How to be the boss of your junk food cravings
The odd slice of gooey chocolate cake or fish and chip Friday aren’t going to make you balloon. But when these indulgences snowball into daily habits, you and your waistline are in trouble. And don’t believe the ‘willpower’ bores – it’s not a question of mind over matter.
With clever tweaks to the way you eat, you can conquer your junk food cravings once and for all and finally reach (and remain) at your happy weight. The best bit? It won’t even feel like a diet.
1. Eat naturally
That means choosing real food. ‘The minute you start dieting, you start eating the wrong foods,’ says Zoë Harcombe, author of The Harcombe Diet 3-Step Plan (£8.99). ‘Eat food found in the natural environment, that grows on trees and comes out of the ground – that’s a diet mostly based on meat, fish, eggs, cheese, vegetables and fruit in season.’ So, next time you crave something sweet, try swapping that sugar-laden so-called ‘diet’ cereal bar for apple slices with almond butter.
2. Rethink your carbs
Current NHS guidelines advise that starchy carbs like pasta, bread, and rice make up 33 per cent of what we eat – more than we ate in the ‘meat and two veg’ days (when we weren’t in the grip of an obesity crisis). However, these guidelines date back to the 1980s – modern research suggests we got it right the first time. If you have cereal for breakfast, a sarnie for lunch and pasta for dinner, you’re eating a high-carb diet based on flour and sugar, both nutritionally poor ingredients. Make at least one meal low-carb every day to help nourish your body.
3. Stop dieting
It’s a vicious circle. Harcombe believes dieting causes hypoglycaemia, which cause cravings. Hypoglycaemia (low-blood glucose) develops when we consume too much sugar too often, placing excessive demands on the body to keep releasing insulin to return levels to normal. The modern diet – full as it is of carbs (which are sugars) – is a recipe for hypoglycaemia, as are traditional ‘diet’ foods (such as fruit, cereal bars and low-fat flavoured yoghurt). Symptoms include craving more sugar, as well as caffeine, leaving you vulnerable to blowing 500 odd calories on that flavoured latte and muffin come 3pm.
4. Make friends with fat
‘Fearing fat is one of our biggest mistakes,’ says Harcombe. ‘In fact, it’s the most versatile macronutrient we have, full of vitamin A and D. The link between fat and heart attacks is wrong – it’s sugar and processed foods that are threatening our health,’ she argues. Stick to good fat (avocados, oily fish, nuts and seeds) and you should be good to go.
5. Remember, it’s all in the mix
It’s official: carb/protein or fat/protein-based meals are in, but carb/fat is out. The reason? Your body will use the carbs first for energy and store the fat. But if you eat a fat/protein meal (such as steak and salad), your body is forced to use the fat for energy. Equally, while some food combinations work better than others, you shouldn’t eat foods that cause your cravings, as these are the foods that will tip you back into your vicious circle. Of course, you can break the rules occasionally (red wine, 85% cocoa chocolate, the odd slice of birthday cake) – just stay in control.