HomedietHow To Stop Food Cravings: Achieving Self Control Over Your Eating Habits

How To Stop Food Cravings: Achieving Self Control Over Your Eating Habits

How To Stop Food Cravings: Achieving Self Control Over Your Eating Habits

Dealing with food cravings can be one the hardest part of losing weight and maintaining any weight loss can only come if there is some degree of self control over your eating habits. The most common phrase that I have heard over the past 30 years when it comes to the foods they find themselves craving is, “I can’t control myself!” Often, the very thought of having to deny yourself your favorite junk foods sends many into paroxysms and can in some cases increase food cravings. Leading so many to resign themselves to the idea that they lack the willpower to eat consistently well and control their eating habits. This leads to some interesting questions about human nature; are some people just better endowed with innate abilities to control their food intake and maintain a healthier lifestyle? If so, does that mean that if you aren’t one of those iron-willed few who can easily stroll past the not-so-great-foods at the buffet table without stopping that you are doomed to an eternity of trying to stay on your diet and control your eating habits, but always failing? Research has given us some fascinating and useful insight into these questions and the answers leave us with hope for everyone in being able to master our eating habits. In this article and in the podcast above, we will delve into some behavioral strategies that have helped thousands of people gain control over their cravings and set them on the path towards being able to maintain a healthy diet. Thanks as always for tuning in and do be sure to share this article and podcast with those who you think might find it to be of use!



How To Stop Food Cravings- Understanding Where Cravings Come From


self controll in the face of cravings can seem impossibleA craving is defined as “a consuming desire or yearning” for something outside of the self. [1] Food cravings are almost completely ubiquitous and appear to be more prevalent in women than men, as studies have found as many as 97% of women and 68% of men report some episode of food cravings. [2] A daunting statistic and self-control in the face of these cravings can seem to be a Sisyphean task as our cravings are not simply our brain trying to sabotage our weight loss efforts, but represent a form of self-comfort for most people. Some behavioral scientists theorize that there is a connection between food cravings and our moods, especially with carbohydrates. The idea is that many of us consume (usually refined) carbohydrates as a way of elevating mood.[3] A form of easily accessible self-medication for lack of a better word, for coping with and or avoiding unpleasant states. Consumption of highly refined carbohydrates have been linked to increases in the brain neurotransmitter serotonin, which has been shown to produce marked increases in positive mood. [4] Much of the literature on food cravings has been devoted to carbohydrate cravings and to the connection between food and mood. A frequently proposed theory is that many individuals ingest carbohydrates in an effort to elevate mood (3). This theory postulates that, in essence, food is being used as a form of self-medication to ameliorate unpleasant affective states. This occurs through increases in the brain neurotransmitter serotonin, which is known to have a positive impact on mood.


How To Stop Food Cravings- Chocolate Isn’t The Problem, It’s Fat And Sugar


food and self control- dealing with cravings for chocolate
We don’t really crave chocolate- studies show that we really crave the sugar and fat it contains.

Chocolate is one of the most frequently craved food in the United States [5] with 40% of women reporting cravings and 15% of men, and most say that other foods don’t satisfy the craving for chocolate. [6] As a side note, chocolate isn’t really what people crave, as studies have shown that it’s actually the sugar and fat and not the chocolate being craved. Researchers randomly presented self-proclaimed “chocolate cravers with closed boxes containing either a milk chocolate bar, a white chocolate bar, capsules of cocoa or a placebo. One would that the high chocolate content of the cocoa capsules would satisfy the craving, but it didn’t as only consumption of the white or milk chocolate bars reduced the cravings.[7] We are in essence hard wired to crave sugar and fat as all mammals are programmed to have sugar, fat and salt cravings as these are the three main ingredients of breast milk. Without this innate craving, we would have all died out as a species, as the suckling mechanism would not have taken place after birth and without milk infants would starve to death. The problem is that this little universal aspect of what it means to be human is universally exploited by food manufacturers who use our intrinsic cravings for fat, sugar and salt to develop foods that directly appeal to these desires. When most people choose a food, they do so not based on the nutritional value of the food, but rather how they expect them to taste and the signals of pleasure their brains will discharge as a reward.[8] Which is why high calorie, high fat and or high sugar foods are such an indelible part of the Western diet as it does take a lot to not give into their siren song.


