I’ve never been a gamer. You know that thing where people grab their controllers and put a headset on to chat to their mates while they run around trying to shoot each other in the head with a virtual sniper rifle? Yeah, that stuff. Never my gig. However, on tour once in the states, video games became strangely addictive for a while. 22 hour stretches trapped on a tour bus will lead even the most patient man to distraction, and I wasn’t really the hard drugs and alcohol type at that point in my life, so video games it was. It soon became a habit, in fact, it spiralled quickly. Once I’d got used to playing one particular game, I began to think about it when we were doing other stuff, like soundchecks or interviews. It was weird. It had become so comforting on the long, lonely, drives that I craved it outside of those times.
Now don’t worry, this isn’t a story of how I was hopelessly addicted to video games. As soon as I started to think about them outside of being on the bus, I nipped it in the bud. The whole saga lasted less than two weeks. What was interesting, was how quickly the perceived need to play them took hold. You’ve experienced this too. Think about the last time you tried a new food or dish that was out of this world. Not just a bit yummy, but a food that made you feel like Augustus Gloop felt by the chocolate river. After you’d eaten it, maybe you thought about it on the way home. Or in the morning when you woke up, or while you were on your computer at work. Being super motivated to eat one specific thing is what is commonly known as a craving, and we all have them. While our crafty brains make sure we can’t control cravings, all is not lost; we can control how we respond to them.
When the food we eat finds it’s way past the stomach and into the small intestine, it’s met by receptors that check for the amount of sugar, salt, fat, protein, starch, and that funny meaty flavour that’s in soy sauce called glutamate. These receptors then tell the brain what you’ve just eaten and what the concentration of the substances are. The part of your brain that deals with this information is the part of the brain that deals with motivation, whether it’s drugs, sex, gambling, or food if that part of the brain thought that what just happened was great, it’s going to motivate you to get more of that stuff. This is how a craving is created.
Most people talk about craving sugar, or even being addicted to it, but that’s not the case.
- A study on college students showed the chocolate was the most craved food type
- A recent report by Schulte et al showed that chocolate was a food most likely to have addictive-like qualities
One thing we know about chocolate is that it’s not just sugar, but a dreamy combination of both fat and carbs that makes it so irresistible.
- In fact, a study just released, proved that the combination of carbs and fat together are more rewarding than fat or carb foods alone even when the different foods were matched for total calories
It’s not the sugar, it’s the whole package of carb and fat yumminess that makes you want to come back for more.
Chocolate, pastries, pizza, KFC, or any other combination of high cals, fat, and carbs are the foods we crave the most. Usual nutrition guidelines would tell you to cut the offending foods out and never look back, but in my honest opinion, and the opinion of the scientific literature, that’s just bollocks. Sure, going home to a front room filled floor to ceiling with pain au raisins every day isn’t going to do much for your dietary adherence, but never going out, eating food you love, and basically living a life that doesn’t suck shouldn’t just grind to a halt.
For any diet to work, there needs to be some restraint in order to consume fewer calories than you burn, but trying to omit foods forever by dieting in an ultra-rigid fashion does not pan out well in the long term.
- People who diet rigidly overeat more and have higher levels of anxiety and depression
- Rigid dieters have more trouble sticking to their diet
- Rigid dieting makes people more food-focused and results in less weight loss
- If you leave a food you might love out of your diet, such as bread, you’re more likely to slip up on the diet than if you allow yourself to have it
The answer in how to navigate cravings while managing to stick to a weekly Calorie deficit is getting to know yourself, and planning accordingly. Being super spontaneous on a diet is a recipe for going off the rails. This is the “ah fuck it” feeling when you walk past the cake shop after restricting yourself for too long that leads to bingeing and feelings of guilt. It doesn’t have to be like that. If you plan, you really can have your cake and eat it.
Counting calories is essential for an approach like this to work. Trying to fit in indulgences intuitively when you’re so hungry even poison tastes good is a recipe for overeating by a huge amount. By tracking, you can log it all, hit your quota, and move on, knowing that fat loss is still definitely on the cards by the end of the week.
- Depending on your personality, you can set your diet up to work for you in different ways
- You could have one or two bangers in the week, and drop Calories on the other days to make the average even out
Imagine your diet is like a daily wage. If you pay yourself 1,500 Calories on average, you can borrow more on any day, you just have to make up for it on the other. 2,000 kcal one day, could result in dropping to 1,000 kcal the next or having 6 days of 1,415 kcals. It doesn’t matter how you do it. You can throw in one or two complete 24 hour fasts if you want. Just keep your eye on the bigger picture of hitting the average by the end of the week.
- You could have a linear Calorie intake across the week and just allocate 10% to 20% of something you absolutely love
The key is to plan what works for you and your personality and stick with it. A study by Rita Coelho do Vale showed that deviating from the idea of a rigid diet would help maintain motivation and give better results as long as there was a plan in place.
Some of the best times in my life have involved sharing amazing food with someone else, and just because you want to rock it on the beach this summer, you can still have experiences like mine too, if you so wish, without blowing your goals out of the water.
Despite craving the good stuff, food can still be loved, shared, talked about, and enjoyed without anything bad happening to your fat loss if you have planned indulgences while managing your Calorie intake.
Want to lose weight while still going out to eat the foods you love? Get the eat out stay lean system and never worry about eating out again.