5 Ways to Conquer Cravings

Conquering food cravings is vital to the success of your diet and weight-loss plan. No matter what diet plan you are on, you will inevitably face cravings.

Everything seems to be going along smoothly; you're doing great on your diet plan, and then you have a bad day or go to a movie and your brain demands a pint of ice cream or hot, buttery popcorn. The success or failure of your diet depends on being able to conquer food cravings.

Some cravings are legitimate cravings or signals that your body is sending. If you suddenly feel dizzy or exhausted, your body could be telling you it is protein-deprived -- but that doesn't mean it is asking for a Whopper and fries. On the other hand, wanting hot, buttery popcorn at the movies is an emotional or psychological craving. Learning to differentiate between the two types of cravings is vital to understanding your body. Now that you know the types of cravings, you need to know how to conquer them.

Drink plenty of water. Water plays a vital part in your body's health. Dehydration can cause a magnitude of health problems and even minor dehydration can make you feel hungry. Drink at least eight glasses of water daily to feel fuller and ward off cravings. When you feel a craving coming on, reach for a glass of water and drink it down before submitting to your craving -- it could make a difference.

Distract yourself for 10 minutes and give the craving time to subside. Generally they will go away if you concentrate on other things. Walk outside, read a book, call a friend, do anything not to give in to the temptation. If it hasn't gone away in 10 minutes, exercise. Exercising releases endorphins, which make you feel good.

Endorphins are also released when you eat fat and sugar, so it makes sense that exercising will make the craving for sweets go away. Plus, you get the bonus of boosting your metabolism and burning calories.

Substitute a similar taste. If you are having a salt craving, don't reach for that bag of chips. Back away slowly and reach for low-salt pretzels or even crispy, cut vegetables with hummus. Trick your taste buds into being satisfied with lower-sodium, lower-calorie alternatives. For chocolate cravings, try low-fat hot cocoa or dip fresh fruit wedges in a nonfat, low-sugar chocolate syrup or chocolate-flavored yogurt.

Soothe stress and stop carbohydrate cravings. Carbohydrate cravings are usually the result of stress. Comfort food, as Grandmother calls it, is typically carbohydrate-laden and oh-so-good but not always so good for you.

The reason we reach for those cookies when we are stressed is because some carbohydrates are known to release serotonin, a chemical in the brain that makes you feel calm or that all is well. If you're stressed, try other stress relievers before you eat those cookies. Yoga, deep breathing routines or exercising are all good choices. Then, if you still must have carbohydrates, try some crunchy, fresh vegetables.

Pop some corn. Popcorn is a dieter's best friend. Air-popped or microwave popcorn is low in calories and available in virtually fat-free versions, popcorn is filling and can be jazzed up with spices and other flavorings. Craving Mexican food?

Shake some cayenne pepper on hot popcorn sprayed with a bit of fat-free, butter-flavored Pam and voila, craving gone. Chips with dip, anyone? Sprinkle a ranch-flavored powder made for popcorn and skip the calories and fat. Experiment with your favorite flavors and please your taste buds while you conquer your cravings.

Cravings don't have to be the end of your diet success. You can take control of your diet and your eating habits. Learn what triggers your emotional cravings and combat your issues. Recognize when your body truly needs fuel and fill it with healthy choices. Turn cravings into choices and make them wisely.