Food cravings are something we’ve all experienced at least once in life. They are those voices in your head telling you to order pizza at 1 a.m. or grab that gooey pastry at the coffee shop on your way to the office.

Because these cravings are for food, it would be easy to think they originate in your belly but we’ve got news for you: they are strongly influenced by your brain. Cravings are our body’s way of letting the brain know that it requires something, namely, fuel. This is why addressing specific food cravings with that particular food will, sadly, not solve anything!

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“Your body is designed to do everything in its power to prevent you from starving. So when you don’t give your body enough food, or you give it food that breaks down too quickly, it releases stress hormones,” says clinical nutritionist, Tara Coleman.

When our bodies need fuel in a hurry, it looks for it in the simplest form which, unfortunately, is sugar. This is why the majority of food cravings are for sweet foods and simple carbohydrates. And like this wasn’t complicated enough on its own, cravings can also be linked to emotions like sadness, boredom, anger, and stress. Unfortunately, it is impossible to avoid these emotions completely so being aware of them and taking active steps to address them is a must. But hey, we’re all human. Things happen. We feel things or we sometimes forget to give our body the calories it needs to function. So the next time you are going about your day and find yourself struck with an overwhelming urge to eat any and all chocolate you can find, try these tips for navigating your way through without going completely off the rails (for extra help, check out the BodyRock Meal Plan!).

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1. Eat protein

Grab yourself a high protein snack and wait 20 minutes. If after the 20 minutes you still want what you were craving, allow yourself to have a reasonable portion. We’re willing to bet that won’t need to take that last step. Protein will not only address your hunger and fill you up, it will help you to manage your stress levels. Because protein digests slowly, it will help you avoid those sugar rushes and crashes that contribute to a cycle of hard to manage emotional and physical ups and downs.

2. Tell yourself you can have it another time

Change the way you think about something and you can change the way you feel about it. If you tell yourself you can have your treat at a later time, you can trick yourself out of the craving. By acknowledging that there isn’t actually any urgency to eating that particular food, you remove it from front and center in your mind.

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3. Breathe

It sounds a little silly but when you feel a craving hit, practice deep breathing. Use it as a moment to check in with yourself and see how you are feeling emotionally. Are you bored? Are you angry or sad? These quiet moments will help you become more aware of your emotions and how they impact your eating habits. If it helps, write everything down in a journal. This will make you aware of certain patterns. If you always want chocolate after your weekly staff meeting or dive into a tub of ice cream after coffee with a certain bud, there is clearly something in these relationships that is upsetting you. Being able to address these emotions directly will help you get ahead of these cravings in a healthy, beneficial way.

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4. Think about how you will feel in 20 minutes

Stop and think about it: will that gigantic plate of pasta you want for lunch actually help you in the rest of your day? Will it help you finish the day on a productive note or will it make you feel like crawling under your desk for nap? There is research out there that suggests thinking about the benefits and/or consequences of a particular food can help you manage your craving for that food in the future.

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5. Drink some water

In a cruel twist of biological fate, dehydration often masks itself as hunger. So, before you run to the vending machine or raid your kitchen, drink a glass or two of water and wait. We’re guessing that if you give it a little time, your craving will pass.

6. Treat yourself without food

Eating isn’t the only way to make yourself feel better. If your craving is linked to emotions, good or bad, you can treat yourself in ways that won’t impact your diet. Put on your favorite song or plan a date with your closest friends. Go dancing! Do what makes you happy and your cravings will disappear from your priority list. Distract yourself from your craving and it will be over before you know it!

How do you deal with food cravings? We love hearing from you, share your tips with us!

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