12 Strategies for Getting Your Cravings Under Control

Craving Homemade Strawberry Ice Cream?
Try these 12 strategies
to get your cravings and urges under control!

Are you on Keto, but still craving cookies and cake?

Do you have trouble staying on plan?

If so, it's time to learn where cravings come from and how to use the following 12 strategies to get those cravings and urges under control, so you can be the best that you can be!

If you hang around low-carb circles for more than a couple of days, you are sure to hear the low-carb mantra that says:

Restricting carbohydrates controls cravings. 

The perspective is that low-calorie diets make you hungry and low-carb diets do not, but how true is that?

Does everyone who follows a ketogenic diet experience relief from cravings, urges, and excessive hunger?

If they did, there wouldn’t be tons of people joining Keto groups and forums after the holidays, saying:

"Hi guys . . . I’m back!”

Pinterest Image: Slice of Pizza

Where Do Cravings Come From?

All of us, short or tall, thin or fat, are hard-wired as infants to seek after pleasure and avoid discomfort at all costs. This is practically the first rule of attitude that you created for yourself.

By the time you reached adulthood, seeking comfort and alleviating pain was so deeply ingrained into your subconscious mind, that the steps you take to do that have become an automatic response. It's habitual.

You don't see yourself do this. But you don't have to see it. Your mind functions much of the time on autopilot.

Two Cartoon Babies
The core purpose we strive for was
decided when we were just babies.

When it comes to dieting, all diet programs introduce you to restriction and change.

If you see those restrictions as miserable and you demand consistent rewards to stay on plan, these expectations and ideals produce cravings and a strong physical or psychological need to feel gratification most of the time.

There is nothing magical about low-carb diets.

They can help to control cravings for some people because protein deficiencies, nutritional imbalances, and food sensitivities are corrected, but hunger can still hang around.

Hungry Green Worm With a Knife and Fork
Reduced hunger and cravings doesn't happen
for everyone.

Learning to spot, analyze, and overcome your cravings is essential if you want to reach your weight-loss goal and make it through the end of the holidays in good shape.

If you're struggling with cravings or uncontrollable hunger, even though you're eating very low carbs, here are 12 strategies for getting your cravings and urges under control:

Strategy #1: Become More Aware of Your Urges

Becoming aware of the craving or urge is always the first step toward understanding the problem.

If you pretend that the urge doesn’t exist, if you don’t accept and admit that you have a problem around carby goodies, you cannot begin to take the essential steps required to overcome it.

Observe yourself for several days to see what you are doing.

Don’t judge yourself.

And don't try to change anything just yet.

Just watch how you unconsciously strive to fulfill the pleasurable sensation of taste when satisfying those cravings. Watch how you quench the craving to avoid the discomfort that craving creates.

Eyes Looking Through Fingers: SEE Those Urges
To conquer cravings for carbohydrates,
you have to first be able to SEE those urges for yourself!

Most people give into cravings because they have a strong urge to make the craving go away.

Cravings are uncomfortable.

You might believe that pain is bad and the pleasure indulging brings is worth the cost. At least, at the moment of doing. This is unconscious behavior, so don't beat yourself up.

Just SEE it.

Strategy #2: What is Triggering the Craving?

Smiley is Frowning and Happy on its Chest is Crossed Out
Pay attention to what you FEEL when you're craving
something that is off plan.

Once you see and admit you have a problem, you are ready to begin discovering what is actually triggering the hunger.

Many triggers and emotional states cause us to overeat, so the next step after acceptance is to take a good look at your emotional state.

Notice how uncomfortable you feel when craving something off plan. In addition to the discomfort of the craving itself, you might also feel guilt or deprivation. Depending on the situation, you could feel angry or bored.

Also, take note of your overall emotional state. Are you:
  • tired
  • stressed
  • frustrated
Emotional triggers can involve people, events, the environment or even past memories of a happier time. They do not have to be connected to specific foods.

Strategy #3: Stop Blaming Carbohydrates for Those Cravings

Low-carb diets work due to the reduced hunger and cravings that come as a result of increased protein and carbohydrate restriction. Since carbs are limited, however, you might feel tempted to blame those carbohydrates for making you overeat.

While certain hormonal conditions and elevated triglycerides can increase hunger, due to leptin resistance, carbohydrates can't force you to put those goodies into your mouth.

Only YOU can do that.

Any tendency toward avoiding responsibility for giving into your urges can block you from discovering constructive ways of dealing with the problem. Placing blame is another automatic response due to how you learned to handle your problems as a child, so now, you need to catch yourself in the act.

Blame paralyses and keeps you from taking action. It's not useful or valuable. You can't sit around blaming carbohydrates and do something about craving them at the same time.

Once you realize that blaming is not to your advantage and is keeping you from reaching your weight-loss goals, you can use this new-found freedom to discover ways to turn Keto into a permanent, honest-to-goodness lifestyle.

