Get Strong in 2019 Challenge Day 15: How to Deal With Unhealthy Food Cravings

Cravings. We all have them. They're completely normal. The real challenge is not giving into them too often. Learning what causes your cravings and how to manage them will help you stay on track.

First off, a craving is not hunger. When you're hungry, your body has various ways of telling you that it wants and needs sustenance. It requires fuel to keep running, and pretty much anything will do.

A craving is a hankering for a specific food ― usually the type that's not part of your healthy eating plan. Where do cravings come from, though? The answer lies in your brain. Research suggests that your brain is partially responsible because mental imagery plays a major role in cravings.

When you crave a certain food, your brain generates vivid images of that food, reinforcing the craving and making it more powerful. When your brain is generating the imagery accompanying your craving, it has less brainpower available for other cognitive tasks. (So don't try solving algebraic equations while you're overwhelmed by the desire to gobble French fries.)

6 Tips for Stopping Food Cravings

So what do you do when you're overwhelmed by a hankering for a juicy double cheeseburger or can't stop thinking about the Pop Tarts in the vending machine down the hall? First, take a deep breath. Next, try one of these six tips.

  1. Drink plenty of water. Sometimes your body mistakes thirst for hunger. Pro tip: Add a slice of lemon for variety.
  2. Be proactive. Eat regularly and don't let yourself get too hungry.
  3. Keep healthy snacks on hand wherever you are, especially when you're on the go.
  4. Allow yourself to give into the cravings from time to time in a controlled portion so you don't feel deprived.
  5. When a craving strikes, focus on something else — go for a walk, meditate, read, etc.
  6. Indulge a little by having a piece of dark chocolate or fruit if you're craving sweets.

When a craving hits, track it. Write it down and note what you're doing when it strikes, how you're feeling and how you handled it. This helps you better understand and control them so you don't have to cave to cravings.

Learn More About Controlling Your Cravings

Fighting the urge to gobble down all the chips and queso will likely be an ongoing battle. It's not like you resist once and the cravings go away forever. But that's OK, because with a balanced approach to life (staying on track 80 percent of the time and allowing yourself some of your favorite "unhealthy" foods 20 percent of the time) is essential for a happy, healthy life. Here's how to strike that balance:

How to Join the Get Strong in 2019 Challenge

1. Sign Up for Daily Emails

There are two main places this challenge is taking place online — your inbox and our Facebook group (more on that in a second). So first, make sure you've entered your email to sign up for the Get Strong in 2019 Challenge. (Yep, even if you're already signed up for our regular daily newsletter.)

Every day, we'll be sending you your daily workout and a healthy recipe to try, along with fun extras like workout playlists, motivational quotes, self-care tips and other fitness and nutrition information to make 2019 your best (and healthiest) year ever!

2. Print Out Your Calendars

Isn't it so satisfying to check things off of your to-do list? Each day during the Get Strong in 2019 Challenge, you're accountable for two main things: working out and eating healthy.

To help keep you on track for the entire month, we created two calendars — one with each day's workouts listed and another with each week's nutrition goal and healthy recipes. Print them out and check off each workout and day of healthy eating as you complete it.

3. Join Our Challenge Facebook Group

For daily support, motivation and camaraderie with LIVESTRONG.COM team members, join our Facebook Group for the Get Strong in 2019 Challenge. We'll share recipes, tips, motivations, pictures and more! Plus, we'll answer all your questions.

4. Share Your Journey on Social Media

Are you on Instagram or Twitter? So are we! And we'd love to see photos and updates of your progress. When you post to social media, be sure to use the hashtag #GetStrongChallenge. That way, you can also connect with other Get Strong challengers!

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