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How to Stop Food Cravings During Fasting: Here Are 12 Ways

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Kasparas Aleknavičius, MD November 16, 2022

Intermittent fasting is a time-restricted eating pattern consisting of eating and fasting windows. It can improve your overall health and has been proven to be effective as a weight loss tool.

Unfortunately, nothing comes without a price. And the price of intermittent fasting is hunger. Or is it?

Generally, fasting windows tend to be challenging, especially for beginners. The main reason for this is that you’re not allowed to consume any calories for a set amount of time. This can make you feel hungry and cranky. However, it’s important to remember that what you experience may not be actual hunger, but just a food craving.

In order to stop cravings, all you need is an action plan and the right mindset. We’ll help you with the plan and you take care of the mindset. Deal?

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1. If You’re New to Fasting – Get Used to Your New Routine Slowly

Change is never easy. It’s important to give your body time to adjust to a new eating pattern. In fact, it can take you up to 4 weeks to get used to intermittent fasting. You may feel even more hungry during this adjustment period. Therefore, you should make sure to set your expectations accordingly.

Jumping head-first into intermittent fasting is bound to end in failure. Start your intermittent fasting journey by selecting a beginner-friendly plan such as a 12-hour fast and remember, hunger and food cravings should become easier to manage as time goes by.

2. Don’t Keep Trigger Foods in the House

When trigger foods are within arm’s reach, you’re much more likely to give in to your craving and eat when you shouldn’t. A good way to counter food cravings is to eliminate junk food from your home.

Picture this. You come back home from a long day at work. You’re exhausted and not in the mood to lift a finger. There’s a bag of chips in the kitchen. Will you resist the temptation? Chances are, you won’t.

Don’t rely on motivation as it’s often momentary. Instead, make sure to plan ahead and buy only healthy snacks when grocery shopping. This way you won’t eat what you shouldn’t even when a food craving strikes.

3. Drink Water

You may have been told to drink water when you’re hungry as people often mistake thirst for hunger. However, there’s really no scientific evidence that proves this statement to be true. In reality, you should drink water because it’s a key player in keeping your body up and running.

When it comes to intermittent fasting, it’s crucial to drink enough fluids as more than 20% of our water intake comes from food. If done improperly, intermittent fasting may lead to dehydration which may increase food cravings, more specifically sugar cravings.

Drinking water before, during, or after a meal can fill up your stomach and make you feel more full. To put it simply, it can help to trick your body into thinking it’s full. This, in turn, may prevent overeating and extend the period until you start feeling hungry again.

If you’re having difficulties drinking the required amount of water every day, try to track your intake. For example, the DoFasting app will remind you to log your daily consumption of both water and meals. This will help you track your progress and keep yourself accountable.

When plain water gets a little boring, add a slice of lemon or a mint leaf to enhance the flavor. You can do this without breaking your fast.

4. Consume Enough Calories During the Eating Window

Intermittent fasting doesn’t revolve around extreme calorie restriction. On the contrary, it promotes a healthy lifestyle. While it’s beneficial to track your food intake and limit certain foods, it’s important not to go overboard.

If you don’t eat enough food throughout the day, you’re more likely to experience intense hunger pangs during both eating and fasting windows. This can increase cravings and make you reach for foods that are off-limits.

Moreover, when you eat too little during your eating window, you may end up breaking your fast later on because you’re too hungry to go on.

Make sure to eat the recommended amount of calories every day and try to incorporate more protein into your diet. Why? To put it simply, protein-rich foods can make you feel more full and may reduce food cravings. If you’re not sure what to eat, try out a low-carb diet.

5. Don’t Overeat, Either

Extreme calorie restriction is not the way to a healthy lifestyle, and neither is overeating. While you shouldn’t obsess over how many calories you’ve consumed, you also shouldn’t compensate for the time period you spent fasting by binge eating.

Overeating during your eating window may result in more intense food cravings when you’re actively fasting. Additionally, daily consumption of excess calories may contribute to an increase in body weight.

