6

votes

Eliminating Food Cravings

Answered on September 12, 2014
Created March 04, 2010 at 12:51 AM

Question: is there a proven way to eliminate food cravings.

When I introduce the paleo diet as a method of weight loss, everyone responds, "I just can't give up food X." I realize will-power is important, but some people have carb/sugar addictions that need to be broken.

I know that Eades' "Middle Aged Middle" diet plan starts with a 2 week period of mostly protein shakes and the T-Muscle "Velocity Diet" is four weeks of protein shakes. Both claim to eliminate food cravings to some degree, but I don't personally know anyone who has tried them.

I have zero food cravings, but that is a result of cutting weight for wrestling a few years ago and I nobody should have to go through that experience.

It seems as if many of you started the paleo diet and were able to stick with it, but dietary compliance is a huge factor in weight loss.

I'd appreciate your thoughts and experiences.

A3c56c85290f748410a6f340ddd552b3

(321)

on January 28, 2013
at 07:50 PM

Heh - maybe the stomachache is what "cures" the craving.

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on August 18, 2011
at 08:22 PM

+1 million if I could

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on August 18, 2011
at 08:20 PM

I forgot to add, to get through that "cold turkey" phase a big spoonful of coconut oil before breakfast seemed to almost completely obliterate my sweet tooth.

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on August 18, 2011
at 08:17 PM

I get bananas for my toddler, and when they are around I'm bound to eat one every so often. Those are the days I have cravings for more sweets, so I think you hit the nail on the head with your suspicions Jennifer. Cold turkey is the only thing that works for me. I stopped do any kind of baking, and that seemed to help too. Things that haven't caused further cravings for me are 90% chocolate, sweet potatoes, and red wine. They are sweet, but there doesn't seem to be that sort of mindless munching afterwards. Slow cooked cabbage with butter is also oddly sweet and satisfying.

0bcefaa82dc94f93ce705f86e235f335

(1591)

on February 16, 2011
at 02:06 AM

Bananas are just bags of sugar - might as well eat a candy bar. Agree with Todd - for many, sugar (or even just sweet-tasting things) makes you crave sugar. Stop any sweets/fruit, give yourself a week or two - the cravings will likely stop.

0bcefaa82dc94f93ce705f86e235f335

(1591)

on February 16, 2011
at 02:02 AM

MDA's forum is good for this.

50637dfd7dc7a7e811d82283f4f5fd10

(5838)

on February 15, 2011
at 10:38 PM

Yes, cold turkey is the best way. Stop adding honey to everything you make. The cravings will stop, but you have to cut out the sugar first.

2b4f887f5fd32a37c6038eb0aaaf3bf5

(1648)

on January 08, 2011
at 08:23 PM

I have found 5-htp to be very useful, though I haven't used it for food cravings. Back when I ate SAD, I would frequently get "blue" from low seratonin/poor diet. 5-htp was very helpful to restore balance and lift me out of the fog. Of course, even more useful was switching to Paleo!

5ebeec76e20738d0a17cd724d64b1e0f

(1922)

on March 06, 2010
at 12:30 PM

Her approach seems to work for some people: taking a large amino acid supplement at bedtime (such as tryptophan); which one depends on some things she describes in the book. I haven't used her plan, but I've done something similar, and I have to say that while I'm hopeful that it will work, I'm also skeptical.

A89f9751a97c3082802dc0bcbe4e9208

(13978)

on March 04, 2010
at 07:28 PM

Kombucha and tea help immensely! I'm glad you mentioned them!

1acd420f12b037de278a4aa249a689af

(293)

on March 04, 2010
at 07:50 AM

Julia Ross has the bases covered with supplements...if you choose to go that way. Many clients do well with a meds (supplements) approach but I think most here on this site would prefer the foods approach.

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16 Answers

8
A480640a53eb5dc8966f49141942f705

on March 04, 2010
at 10:13 PM

I don't have a particularly addiction-prone personality. But I do know what a craving feels like: the loss of self-control, the robotic walk to the kitchen, the almost involuntary reach of the arm to the bowl ont he table.

In my view, cravings are the psychological manifestation of a physiological state: high-insulin, low-blood-glucose, pre-diabetic hypoglycemia: your basic sugar crash.

To avoid the sugar crash, avoid the sugar.

The thing that helped most was reframing: under Atkins, in the maintenance phase, carbs are considered normal ?????albeit low carb. Induction is a sacrifice.

But there are some people for whom even a slice of apple is too sweet. For some people, even low carb is too much. They need no-carb.

When I reframed no-carb from "sacrifice" to "normal", all the cravings disappeared.

Orthodox Jews don't crave bacon; orthodox Americans don't crave dog. To them, it's just not food.

Neither, to me, is a cookie.

