If you are on the keto diet, then you know all about cravings.
Cravings can be an annoying part of the keto lifestyle for some people and yet others hardly feel them at all.
You might be craving pizza on a Friday night, some basic toast with your eggs or you might be a sugar addict who normally survives on chocolate during the week!
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Whatever your cravings are, you are not alone. Food cravings are a normal part of being human, but that doesn’t mean they have to get the better of us.
Here we will examine what our cravings are and what they mean, plus all the tips you need on overcoming cravings on the Keto Diet.
After all if we can master our carb cravings that steer us away from Keto, we can stay on the keto diet without stress!
What are cravings?
Cravings are defined as a strong desire to eat something that is not good for you, like sweets or breads.
When we crave food, it’s because our body needs something in order to function optimally.
It’s helpful for some people to understand what is going on in our minds and bodies when we crave something that we know isn’t good for us.
The systems in our brain and body that control our feelings of hunger and fullness are not perfect.
Food cravings happen when these systems can’t keep up with the demands put on them by our lifestyle.
The main issue is that the body asks for what it needs, but we sometimes don’t know how to interpret those signals very well and an unexplained craving sets in.
Why are cravings so hard to resist on Keto?
Cravings are such a common part of our lives, but on the keto diet they can seem even more intense than usual.
Often, this is because we are trying to resist these cravings properly for the first times in our lives.
By reducing our carbs so heavily, we can start to obsess over carbs and the cravings get stronger and stronger until we satisfy them – and often over indulge and binge on carbs!
There are many reasons that cravings are so hard to resist on the keto diet:
- Carbs cause a rollercoaster of fluctuations in blood sugar, which then sends our body into a panic. Our brain and hormones respond by releasing powerful surges of adrenaline to prepare us for battle or flight, producing cravings for sugary and carb-laden foods.
- Keeping carbs in your diet is like constantly trying to detox yourself from alcohol – you’ll have withdrawal symptoms every single day. When we eat too many carbs, we crave MORE carbs. This makes it a vicious cycle of carb days and detox days .
- When we are in ketosis, our body doesn’t have carbs to use as fuel and instead starts burning stored fat. This leads us to feel tired or low energy sometimes (especially when first starting keto). To give ourselves a boost, we crave sugar – which forces our bodies out of ketosis when it is consumed
- Carbs are everywhere, making them harder to resist. You don’t realise how many carbs are in everything you eat until you start the Keto diet! No more sugary drinks, fruit or bread. We start craving the carbs we can’t have and this leads to cravings for carb-rich foods
- We are human! Humans have evolved to seek out fatty and sugary foods, as these are hard to get in nature. We have the problem now that they are everywhere and easy to access, making it easy to over indulge on them.
Brain Cravings and Body Cravings
There is a difference between what our bodies are craving and what our brains are craving.
Our brain craves things that it thinks will make us feel good, and our body craves what we need in order to function properly.
Some people find the distinction helpful when resisting cravings on keto: if you know what system is craving something, then there are different ways to try and satisfy the craving!
What is a body craving?
There are two major things that our body craves when we eat too many carbs: it needs more fat, and it needs some form of salt.
When you cut your carb intake drastically as with the keto diet, your insulin levels drop very low which can result in intense cravings for sweet foods or salty foods.
The signs of a body craving include:
- tiredness (especially in the afternoon)
- Light headedness
- It is also accompanied by actual hunger – our stomach is genuinely hungry and we want to eat anything to satisfy it.
What is a brain craving?
The best way to identify whether you are dealing with a body craving or a brain craving is by paying attention to how you feel.
If your craving is persistent and intense, then it’s a brain craving – especially if the thing that you are thinking about all day long isn’t something that would usually be high on the priority list!
The signs of a brain craving or emotional craving include:
- obsessing over food (especially carbs), anxiousness, irritability and difficulty concentrating.
- Wanting a particular type of food (eg. You are specifically craving donuts)
- You are wanting to use the food as reward, celebration, stress relief or comfort
- You don’t feel like a few bites of the craved food will satisfy the craving or have a history of binge eating when you do try to satisfy a craving
How do I stop my cravings on the Keto Diet?
Now we know there are two types of cravings, lets look at some ways to actually stop them!
The first thing to know is that you can’t stop the craving necessarily – but you can work out better ways to deal with them.
Stopping Physical Body Cravings on Keto
You may have heard that the keto diet is a great way to lose weight and get healthy.
And it is! But there’s one big thing you have to watch out for: cravings.
Even if you’re not on the keto diet, craving foods can make sticking with your plan difficult or impossible.
But don’t worry, we’ve got some tips for how to conquer those pesky cravings!
These tips are specific to bodily cravings.
As mentioned above, these are different to emotional cravings and address a true bodily need for something.
Read further below to learn more about emotional cravings or brain cravings on Keto.
Top 10 Ways to Deal With Food Cravings On Keto
Tip 1: Keto is a high fat diet
Keto is a higher fat diet than what we are used to, which means it’s calorie dense. Necessary calories are easily obtained by consuming fat sources like butter, coconut oil, and olive oil and eating more fats can help overcome hunger and keep you fuller for longer.