Instead of the usual three big meals throughout the day, try out small but frequent meals. There are several reasons why this works better for some people.

Fluctuating blood sugar levels have been linked to food cravings. Small but frequent meals may help you keep your blood sugar levels steady and minimize your need for something sweet. While it doesn’t work for everyone, smaller meals may be the thing just for you.

6. Drink Coffee

While a great many things are off-limits when you’re actively fasting, you can always enjoy a cup of black coffee. Interestingly, it may help you fight off food cravings. Caffeine, an ingredient responsible for giving you that boost of energy, has long been associated with appetite control.

What’s even more surprising is that decaffeinated coffee can be a better option to reduce cravings. Research suggests that decaffeinated coffee may have an even greater effect on promoting satiety than coffee with caffeine.

However, it’s important to remember that some people experience indigestion when drinking coffee on an empty stomach. If you have a sensitive stomach, it may be best to consult with your doctor before trying to fight off food cravings with a cup of coffee.

7. Allow Yourself to Enjoy Your Favorite Foods During the Fasting Window

Again, it’s important to remember that intermittent fasting is not a diet. This means that it’s not about counting calories or eliminating your favorite foods from your diet.

By depriving yourself of your favorite foods, you do more harm than good. Research suggests that restricting or completely eliminating certain foods from your diet may make your cravings even stronger.

Therefore, you should allow yourself to indulge. Don’t be afraid to incorporate your favorite foods into your diet even if they’re not the healthiest choice you could make.

For instance, if you have a sweet tooth, allow yourself to enjoy an ice cream cone on a hot summer day. You can even spoil yourself with a bar of dark chocolate after dinner every once in a while.

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8. Eat Plenty of Fiber

Foods that are high in fiber have long been linked with appetite regulation, and, as such, tend to be more filling. High-fiber foods include fruits (apples, bananas, and certain berries), vegetables (beans, broccoli, carrots), and whole grains (barley, brown rice, and oatmeal).

Incorporating these high-fiber foods into your diet may extend the period until you start feeling hungry again.

Interestingly, you can consume fiber even when you’re fasting. Instead of eating high-fiber food, you can drink appetite suppressants. For example, DoFasting’s Appetite Suppressants are packed with dietary fibers (glucomannan and cellulose) that minimize your food cravings and don’t break your fast.

9. Keep Yourself Busy

If you’re changing your eating habits, you might want to consider changing your lifestyle as well. Instead of mindlessly binging the latest TV series on Netflix, take up a new hobby to keep your mind off food.

Give yourself something to do. Something as simple as chewing gum may take your mind off that slice of pizza you were dreaming about. In fact, some studies show that the action of chewing itself may reduce appetite and the overall feeling of hunger.

Distractions work in the short term as well. If you’re struck by a sudden food craving, try to distract yourself with games on your phone. A study found that playing Tetris just for a few minutes a day may reduce cravings of all kinds.

10. Practice Mindful Eating

Mindful eating, as opposed to mindless eating, is defined as being present and aware of your food consumption choices. To put it simply, it means you put a conscious effort into what you eat instead of giving in to impulses and immediate gratification.

Most importantly, practicing mindful eating can help counter impulsive food cravings. While the end goal of mindful eating is not losing weight, it may change eating behaviors and contribute to weight loss.

The practice of mindful eating starts way before you actually start eating. It begins with buying the right food, preparing your meal, and ends with eating itself. Mindful eating invites you to use all of your senses when appreciating the food in front of you –  pay attention to the smell, colors, texture, and even the sounds different food makes.

11. Manage Stress

Have you ever caught yourself craving your favorite snack after a long and stressful day at work? You’re not the only one, and there’s scientific evidence that backs it up.

A number of studies have linked chronic stress and food cravings as stress disrupts appetite control.

What’s more, is that chronic stress contributes to the development of weight-related issues. Research shows that individuals who experience chronic stress may be at risk of becoming obese due to obesogenic behaviors such as comfort eating.