4
5ebeec76e20738d0a17cd724d64b1e0f

on March 06, 2010
at 12:37 PM

Remember, Paleo isn't so much a low-carb diet as it is a high-fat diet. If you try to just cut out the carbs and don't increase the fat at the same time, you're doomed to fail.

Fat is the best solution to carb cravings. If you start to get cravings, just have a cup of cream instead. After a short time, you'll get either into ketosis or close to it, and that will also kill cravings.

The thing about fat is that it is very satisfying, unlike carbs, which actually increase your hunger (why do you think restaurants put free bread on the table?). You also can't eat that much of it; after a while, you just feel sick.

Also, stay away from the artificial sweeteners as well as "sweet but healthy" foods. They can spike your insulin levels, which will just add to your feelings of hunger as your blood sugar level goes down.

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on August 18, 2011
at 08:22 PM

+1 million if I could

4
Be4b60059db3511771303de1613ecb67

(1137)

on March 04, 2010
at 12:11 PM

To eliminate cravings, the person must stop eating all sugars, including fruit and all grains. There's no getting around it. After two weeks, they will usually stop craving it. There's a lot of good advice already given here. L-Glutamine helps, and 5HTP is a supplement that boosts serotonin. It's good to take 5HTP in the early evening and before bed, as it is relaxing.

Coconut oil helps. Green leafy vegs help. Cream helps.

I've been through this myself. I had terrible sugar/grain cravings all my life and it was horrible at first when I eliminated them from my diet. But now I find myself craving real food, and the thought of eating sweets just makes me sick. I baked some almond flour muffins for my hubby and I used stevia to sweeten them. He liked them a lot, but to me, they were too sweet. So your tastes do change over time. Sour raspberries taste sweet to me.

Anything worthwhile in life is going to be difficult. There is no easy button when one converts to a Paleo diet. No instand gratification. They have to be patient with themselves.

IMO, what we need in this community is a forum for newbies where they can journal and post their feelings and experiences and other seasoned people can encourage them. It can help them transition. It's great to have a Q and A place like this, but a Paleo weight loss forum would be a tool of encouragement. The current low carb forums are too obsessed with finding fake food replacements for junky carbs. Paleo dieting is becoming more popular. Maybe now is the right time for such a forum. I'd be glad to help out with that, but I'm not savvy enough to start it myself.

Just a thought.

0bcefaa82dc94f93ce705f86e235f335

(1591)

on February 16, 2011
at 02:02 AM

MDA's forum is good for this.

4
52cae90a114ca8f0404948e2b7ccb7ef

(1595)

on March 04, 2010
at 02:44 AM

I'm not vouching for this, but you may want to look into Julia Ross's Diet Cure.

http://www.dietcure.com/

You may be able to read bits of that book via Google Books, and she's done a few podcasts with Jimmy Moore. I think Nora Gedgaudas probably covers similar issues in her book as well, but I haven't read it.

5ebeec76e20738d0a17cd724d64b1e0f

(1922)

on March 06, 2010
at 12:30 PM

Her approach seems to work for some people: taking a large amino acid supplement at bedtime (such as tryptophan); which one depends on some things she describes in the book. I haven't used her plan, but I've done something similar, and I have to say that while I'm hopeful that it will work, I'm also skeptical.

1acd420f12b037de278a4aa249a689af

(293)

on March 04, 2010
at 07:50 AM

Julia Ross has the bases covered with supplements...if you choose to go that way. Many clients do well with a meds (supplements) approach but I think most here on this site would prefer the foods approach.

3
9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on March 04, 2010
at 01:53 PM

Actually, I phased out sugars pretty gradually. Even last year I was eating plenty of fruit and some chocolate, but those cravings have continued to decrease despite me having never gone cold turkey. One thing I did do was substitute higher quality lower sugar fruits and chocolate . Instead of melon I ate berries, instead of Lindt chocolate truffles I ate raw chocolate bars. Another was that I cultivated a taste for more sour things by eating pickled vegetables or drinking kombucha if I had a craving. Last night I was having a craving for a chocolate bar, but a swig of kombucha...and it was gone.

Another thing that helped was developing an interest in tea, which is fairly harmless. I buy really high quality flavorful tea and it satisfies my desire for interesting tastes far better than an insipid dessert ever could.

A89f9751a97c3082802dc0bcbe4e9208

(13978)

on March 04, 2010
at 07:28 PM

Kombucha and tea help immensely! I'm glad you mentioned them!

3
93f44e8673d3ea2294cce085ebc96e13

(10502)

on March 04, 2010
at 06:12 AM

Taking L-Glutamine to curb sugar cravings is alleged to work. I think I got that from Robb Wolf.

