I get asked a ton of questions as a nutrition coach and personal trainer. More often than not, I have clients or prospective clients come up to me and start telling me how powerless they are around certain foods. How they “absolutely have no willpower” or “stink at eating well.” I also get asked the question “But how do I control my cravings?” almost every day.
My tongue in cheek answer to the cravings question is simple – eat enough throughout the day. And then I get blank stares because I don’t say the typical answers of “chew gum” or “drink diet soda” or “have a zero calorie snack like Jello” or “go to bed hungry.”
That sounds super sassy to someone genuinely wanting or needing help. It also sounds too simple. Because we in the fitness industry have a way of complicating the life out of eating and moving our bodies. Like, there MUST be a “grand plan” of doing this, then this, then this to arrive at your dream result.
It truthfully isn’t that complicated. The noise of Big Fitness and Big Diet just makes it SEEM complicated.
So, I stand by my tongue in cheek answer – eat enough throughout the day.
But what does that MEAN?!?!?!?!?!?!
It means a lot of things. But REALLY it means getting alllllll the big players into your meals. I am a Precision Nutrition Level 1 Nutrition Coach. So I tend to enjoy their guidelines. I use them in my own life. Sometimes I shift things, but these are the bulk of my “principles” to building my plates each time I eat. I help my clients do this, too. It works! It sound simple, but it works!
To me, “eat enough throughout the day” means getting a palm sized serving of protein (meat, eggs, fish, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese) at each meal. It means a cupped handful size serving of carbs at each meal (whole grains, whole grain breads and pastas, rice, beans, fruit, potatoes, bananas). It means getting a thumb size serving of healthy fat at each meal (avocado, olive oil, nuts and nut butters). It means getting a fist sized serving of veggies at each meal (I eat the ones I like). To be clear, these are serving sizes for a WOMAN. A man might need nearly twice as much.
I know how your brain in thinking about allllll the scenarios right now. But, what? How many meals? What if I have seconds? What if I can’t finish my food at each meal?
Details, details. But seriously, get used to doing just one meal like that each and every day. Breakfast, if that is easy for you. Or lunch. Or dinner. But please just pick one. Picking just one meal helps you determine how long you stayed satisfied for after the meal. Plus, it frees up mental space of changing your whole life with regard to your food intake, to focusing on just ONE meal. Once you consistently nail that one meal, add another meal like that. How is your appetite? How are your cravings? Get the third meal with all those components. Assess your appetite and cravings again. How are they? If you still have crazy cravings, chances are, you need to add another meal like that, or some smaller snacks with those same food groups. If your cravings are gone, well…..you might be eating enough now. Let HUNGER be your guide. If you are still hungry after slowly making your way through your breakfast, you might need MORE on your plate. If you are stuffed and cannot finish your breakfast, make a smaller breakfast next time, until you find what is just right for you.
Cravings aren’t a sign of being weak. Or having only a little willpower. Cravings often times are a sign of low ENERGY in your nutrition game (not eating enough at meals or in total throughout your day). They can also be a sign of not getting enough rest – which means taking rest days during your workout week, and not sleeping 7-8 hours each night. We need REST from the gym and REST in the form of quality sleep each night.
Of course, there CAN always be other reasons. But more often than not, with myself and with my clients, I find eating ENOUGH at meals and in total throughout the day often clears cravings up. So does taking rest days from workouts and getting enough sleep at night. These are great starting points to address first. AFTER nailing these, and you still are having some craving issues, it might be time to get a bit more specific. But first, why not give the basics a shot and see how you respond?
Of course, if you are on a diet or trying to lean up a bit, there WILL be times where you are slightly hungry and therefore DO have legit cravings. But again, that is because you are in an energy/calorie deficit, not because you suck at life and have no willpower.
Are you going to try these strategies? I would love to hear from you. And, if you need HELP implementing these strategies with a Precision Nutrition Level 1 Nutrition Coach, please shoot me an email at tmwellnessrevolution at gmail dot com. I would LOVE to work with YOU, and uncomplicate this stuff!
Further reading: Precision Nutrition Calorie Control Guide Infographic