Filled with vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals, they provide energy and curtail cravings for sweets and processed foods. Try to eat them with every meal. Crowd in this superfood and you’ll naturally crowd out the junk.

8. Eat According to Season

The body often craves foods that balance the elements of the season… which is a very good thing! It is our body syncing up with nature. When out of balance, you may find yourself choosing unhealthy foods to calm cravings. To combat cravings in the spring, choose detoxifying foods like leafy greens or citrus foods. In the summer, the body craves cooling foods, so grab fruits and salads instead of ice cream. In the fall, choose grounding foods like squash, onions and nuts. During the winter, many crave hot and heat-producing foods like meat, oil and fat, so limit quantities and eat plenty of satiating root vegetables. Cravings can also be associated with the holidays. Instead of deprivation, watch your portion control and enjoy.

9. Hormones

Menstruation, pregnancy or menopause can cause significant fluctuations in testosterone and estrogen levels and may cause cravings. Proper sleep, exercise and a balanced diet can help to combat the rollercoaster of hormones.

10. Meditate or Just Listen

Take just a few short minutes a day to tune in. Close your eyes and watch your breath, notice your inhalations and exhalations. When your mind starts to wander, and obsess on the dark chocolate ten feet away, come back to watching your breath. Without judgment, notice your thoughts. Sitting in stillness will help to nourish your mind, body and spirit and tap into what your body truly wants and needs. The more we get to know ourselves, how we think and how we work, the more we can understand how to reduce our unhealthy cravings and create more balance in our lives.


About the Author: Stacy Levy

Stacy Levy is a Certified Yoga Instructor and Holistic Health Coach who supports people in living with purpose and vitality through mindful eating, balanced nutrition, breathing and meditation techniques, and Yoga. Stacy teaches Yoga classes at studios and health clubs throughout Chicago and is the Founder of Aura Yoga & Wellness. Visit or email Twitter: @stacy_levy