2
64df3ea3e056e702ae5c503d0ffeca7b

(70)

on January 07, 2011
at 08:55 PM

I have recently been in a cycle of eating paleo all day and bingeing at night. I'm staying with my parents for a month on my winter vacation and the house is loaded with all kinds of binge foods.

I started taking 5-HTP and it felt like almost immediately I had control of myself at night. Granted, I've been trying to get a handle on this kind of behavior for awhile...so it could be that my willpower is finally kicking in, but I wonder if there really is something to the 5-htp.

2b4f887f5fd32a37c6038eb0aaaf3bf5

(1648)

on January 08, 2011
at 08:23 PM

I have found 5-htp to be very useful, though I haven't used it for food cravings. Back when I ate SAD, I would frequently get "blue" from low seratonin/poor diet. 5-htp was very helpful to restore balance and lift me out of the fog. Of course, even more useful was switching to Paleo!

2
2bdf9a3d29c3fa0bf93ceb8ca53015c4

on March 05, 2010
at 12:51 AM

I wouldn't universally recommend this to everyone, but I've found that a very small amount of whatever I'm craving satisfies. For instance, I hadn't had chocolate in ages and was craving some like crazy. I'm a fan of the "crap" chocolate, not the fancy dark that a lot of paleo folks eat. I wanted M&Ms. I spent two days angsting over it and then finally went and had a small bag, and it was......fine. I didn't crave more sugar after that, I didn't crave anything else the next day. I was quite surprised by this. Like I said, I don't suggest everyone with a craving go out and meet it, but if a craving is hanging around for days, a very small amount of what you want might be surprisingly satisfying.

2
77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on March 04, 2010
at 02:22 AM

live with a loved one who is dying from the metabolic consequences of a lifetime of eating processed crap food. see them suffer. look at your children and know that you don't want them to go through that. you don't want to either. they you won't get cravings. that emotional connection is what got me on the program. my problem now is with stress reduction, sleep, and underlying health problems that paleo by itself is not solving (possible thyroid problem, possible recurring h.pylori infection).

2
03aeff8d87a3b53a449b5b8e9158da98

(3268)

on March 04, 2010
at 01:49 AM

I think this is the whole reason Kurt created the 12 stage progression. And I think having things explained and understanding the reasons goes a long way toward boosting self-discipline.

As gillibean said, everyone is different. Just start somewhere and try to make progress every week. There's no single approach that works for everyone. But overcoming cravings gets a lot easier when people understand how artificial those cravings are, and get their minds around the logic of this crazy, wacky diet we all love!

2
77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on March 04, 2010
at 01:34 AM

I can't claim to eat 'clean' paleo but my experience on a low carb version of the diet two years ago was that after the initial 3 or so days of mild headache and carb withdrawal I simply didn't crave carbs. I could sit beside someone eating a bag of chips and not care about eating any with them.

Low carb eating does eliminate food cravings. My appetite diminished to a normal diet level whereas I had been a certified card-carrying carboholic due to sleep apnea and hypothyroidism issues. With sleep apnea, your body tries to compensate for lack of serotonin by having you eat carbs--the carbs make you gain weight-- the weight makes your apnea worse--you eat more carbs, etc. etc.

Now I am at a stable weight after losing 60 pounds or so (and finding some of them back when I relaxed the rules). I know what I need to do, but still indulge in too many glasses of red wine with dinner and the occasional bad snack of tortilla chips with salsa.

I will talk myself into following the rules more closely very soon and lose the pounds I found. Will power is carb-related for a fact!

1
5e36f73c3f95eb4ea13a009f4936449f

(8280)

on January 07, 2011
at 11:49 PM

I don't think there's any single solution. It's going to depend on the person. For me, I don't really have any food cravings per se. I have hunger.

Before, when I was eating high carbs, it was like they old joke on Chinese food. You eat a ton, then are hungry again an hour or two later. Except I'd get a gnawing hunger and tummy rumblings saying "Feed me Seymour!".

Eating Paleo satiates that hunger for a longer time period (simply because the high protein fats take longer to digest/delay hunger).

But that's me.

1
245c53790116339bcc79fb789f6f9c9d

(744)

on March 05, 2010
at 01:26 AM

What has helped me the most has been to find recipes I really like that are paleo. There are a lot of excellent, indulgent meals that happen to also be paleo, particularly if you can get into salty fatty umami bliss. I avoid substitute foods at all costs- things like cauliflower rice make me feel deprived, like I'm eating cardboard cutouts of real food.

What I find myself unable to do is adopt the "food is fuel" mentality- I can go there for a few weeks and then I'm bound to go on some revolting junk binge.

