There’s A More Effective Way To Curb Your Cravings Than ‘Enjoying In Moderation’

Women's Health |

By Jamie Hergenrader; Photography by Freepik

We all know that never works anyway.

If you’ve ever found yourself staring at the bottom of an empty bag of chips (or tub of ice cream) after telling yourself you’d just have one serving, you know how difficult it can be enjoy your favourite treats in moderation. Nevertheless, plenty of experts will tell you that’s the best way to keep your food cravings in check and prevent overindulging later. However, while that logic is still sound in some respects, a new study shows that eliminating food cravings during weight loss is more nuanced than that.

This study, published in the journal Obesity, monitored 367 overweight participants (their average baseline weight was around 90 kilos) over the course of two years. All participants stuck to a highly restrictive diet, and researchers monitored their body weights and craving levels at baseline, six months, and 24 months.

What the researchers found is that during energy (read: kilojoule) restriction for weight loss, cravings for specific foods decreased when the frequency of eating those specific foods decreased—not when people simply ate less of those foods. In other words, if you usually have a strong craving for chocolate and you’re trying to lose weight, you’ll curb your cravings more successfully if you avoid chocolate all together, rather than allowing yourself small amounts of it, says study author Dr. John Apolzan, assistant professor at Pennington Biomedical Research Center.

READ MORE: Turns Out Taking A 2-Week Diet Break Might Actually Help You Lose More Weight

The Reality

Registered dietician, Lisa DeFazio, author of the Women’s Health Big Book of Soups and Smoothies, says these findings make sense, at least when a person is actively trying to shed pounds.

“For cravings and junk food, it’s like a drug, so the more you eat it, the more you crave it,” says DeFazio. “Even introducing it once a week gives you that feeling again, releasing dopamine, and leading to that feeling of pleasure.”

READ MORE: 5 Weight Loss Rules From Nutritionists That You Should Break

One way to combat this temptation is a cabinet clean-out, says Apolzan—basically, throw it away if you’ve got it lying around in your pantry and then stop buying it altogether. Another way to help reduce the frequency, he says, is to eliminate the stimuli that’s associated with eating it. For example, if you tend to have a bowl of ice cream when you watch TV at night, stop watching TV, and find another activity that won’t prompt that habit.

However, we know that can be easier said than done, so DeFazio recommends another option—substituting in healthier versions of the food. “You can try sorbet instead of ice cream, or instead of regular chips, try baked chips or popcorn,” she says. “Something still in that family of the food’s taste and texture.”

Then, once you you’re in the maintenance phase, you can start to re-introduce that food, but if you do, you should still be mindful of your portion size. No matter what the food is, if you’re going to have it, limit yourself to no more than 620 kilojoules of it. Both experts recommend measuring out your portions, or to make things even easier, buying items packaged in single servings, such as snacks that come in 420-calorie packs. You can also make a rule to only indulge in that craving outside your home. “If you want dessert, have it out at a restaurant, so you don’t have a box of cupcakes sitting at home,” says DeFazio.

READ MORE: 9 Things You’re Not Doing In Your Kitchen That Lead To Weight Loss

The Bottom Line

That advice about “enjoying in moderation” has more layers to it. If you want to reduce cravings during weight loss, you should try to avoid your temptation completely. After you lose the weight, start reintroducing your favourite indulgent eats, but be conscious about the amount you’re having—that’s where the “moderation” part comes in.

This article was originally published on

READ MORE ON: Diet Advice Weight Loss Weight Loss Tips

Enable Notifications    Ok No thanks