Making matters worse is that the Catch 22 that more you try to avoid a high energy food, as is the case with almost any practical weight loss program, the more likely you will be to crave it.
Dieting and restrained eating increases the likelihood of food cravings, while not eating at all diminishes cravings.[9] A notable finding as it shows that there are a slew of underlying cognitive, conditioning and emotional processes associated with food cravings, which is good news as it means that if we learn how to crave foods, we can learn how to minimize these cravings.




How To Stop Food Cravings- Lessons from The Marshmallow Experiment

preschooler self control experiment

In 1965 a landmark experiment was carried out at Stanford University by Professor Walter Mischel with 653 preschool children. It was called the ‘Marshmallow Experiment’ and its findings were landmark in terms of understanding human self-control. The goal of the experiment was to explore why it was that some children are able to delay gratification while others almost immediately succumb to temptation. By using preschoolers, the experiment was focused on assessing innate abilities, rather than those learned through life experience and determine the natural inclinations of the children in the experiment. The tests were extremely simple, but perhaps torturous for the preschoolers involved. Each child was made to sit in a game room and asked to pick a treat from a tray of marshmallows, cookies or pretzel sticks. Researchers then gave each child a challenge, they could have one treat immediate- a treat that was placed directly in front of them at the table, or if they were willing to wait for a few minutes, they could have two treats when the researcher returned. If the wait felt unbearable, the child had the option to ring a bell left on the table. At which point the researcher would come back into the room and the child could have one treat but would forfeit the second treat.


You imagine the dilemma that this would have presented for those poor preschoolers- a dilemma that is not far removed from what many of us experience today as adults when faced with the choice of instant gratification from eating junk foods or abstaining in the hopes of enjoying a future reward of a better body and better health. A perplexing predicament indeed, and what happened next in the experiment was as most would expect. The children all wanted to try to get the second treat and struggled to be patient and not ring the bell immediately. A few kids ate the treat as soon as the researcher left the room without even bothering to ring the bell! However, on average most persevered for about three minutes before succumbing to temptation. What was fascinating though, were the 30% of preschoolers who were able to successfully delay their urges until the researcher came back into the room fifteen minutes later. [10] A veritable eternity by preschooler standards!


How To Stop Food Cravings- Metacognition Exercises

self control

Professor Mischel continued to track these kids into adulthood and what he found was that those on the lower scale of being able to delay their gratification in the experiment as children were more likely to have a higher body mass index (BMI) and be more inclined to have substance abuse issues and behavioral problems as adults. [11] Not surprisingly the kids that were able to hold on for the full fifteen minutes tended to do better academically and socially. Proving that some of us may indeed have genetically predetermined abilities that help delay gratification and in many ways increase the likelihood of success in many areas as adults.[12] From a weight loss and self-control perspective, some of us are naturally able to resist the temptation of the foods that we know we should not eat. This might make those less inclined to delay their gratification urges throw their hands up in the air in defeat and resign themselves to a life of never having the self-control to lose weight and overcome food cravings, but this is not the case at all!


Of all the data extrapolated from the marshmallow experiment, the most intriguing and perhaps most important finding are from the group of kids who failed the marshmallow test early on as preschoolers, but went on nonetheless to become adults with impressive self-control.[13] This group highlighted the idea that what we call “willpower” is simply a matter of learning how to control our thought processes. A skill that can be learned over time. Professor Mischel observed that the kids who were able to wait for the full fifteen minutes all used the same set of coping skills to hold out.[10] Skills that we can all use today to help us gain a measure of self-control over even the strongest of food cravings and any other form of temptation for that matter.

author kevin richardson uses metacognition to stop food cravings
Author and natural bodybuilding champion, Kevin Richardson used metacognition exercises to get rid of his donut cravings and has been donut free since 2003!
The Golden Rule- Learn To Distract Yourself


The kids who held out the longest during the Marshmallow Experiment all distracted themselves in one way or the other, by covering their eyes, singing songs or playing games, basically doing anything to remove their focus from what is termed the ‘hot stimulus’. For those of us placed in a situation where we are confronted by that situation where you are face to face with an opportunity to eat a food that you know you should avoid, but have a craving for nonetheless, the key to getting away without blowing your diet it to just not to think about it by distracting yourself. Don’t even think about avoiding it, as that keeps the focus on the hot stimulus and actually makes it more likely that you will give into the craving. I mention this strategy not as an intellectual or abstract mechanism, but as one that I myself have employed with outstanding results over the years. I struggled many years ago with cravings for donuts. (Or to be technically correct, a craving for the sugar and fat that donuts delivered.) Not a light craving, but a serious one that manifested itself after my earlier bodybuilding contests where I would diet down to the low single digit body fat percentages following a quite strict and demanding diet. One day after winning a show, I stopped by a Dunkin Donuts shop right next to where I worked and got myself a dozen glazed donuts. I promptly proceeded back to my office where I ate all twelve and marched back out to get another dozen! I ate that dozen and went out again and in so doing I ate  36 glazed donuts in a half hour!