There are millions of ways to reduce stress, but they all have one thing in common – self-care. You can manage stress by giving yourself a break by taking time off work, spending time alone, and practicing meditation. Some short-term stress relievers are breathing exercises or a simple bubble bath.

12. Get Enough Sleep

Research suggests that a lack of sleep, even in the short term, may cause an imbalance of hunger (ghrelin) and satiety (leptin) hormones. This imbalance is responsible for an increase in appetite and may trigger the craving for a late-night snack.

By going to sleep early, you minimize the chance of grabbing that late-night snack and shorten the fasting window you will have to spend awake.

The best way to get enough sleep is to set a sleeping schedule and stick to it. This means going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day. Additionally, you should stay away from food for at least a couple of hours before bedtime.

Other Fasting Side Effects – And How to Alleviate Them

An increase in food cravings is probably the first side effect you’ll experience when intermittent fasting, however, it won’t be the only one. Some common fasting side effects include:

Headaches and brain fog

Fasting headaches occur when actively fasting for 16 hours or more. They tend to form in the front of the head. Scientific evidence suggests that low blood sugar and caffeine withdrawal are to blame.

You can try to alleviate a fasting headache by:

  • Reducing caffeine consumption before fasting;
  • Drinking plenty of water;
  • Eating enough calories during your eating window (opt for healthy fats).

Possible digestive problems

Digestive issues have long been associated with intermittent fasting. While a time-restricted eating pattern may improve your gut health, research suggests that some individuals suffer from constipation and bloating when intermittent fasting.

It’s important to note that not drinking enough water and not consuming enough calories during eating windows may make constipation even worse.

You can try to prevent digestive problems by:

  • Drinking enough water;
  • Increasing your fiber intake by eating specific food such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

Bad breath

When you’re actively fasting, your body releases ketones as a result of breaking down fatty acids. These ketones are often released by breathing which, in turn, causes a bad smell.

Bad breath is also a byproduct of dehydration. When you don’t have enough fluids, your body decreases saliva production making your mouth dry.

As mentioned before, you lose more fluids when you’re actively fasting. If you allow yourself to get dehydrated, you may end up with a dry mouth which often leads to a bad smell.

In order to prevent bad breath, make sure to:

  • Brush your teeth twice a day;
  • Floss at least once a day;
  • Scrape your tongue;
  • Rinse your mouth with water after you eat;
  • Drink lots of water to avoid a dry mouth.

Who Should Avoid Intermittent Fasting?

It’s important to remember that intermittent fasting is not a one size fits all. People who should never try intermittent fasting include:

    • Under 18 years old;
    • Pregnant or breastfeeding;
  • Underweight or suffering from an eating disorder.

Certain health conditions and their corresponding medications may also put you at risk when intermittent fasting. In this case, it’s crucial to consult with a registered dietitian or a doctor before starting intermittent fasting as it may result in long-term consequences.

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How to Stop Food Cravings: Key Takeaways

Intermittent fasting is not a diet that you have to get through. Instead, it should be an easy fit that enhances your already healthy lifestyle.

Reduce cravings by sticking to a healthy lifestyle – get 8 hours of sleep, drink enough water, and eat the right amounts of food.

It will get easier to manage food cravings over time. When you’re just starting out, focus on a balanced diet and occasionally let yourself enjoy your favorite foods. Practice self-care as stress and negative moods may increase the need for comfort food.

Author

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Kasparas Aleknavičius, MD
  • Head of Medical Affairs at Kilo Health
  • Medical Doctor at Vilnius University, Lithuania
  • Partnering with the EU-funded Young50 and EUPAP projects

Kasparas Aleknavicius is a medical doctor that graduated from Vilnius University, working as head of medical affairs at Kilo Health. After nearly 5 years in the industry, Kasparas focuses on digital health and is looking for innovative ways to help people lead healthy lifestyles through digital health and wellness platforms.

You can find Kasparas on LinkedIn and follow his latest research on Medium.

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