Whether it’s a fresh-baked cookie, a piece of chocolate, a hot slice of pizza or a plate of salty French fries, most likely you’ve had the intense desire to throw caution to the wind and indulge. So you give in, just once, only to find yourself craving another cookie or a bag of potato chips in just a few hours. This cycle of eating too many carbs raises and lowers your blood sugar levels. We call this the carb rollercoaster, and it’s the culprit for those constant cravings. You can end your ride on the carb rollercoaster with the following craving-busting tips:
1. Stick with it. If you follow Atkins correctly, you teach your body to burn fat for fuel instead of carbs by decreasing your carb intake. This eliminates the spikes and slumps in your blood sugar, and keeps your hunger at bay, as well as those cravings. When you first start Atkins, your blood sugar levels have not yet stabilized. After the first two weeks, your body should be burning fat for energy instead of carbs, which acts as a natural appetite suppressant.
2. Keep eating. If you are going too long between meals or snacks, your blood sugar will drop, leading to hunger and cravings. Keep your blood sugar on an even keel with three meals and two snacks a day.
3. Stick with a plan. If you plan out your meals and snacks each day, the right foods will always be at your fingertips, making you less likely to succumb to temptation.
4. Watch out for sneaky carbs. As always, be sure to read your food labels. You may be consuming foods containing hidden sugars or grains, and these foods could unknowingly trigger your cravings.
5. Have a drink. Of water, that is. Hunger and cravings may be confused with thirst, so make sure you’re drinking at least eight cups of water a day. Two cups can come from coffee or tea (caffeinated is fine), herb tea, sugar-free sodas or broth.
6. Don’t forget fat. Or protein. Make sure you have fat or protein with every meal or snack. Have half a Hass avocado, some cheese or olives for snacks. You can cook with canola, olive and most nut oils, as well as butter or coconut oil. Top veggies and other foods with butter, and use extra-virgin olive oil in your salad dressings. And you can enjoy eggs, fish, shellfish, poultry (unless it’s breaded or battered or sausages that contain fillers or other high-carb ingredients), beef, lamb, pork and all other meats (once again watching out for fillers and high-carb ingredients). All of these fat and protein sources fill you up and keep you satisfied.
7. Distract yourself. Sometimes hunger (and cravings) can be mistaken for pure boredom. Go for a walk, drink a glass of water, read a book or call a friend.
8. Watch your stress. Stress can mess with your blood sugar levels and trigger cravings for comfort food. Check out Atkins Recipes section for low-carb versions of your favorite comfort foods. Regular exercise can help decrease stress, as well as meditation, and taking the time to do activities that you enjoy.
9. Fruit. Foe or friend? Once you reintroduce fruit into your diet, you may find that it spikes your blood sugar and/or causes cravings. Make sure to pair it with fat or protein. Enjoy your berries with full-fat whipped cream or walnuts, for example.
10. Indulge in Atkins products. Many are formulated for every Phase, and you have your choice from bars, shakes and snacks to convenient frozen meals. There are even treats that will satisfy your sweet tooth—and this includes peanut butter cups and chocolate candies.
11. Find the culprits. As your progress through the Phases of Atkins and add back foods you have not eaten in a while, your cravings may return. Cut back by 10 grams of Net Carbs a day and eliminate foods you’ve added recently. Reintroduce foods slowly, one by one, to find the culprits.
12. Revisit Phase 1. Congratulations! You’re losing weight or maintaining your goal weight. And then you get a little overly confident and start adding foods that aren’t acceptable on your Phase—potatoes, alcohol or a cookie, for example. Suddenly your cravings return and the number on the scale starts creeping up. Return to Phase 1 (Induction) for a week or to jumpstart your progress and stabilize your blood sugar levels.
13. Go cold turkey. A 2011 study in the journal Obesity shows that the fewer carbs you consume (especially when you eat fat and protein in their place), the less you will eventually crave those carbs and the more you will be able to control your hunger. This does not mean restricting all carbs; you need your 12 to 15 grams of Net Carbs of veggies every day and eventually we will learn what carbs (and how many grams of Net Carbs) you can continue to consume will losing and eventually maintaining your weight. But if there’s a food that continually causes your cravings to return, science shows it might be worth just eliminating it for good.