NBC News - Cravings are an unfortunate fact of life. One second, you're on the road to weight-loss triumph. Then, bam, your willpower is torn to shreds by the physical urge to house some fat and/or sugar, no matter the form.
"The number one thing my clients say is, 'I know what I should be doing, but cravings get in the way of my success,'" says Dawn Jackson Blatner, R.D., author of The Flexitarian Diet.
The impetus to give in to cravings typically falls into the physical, emotional, or environmental area. Luckily, there are habits in all three that you can pinpoint and change to keep cravings at bay.
You Skip Meals
"Meal skippers are one group of people who tend to have low blood sugar, which increases cravings for food that will give a dose of fast energy," says Blatner.
When you skip a meal and your blood sugar dips, your body will urge you to go for things like refined carbs that can give you a quick hit of energy. The thing is, that will usually just leave you hungry again pretty quickly.
Every five or so hours, eat a meal that's a combination of protein, whole grains, produce, and healthy fat, eating some snacks in between if necessary.
That composition takes a long time to digest and helps keep your blood sugar stable, leaving you less likely to get hit with the thought that an entire bag of potato chips sounds like a brilliant idea. And if you can't stay on the schedule?
Set a timer!
You're Tired All the Time
This one actually falls more under the emotional umbrella than the physical, says Blatner. The lack of sleep can wear down your willpower, which is finite to begin with. "If you're not properly rested, you're going to be more inclined to seek out potentially unhealthy energy sources in your food," says Blatner. Try to do something else that's energizing, like heading outside for a brisk walk or listening to Iggy Azalea's "Fancy" on repeat.
You Go to Town When You're Stressed
"If you're overwhelmed by things like deadlines or you're otherwise under pressure, you're in a prime position to give into cravings," says Blatner. Instead of letting your emotions become healthy-eating roadblocks, work on your stress before it comes so bad that you feel like you have to turn to food.
"Maybe for you, it makes sense to breathe deeply, listen to calming music, or make a list of your worries so you can try to fix them one by one," says Blatner. The most important thing is to acknowledge you eat when you're stressed and take the steps to banish that anxiety as much as you can.
"A lot of adults use eating junk food as a sort of temper tantrum when they're upset," says Blatner. The fix is to treat yourself exactly the way you would a child who's misbehaving: Give yourself a time out.
"People think cravings will just continue to get worse if you don't give in, but that's not true. Like all human emotions, they ebb and flow," says Blatner.
If you give yourself a five- to 10-minute break where you restrict your access to what you're craving, it might just pass on its own. "I have a client who will put on a face mask when she's craving something, then by the time she's done, she doesn't want whatever she wanted anymore," says Blatner.
The key is to make your time out a soothing activity instead of something that will key you up even more.
You Buy Junk Food
"Trying to resist temptation just through willpower isn't going to work," says Blatner. "It's an exhaustive commodity; you don't just have an unlimited supply."
It's more about tailoring your environment so temptation isn't around to begin with. Follow some of the cardinal rules, like not going to the grocery store when you're ravenous. What about when your co-worker brings doughnuts into the break room for a company birthday?
Here's an inventive tip: "Don't tell yourself no because you'll want to eat 10," says Blatner. "Tell yourself you can have the doughnut if you go outside and buy one yourself."
The extra effort will likely make you decide it isn't worth it in the first place.