food and self control

It didn’t stop there. As time when on I would find myself suddenly struck with an almost insatiable urge for those sugar-coated monsters. I would leave the house at odd hours in search of my donut fix and about a month or two into this insanity I realized that I had a very real problem that had to be addressed. The next time I had one of my overwhelming desires for donuts, instead of focusing on not eating them I would distract myself by thinking about something else or occupying myself with some form of activity (some of the things I don’t think I will put in print). It was not easy at first, but over time the cravings did subside, and I haven’t had a donut since 2003- and I don’t see myself ever having one ever again in this lifetime. This method didn’t just work for me for avoiding donuts- but it worked equally well for pizza, bread, pastries and just about every high calorie refined food that I loved but knew wasn’t good for me and my long-term goals. As we touched on earlier, it’s not the food that we crave, it’s the sugar, fat or salt, so what works for one food will inevitably work for another as long as you keep practicing. In my experience, the more I practiced distracting myself the better I got at it, until I came to where I am now where what I eat is always a planned-out choice and not a compulsion. Many erroneously hold me up on a pedestal for my achievements in terms of dietary adherence and maybe I may have had some innate genetic predisposition toward patience, but it was not a steel will that enabled me to eat the way I do today. Like everyone else I struggled to eat better and remember all too well the sense of hopelessness in the face of those late-night calls to eat just what you should not be eating, but I used some very useful tools to get me through the hard parts. This particular skill is called metacognition- and is the most powerful tool in your arsenal of being able to resist the foods that you should not eat and build your armor of self-control


Professor Mischel found that by teaching children a series of mental tricks, such as pretending that the treat in front of them was only a picture in their imagination, the kids that could hardly wait for 30 seconds were able to wait for the full 15 minutes.[10] As adults we can use similar processes to create delay strategies but it will only work when we have practiced them to the point where it becomes almost second nature. The best part is that by learning how to increase our self-control by understanding how our brains work, we are not only able to resist the temptations that chocolate, cakes and ice cream present, but we can also improve our overall success in just about every aspect of everyday life. Studies show that delayed gratification is one of the most common traits of successful people, and those who can constructively manage their need to be satisfied in the moment tend to do better in their relationships, careers, health, and tend to be more financially stable than those who give in to it. So start practicing!

Not Bad For Training Only Three Days A Week!

Because it's three days a week with soul crunching intensity non stop for the past 33 years.

There's no gimmick to it and it means being uncompromisingly all in for your workouts and with your nutrition.

I don't think there's that much that special about me.

There's nothing enhanced, nothing boosted by testosterone and there weren't any special "supplements" along the way.

Just three days of blistering hard work each week and meticulous attention to what I eat.

Being 90% on point each week means you are 100% off after 10 weeks and I can't emphasize enough how much of a difference unshakeable consistency makes to your overall results.

Most of the natural athletes didn't get where they are by any genetic advantage, they just did what is so very rare- which is stick to their process 100%.

It's not easy as it's not always easy and certainly not always popular, but you owe it to yourself to see just how far you can go if you go all in!

Looking forward to seeing your results and as always, Excelsior!!! #naturallyintense

#naturalbodybuilding #naturalbodybuilder #fitover40 #homegym #drugfreebodybuilding #gymselfie #hometraining #naturalbodybuildingmotivation

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What I Eat To Stay Lean and Keep Building Muscle All Year Round.

If there every was a "secret" to how I consistently stay in shape (and almost 20 years since my last competition) the answer would be my diet.

Diet is the deciding factor in what your body looks like and your overall performance and I want to stress that while this is a layout of the foods I eat on a daily basis, it's not a blueprint for your YOU should be eating.

What it can be is an example of what it takes to maintain a certain degree of size and muscularity at all times as a natural athlete, and also the underlying principle to how I select my foods.

Which is that I don't eat junk foods or highly processed foods and I only drink water.