Tip 2: Eat more high fiber low carb vegetables
Eat more high fiber low carb vegetables to get in your daily 5-10g of fiber intake, and help you stay fuller for longer.
Tip 3: Add salt to your meals for flavor.
Add salt to your meals for flavor. You can also try different spices like paprika, cayenne pepper, or garlic powder. Salt is also a great source of electrolytes!
Tip 4: Use a structured meal plan
Sticking with a structured meal plan can help you stay on track for a few weeks, and build the resilience to master cravings. My 21 Day Keto Kick Start Challenge has helped over 4000 people achieve exactly that.
Tip 5: Keep the foods you crave out of the kitchen or around the house
Keep the foods you crave out of the kitchen or around the house as much as possible! Don’t buy sweets or tortilla chips just in case you get a craving.
Tip 6: If you’re craving something sweet, eat some berries.
If you’re craving something sweet, eat some berries. Berries are keto-friendly and low in carbs, plus have heaps of fibre and other nutrients.
Tip 7: Have a small piece of dark chocolate with nuts
Tip 7: When you get a sugar craving, try having a small piece of dark chocolate with nuts – this will satisfy your desire for sweetness without drastically raising your blood sugar levels.
Tip 8: Use spices
Try using spices like pepper, cumin, coriander or paprika to add variety to your meals and lessen the craving for savoury carbs like bread, chips or pasta.
Tip 9: East celery sticks with ranch dressing
When you’re craving something salty, eat celery sticks with ranch dressing. This satisfies the salty craving but won’t be bad for your Keto Diet
If you are craving a specific food, here’s what your cravings might be telling you:
If you are craving a specific food, here’s what your cravings might be telling you:
Tip 10: Drink water
If you crave sugar, you might be dehydrated. Drink water to help your body reabsorb the nutrients it needs to function properly.
Tip 11: Try a roasted veggie
If you are craving something crunchy like chips or pretzels, try a roasted veggie instead for a satisfying crunch that isn’t bad for your diet!
Tip 12: You are probably low in sodium
If you are craving something sour, like lemons or pickles, your body is probably low in sodium. Try adding salt to your food to give yourself a boost of flavor and electrolytes that will satisfy the cravings!
Lastly, if it’s carbs you are craving, it is important to tell yourself you can have them sometimes.
If we tell ourselves we can NEVER have pasta again, well we are never going to stop thinking about them and they will become an obsession.
If you crave something starchy like bread or pasta, try making a keto friendly version of your favorite dish with cauliflower or zucchini noodles for the same satisfying taste but way less carbs!
If your craving is still not satisfied, you can try planning in a small portion of the carbs you are missing, like a small piece of bread while out for a nice dinner, to help rid the food obsession from your brain.
5 Ways to Overcome Emotional Eating
So you know you’ve got emotional cravings instead – brain hunger. What to do about it?
Many people struggle with emotional eating. It’s not just a way to deal with stress or boredom, but a way of life for some people.
To stop the cycle, you need to learn how to use your food in a different way and develop new habits that will help you cope without resorting to overeating.
There are many reasons why someone might turn towards emotional eating as their coping mechanism – lack of sleep, depression, anxiety, feeling lonely or abandoned by others… there are so many reasons!
Emotional eating and binge eating are very common. It’s important to identify the problem and learn how to cope in healthy ways that don’t involve food.
The first step is admitting you have an emotional eating problem and then talking about it, whether it be with a therapist or close friend or even in an anonymous Keto forum online.
Once you are able to recognize when your cravings come from brain hunger you can start to manage them and soothe yourself in healthy ways.
The good news is that once you understand the root cause(s) behind your cravings and figure out what triggers them (or even identify if they’re seasonal), you can start working on solutions.
Some ways you can overcome emotional triggers that lead to emotional eating include;
- Identify what triggers your cravings. For example, if you’re feeling stressed at work and end up eating a bag of chips while making dinner – try to identify that trigger so you can adjust it in the future!
- Don’t try to go it alone! Whether you’re doing Keto with a friend, or joining a Keto group challenge, having support around you is important.
- Using meditation or simple mindful techniques like noting your emotions can help you to understand the emotions and catch them BEFORE they derail your keto diet and you give in to the carb craving
- Learn other coping mechanisms for dealing with stress or negative emotions like exercising, meditating, reading a book… there are so many options!
- Identify foods that you enjoy eating but don’t lead to emotional cravings and replace those with healthier alternatives. For example, if you love ice cream – try replacing it with frozen berries or greek yogurt instead! It’s the same flavor profile, just better for your waistline.
- Find a friend or partner to help you through your journey. You don’t have to do this alone! The right support system can make all the difference in reaching your goals and keeping yourself accountable throughout the process.
- Changing emotional eating habits is tough, but it’s so important for long term success not just on the Keto diet but on any healthy eating journey.
The ketogenic diet can be tough to stay on when you’re constantly craving the foods you used to eat.
Learning how to overcome cravings and satisfying your body without resorting to emotional eating or overeating any of those high-carb, low-fat dishes that are off limits while on the Keto Diet will ensure your success.
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Not sure how to start Keto?
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