Dr. Daniel Amen


Cravings can be the culprit that derail your good intentions to stick with a brain healthy program. Here are 10 simple changes you can make to your daily habits to get better control of your cravings.

Avoid your triggers

To control your cravings, you have to control your triggers. Know the people, places, and things that fuel your cravings and plan ahead for your vulnerable times. For example, take a snack when you go to the movies so you aren’t tempted by the popcorn and licorice.

Balance your blood sugar

Low blood sugar levels are associated with lower overall brain activity, including lower activity in the PFC, the brain’s brake. Low brain activity here means more cravings and more bad decisions. Low blood sugar levels can make you feel hungry, irritable, or anxious—all of which make you more likely to make poor choices. Here are tips to keep your blood sugar levels even throughout the day so you can reduce cravings and boost your self-control.

  • Consider taking the supplements alpha-lipoic acid and chromium. They both have very good scientific evidence that they help balance blood sugar levels and can help with cravings.
  • Eat a nutritious breakfast every day. Eating a nutrient-rich breakfast helps get your blood sugar off to a good start and can help keep it balanced for hours so you don’t get hungry before lunchtime. Studies show that people who maintain weight loss eat a healthy breakfast.
  • Have smaller meals throughout the day. Big meals send your blood sugar skyrocketing only to plummet later on. Eating smaller meals helps eliminate the blood sugar rollercoaster ride that can impact your emotions and increase your cravings.

Eliminate sugar, artificial sweeteners and refined carbs

If you really want to decrease your cravings, you have to get rid of the artificial sweeteners in your diet. Things like candy, potatoes, white bread, pretzels, sodas, sweetened alcohol, and fruit juice causes your blood sugar to spike and then drop, so you feel great for a short while and then you feel stupid and hungry. Be very careful with high-fat, high-sugar, high-calorie foods because they work on the morphine or heroin centers of the brain and can be addictive.

Eat slow carb, not low carb

Carbohydrates are so important for good health. Bad carbohydrates such as simple sugars and refined products are the ones to avoid. Choose high fiber carbs like vegetables, fruits, beans, and whole grains! They will keep you fuller longer and help you with weight loss.

Drink More Water

Dehydration can contribute to increased hunger. When your body sends signals that it is hungry it can actually be an attempt to get more water. Sometimes hunger is disguised as dehydration. If you drink a glass of water before your meals to make you will feel fuller and can moderate your food intake.

Prioritize Protein

Do you want to feel satisfied longer? Make sure protein is an important part of your diet. Protein fills you up and regulates your blood sugar while making your body release appetite suppressing hormones.

Manage your stress

Chronic stress has been associated with increased appetite, obesity, sugar and fat cravings, addiction, anxiety, heart disease, cancer, and depression. To decrease your cravings, get on a daily stress-management program including deep-breathing exercises, prayer, and other relaxation methods.

Follow the 90/10 rule

Make great food choices 90% of the time. For the remaining 10%, cut yourself a little slack and allow yourself margin to enjoy some of your favorite foods on occasion.

Get moving

Scientific research has found that physical activity can cut cravings whether you crave sugary snacks or things like cigarettes, alcohol, or drugs. Instead of immediately giving in to your cravings or focusing on how much you want something, get moving if at all possible. Make this a high priority and stay committed to exercising each week.

Get 7 to 8 hours of sleep

Have you ever noticed that after a night with almost no sleep, you wake up ravenously hungry and want to eat anything and everything in sight? That is because lack of sleep can increase cravings. It’s time to explore ways to develop healthy sleep habits and put unwanted hunger to rest. Read our article Finding Sleep.