(No protein shakes, ever!)

If you can start with that, there's no doubt that you will be on the right track in terms of your nutrition.

So stay away from processed foods, know that I believe in you and as always, Excelsior!!! #naturallyintense

#naturalbodybuilder #naturalbodybuilding #naturalbodybuildingtips #naturalbodybuildingdiet #diet #whatieatinaday #mydiet #naturalbodybuildingvideos #naturalbodybuildingmotivation #drugfreebodybuilding #healthyeating #noproteinshakes #excelsior #bodybuilding #bodybuildingdiet

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Post workout physique check in.

The contest gets closer and closer as the sun meanders across the sky, as my contest is and always will be, did I do everything I possibly could that day to improve?

Did I train hard enough?

Did I push it enough?

The dietary part isn't an issue.

It hasn't been for many years as I always make sure that my nutrition is on point, and there's no leeway on that front.

I don't feel good when I'm not eating optimally, and I respect myself enough to not settle into a place where not feeling my best is the norm.

And to be honest, it feels really good to put my head down at the end of the day knowing that I gave it my all.

Not that I was the best or was even necessarily successful at everything that I set out to accomplish, but knowing that I gave everything nonetheless.

It's a feeling I want everyone to have.

To sleep soundly knowing that you gave it your all.

That you didn't miss an opportunity to improve on what you are passionate about, because in so doing, you experience an eagerness to do the same the next day.

It's the ultimate contest and I invite everyone to submit their application forms, as it's one of the few competitions where everyone who does the work and shows up, is in the winner's circle.

Keep striving, keep pushing and as always, Excelsior! #naturallyintense

(Thanks @indi.anna.r or taking the shot, as I know your arm was probably shaking after that workout!)

#naturalbodybuilding #naturalbodybuilder #fitover40 #homegym #drugfreebodybuilding #gymselfie #hometraining #naturalbodybuildingmotivation

159 13

Motivation vs Discipline. What You Really Need To Be Successful!

I am often asked what was my motivation to keep going starting off as a skinny 125lb kid who no one believed could ever be a successful bodybuilder.

The answer is that motivation didn't have that much to do with it.

Motivation may have played a part in getting me started, but it was discipline that got me to where I wanted to be.

Motivation is fleeting and ephemeral, it's not always going to be there and on the days when you don't feel like eating right or training hard, you need a disciplined practice to see you through.

A disciplined practiced based on doing what you need to do to be successful regardless of the circumstances.

That's how I made it through all those tough times when I felt I wasn't getting anywhere, and it's what will help you as well.

So forget motivation, focus on building a disciplined practice, know that I believe in you and as always, Excelsior!!! #naturallyintense

#naturalbodybuilding #nosteroids #fitnessgoals #naturalbodybuildingtips #naturalbodybuilder #naturalbodybuildingvideos #excelsior #fitover40 #naturalbodybuildingtips #naturalbodybuildingmotivation #disciplineovermotivation #disciplineequalsfreedom #discipline #motivation#fitness #mindset #selfdiscipline #fitnessmotivation #disciplinequotes #workout #disciplineiskey

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Kevin's Ultimate Secret Six Pack Abs Tip!

If you ever wondered how I maintain a six pack all year round and have kept that six pack for decades on end, here's the secret.

This is one tip that will honestly get you on the path to a six pack.

There's no magic to it.

But if you follow this simple piece of advice, you will be able to do a lot more than get yourself a six pack, as it's a proven formula for success.

Give it a try and as always, Excelsior!!! #naturallyintense

#sixpack #sixpackabs #6pack #6packabs #naturalbodybuilder #naturalbodybuilding #naturalbodybuildingtips #naturalbodybuildingvideo #naturalbodybuildingmotivation #sixpacktips #drugfreebodybuilding #abs

165 18

Happy Archery Day, everyone!!!

Yeah, it's a thing and can't say how much it's my thing!

To be honest, I am a barebow shooter and almost never shoot my compound bow (the monster in my hands) but it's all really good fun!

If you haven't tried archery or are thinking about doing it again, go give it a shot (no pun intended!!!)

And as always, Excelsior!!! #naturallyintense

#archery #archeryday #bowtech #naturalbodybuilder #naturalbodybuilding #fitover40 #blackandwhite #bowtech

135 19

Do You Have Good Genetics for Natural Bodybuilding?

I don't believe it's the question that needs to be asked.