1
6426d61a13689f8f651164b10f121d64

(11478)

on March 04, 2010
at 01:26 AM

This question is similar to a previous Paleo Hacks question, "Avoiding the Sugar Binge" ( http://paleohacks.com/questions/58/avoiding-the-sugar-binge ). There are several alternative foods suggested there, including high fat foods such as nuts, heavy cream and dark chocolate. The protein shake induction that you mentioned is another method. Another induction method is to go zero carb or very low carb for the first two weeks, as gilliebean suggests--similar to an Atkins induction. The introductory, or induction, period for a paleo or other low carb diet is typically 2 to 4 weeks. The cravings should get better after this initial period. Develop a contingency plan in advance, and have alternative foods available to get you through the cravings.

1
A89f9751a97c3082802dc0bcbe4e9208

(13978)

on March 04, 2010
at 01:20 AM

Every. Body. Is. Different.

And how men deal with cravings is different than how women will deal with cravings. But to answer your question: I think the only way to eliminate the cravings is to go hard core and stick with it until the cravings are gone, gone, gone. And I mean, no fruit hard core. Just meat, eggs, and non-starchy veggies, and limited nuts. Not starch, no sugar.

But are you a cold-turkey person? Some people can do it. Other's need to take the whole transition in stages. A key factor I think is whether or not a person is insulin resistant or not.

When I first started paleo in 2003, making stevia-sweetened flourless, sugar-free chocolate desserts (that were mostly egg) were what got me through it. But it was my first time and I was a carb-addict. For weight-loss, having a little substitute now and again, rather than going insane and bingeing on cupcakes and potato chips, well, it just worked. So now I make pseudo-paleo foods. Such as:

  • coconut oil chocolate
  • egg bread
  • coconut flour pancakes

These things help me deal with my cravings for the "real" things.

Other people suggest having a tablespoon of coconut oil to assuage hunger; but that just gives me a stomach ache.

A3c56c85290f748410a6f340ddd552b3

(321)

on January 28, 2013
at 07:50 PM

Heh - maybe the stomachache is what "cures" the craving.

0
6dbc20aeeca8577bf9f4b19ac41687ac

on February 15, 2011
at 10:34 PM

I have only been doing paleo for about 13 weeks and although I have been doing really well find that as of late I crave so badly things I have not allowed myself to have. Not really bread anymore sweets for sure. Today I went and bought a dark chocolate bar (over 70%) and instead of just being able to eat one portion it called to me from my desk drawyer until sadly it was almost gone. I have recently discovered nuts and chocolate are the best thing on earth so I threw in a handful of nuts. Both portions over the top in my mind. This to me is excessive as I just ate a banana about a half hour earlier. Is there a connection to the sugar in the banana - am I just depriving myself too much? I find I swing one way hard and the other way just as hard so although I do love this paleo and the energy and change in my physical shape, today is not a good day. This last couple of weeks, same thing. Crave, crave, crave. I need the occasional sweet thing as I find being too restrictive makes me crave worse. I bake with almond flour and use honey to sweeten, I bake with coconut flour, honey to sweeten - I want to stop this craving so any advice would be great. When I deprive I then over induldge when given the chance to eat that forbidden thing so this is not balance and I am striving for balance in all things. If I just quit the sweets altogether (no honey in baked goods, no sugar in the chocolate - even the good high cacao expensive stuff and no fruit) cold turkey for a fairly lenghty period of time will the cravings stop? Are there any fruits I can leave in while trying to rid myself of this sugar craving? Eliminating them altogether is going to be difficult but I am prepared to hear the truth if this is necessary.

0bcefaa82dc94f93ce705f86e235f335

(1591)

on February 16, 2011
at 02:06 AM

Bananas are just bags of sugar - might as well eat a candy bar. Agree with Todd - for many, sugar (or even just sweet-tasting things) makes you crave sugar. Stop any sweets/fruit, give yourself a week or two - the cravings will likely stop.

50637dfd7dc7a7e811d82283f4f5fd10

(5838)

on February 15, 2011
at 10:38 PM

Yes, cold turkey is the best way. Stop adding honey to everything you make. The cravings will stop, but you have to cut out the sugar first.

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on August 18, 2011
at 08:17 PM

I get bananas for my toddler, and when they are around I'm bound to eat one every so often. Those are the days I have cravings for more sweets, so I think you hit the nail on the head with your suspicions Jennifer. Cold turkey is the only thing that works for me. I stopped do any kind of baking, and that seemed to help too. Things that haven't caused further cravings for me are 90% chocolate, sweet potatoes, and red wine. They are sweet, but there doesn't seem to be that sort of mindless munching afterwards. Slow cooked cabbage with butter is also oddly sweet and satisfying.

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on August 18, 2011
at 08:20 PM

I forgot to add, to get through that "cold turkey" phase a big spoonful of coconut oil before breakfast seemed to almost completely obliterate my sweet tooth.

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