Far too many, myself included, who went on to be successful natural bodybuilders would never have been the men and women you would expect to have the genetics for bodybuilding.

But we put in the work, the years, the dedication and the consistency, and so what matters isn't the question of genetics, but rather do you have the passion, the drive and the discipline to train hard and focus on your diet nonstop for years on end to realize your potential?

That's the real question, and yes, there are men and women who have great genetics for natural bodybuilding, but there are even more who would be amazing onstage but don't know it because they didn't believe enough in themselves to put in the time to see how far they could go.

So I am here to say that I believe you have it in you to do amazing things, so if it's your goal, or even if you just want to improve the way you look, stick with it and don't quit!

Know that I believe in you and as always, Excelsior!!! #naturallyintense

#naturalbodybuilding #nosteroids #fitnessgoals #bodytransformation #nodrugs #naturalbodybuildingtips #naturalbodybuilder #naturalbodybuildingvideos #excelsior #fitover40 #personaltrainer #naturalbodybuildingtips #naturalbodybuildingmotivation #beleiveinyourself

157 17

Nope it's not a contest cut- it's just another day on the Path.

There are two ways to get cut, the fast way that requires going to extremes and which is inevitably temporary.

Or the Path-based way. Whereby your lifestyle and sustainable healthy practices get you there and keeps you there.

It takes time. It takes patience but it's an extremely honest endeavor.

If you put in the work and stay consistent with your training and following a processed food free and healthy diet, excellence is just a matter of time.

It takes time but as long as you draw breath, you have the time and you can do this.

So take the Path-based way and as always, Excelsior!!!

And my thanks to my son @reid_443 for snapping the shot, and the approval rating! 😂

#naturalbodybuilding #naturalbodybuilder #fitover40 #homegym #drugfreebodybuilding #gymselfie #hometraining

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Please note that all material is copyrighted and DMCA Protected and can be reprinted only with the expressed authorization of the author.


Featured everywhere from the Wall Street Journal to CBS News, Kevin Richardson’s Naturally Intense High Intensity Training have helped hundreds lose weight and transform their bodies with his 10 Minute Workouts. One of the top natural bodybuilders of his time, Kevin is also the international fitness consultant for UNICEF and one of the top personal trainers in New York City.


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References for Food And Self Control- Dealing With Cravings

1. American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language Houghton Mifflin Boston.
2. Weingarten, H. P. & Elston, D. The phenomenology of food cravings. Appetite 1990
3. Wurtman, J. J. Carbohydrate cravings: a disorder of food intake and mood. Clin. Neuropharmacol. 1988
4. Susan Yanovski; Sugar and Fat: Cravings and Aversions, The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 133, Issue 3, 2003

5. Bruinsma, K. & Taren, D. L. Chocolate: food or drug? J. Am. Diet. Assoc. 1999
6. Weingarten, H. P. & Elston, D. Food cravings in a college population. Appetite 1991
7. Michener, W. & Rozin, P. Pharmacological versus sensory factors in the satiation of chocolate craving. Physiol. Behav 1994

8. M. Moss. Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us. Random House Trade Paperbacks; Reprint edition, 2014

9. Hill AJ. The psychology of food craving. Proc Nutr Soc. 2007

10. Mischel, W; Ebbesen, Ebbe B.; Raskoff Zeiss, Antonette. “Cognitive and attentional mechanisms in delay of gratification”. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 1972

11. Schlam, Tanya R.; Wilson, Nicole L.; Shoda, Yuichi; Mischel, Walter; Ayduk, Ozlem. “Preschoolers’ delay of gratification predicts their body mass 30 years later”. The Journal of Pediatrics. 2013



Kevin Richardson
Kevin Richardsonhttps://www.naturallyintense.net
Featured everywhere from the Wall Street Journal to CBS News, celebrity Personal Trainer NYC and with over 2.6 million readers of his blog, Kevin Richardson is the creator of Naturally Intense High Intensity Training, one of the top lifetime drug free bodybuilders of his time, the first International Fitness & Nutrition Consultant for UNICEF, 2020 and 8 Time Winner of the Best of Manhattan Awards for Personal Training and a world recognized authority on high intensity training. Kevin has helped thousands, from celebrities to CEO's over the past 30 years achieve their fitness goals with his 10 minute high-intensity workouts done just three times a week in conjunction with his holistic nutrition approach. You can learn more about about his diet and training services at www.naturallyintense.net

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