Strategy 4: Seek Constructive Ways to Get Your Cravings Under Control

Once you admit you have a problem, observe your emotional state, and stop blaming carbohydrates for making you self over eat, you are ready to seek constructive ways of overcoming those cravings.

One of the easiest ways to do that is to start a food journal. A food journal gives you the advantage of being able to see what you eat, feel, and do.

So, record:
  • what you eat
  • when you eat it
  • how you feel at the time
  • and what’s going on around you
The idea is to look for strong repetitive patterns.

Writing in a Food Journal Can Help Control Cravings
You can't fix your cravings if you don't know
what's causing them. A journal can help!

Give yourself a good month before trying to analyze what you’re recording. The aim of writing these things down is to understand yourself. And understanding takes time.

To truly know yourself, you must learn:
  • how you eat
  • what you eat
  • when you eat
  • and how much
Until you understand what's triggering you to over eat, you won't be able to make lasting changes, and it's the lasting changes that matter most.

Strategy #5: Brainstorm Useful Actions You Can Try

A food journal is a good way to spot:
  • trigger foods
  • events
  • people
  • and emotional conditions
Once you learn what is triggering your overeating episodes or binges, you can take logical steps to avoid those problems.

For example:

One of my trigger foods is mixed nuts. If they are in the house, I will eat them.

I can tell myself that I am going to measure them out and stick with just that amount, but within a couple of days, I will return to my pre-programmed behavior and start unconsciously eating too many.

I will stop measuring, and I will stop paying attention to how many nuts I'm eating. Instead of a measured out portion, I will start bringing the entire can to my desk.

If I am in weight-loss mode, I cannot have mixed nuts in the house.

So what about those feelings of deprivation?

I buy a 2-ounce individual bag of mixed nuts from the gas station convenience store when husband and I are on the road. This strategy turns those mixed nuts into a special treat that I can only have at specific times.

This way, I don’t completely deprive myself of eating those nuts, but I have figured out how to rationally include them into my weight-loss plan.

Strategy 6: Cut Down on Food Stimuli to Avoid the Trigger to Eat

Thinking about food, seeing it on television or on the web, and searching through recipes all activate the right frontal cortex of the brain that controls motivation and pleasure.
  • advertising and marketing
  • news show clips on food
  • snack machines
  • cooking shows
  • recipe videos
  • Facebook pages
  • Pinterest
  • store displays
  • food and recipe blogs
These outlets all bombard your brain with food stimuli.

Once thoughts get into your head, once your animal brain begins to whine and urge, it is very difficult to get rid of those thoughts and urges.

The mind will send promises of ultimate pleasure, coaxing you to eat off plan right now, even though those foods will not help you reach your weight-loss goals.

Obviously, you can't live in a bubble, but you can cut down on the amount of stimuli you allow your self to see.

Strategy 7: Find Non-Food Comforts to Keep You On Plan

Take a good look at the amount of stress you have in your life, and be absolutely honest with yourself. Stress affects the hypothalamus, and what affects the hypothalamus affects your weight.

When you are under stress, the body feels threatened, so the hypothalamus signals the adrenals to release stress hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline, to help you deal with the issue.

If you don’t burn off that excess energy provided by your mind because the threat was mental or emotional, rather than physical, the brain has to find a way to increase your metabolism and re-balance the body.

Many times, it does this by initiating cravings because eating brings comfort and comfort releases the stress.

To combat the problem, find pleasurable ways to comfort your self that don't include food. While some low carbers choose to binge on low-carb foods, that doesn't really solve the problem. It's only a small step from stuffing your face with sugar-free cheesecake to pigging out on sugar cookies.

What's your favorite thing to do?

Sit out on the front porch with that novel you've been dying to read. Take a nice long bubble bath. Go get your nails done or treat yourself to a massage. Put a puzzle together, go to the beach, or maybe play a game with the kids.

Many find going to the gym makes them feel better when stressed because exercise physically burns off that excess energy.

Strategy #8: Find New Comfort Foods to Enjoy

Low-Carb Chocolate Mousse is Easy and Inexpensive
Low-Carb Chocolate
Mousse is the
ultimate comfort food!
Cravings increase dramatically when you eat foods you are sensitive to because they bind themselves to the pleasure centers in the brain. However, giving up your favorite foods and foods that provide pleasure isn't easy.

If you're favorite foods are no longer on plan, find new comfort foods and fun activities to replace your old favorites.

Don’t just cut out cheese or gluten without seeking ways to replace the pleasure they provided. While imitating your old diet might actually backfire, you can search out new and enticing goodies you've never had before.

There is nothing wrong with seeking out pleasurable experiences. Life can be a sensory feast when you take a closer look.

Strategy #9: Observe How You Talk to Yourself

Often, feelings of deprivation come from the things you say about your self.

When you use language, such as “I can’t have a piece of cake like everyone else is having because I’m on a diet,” you set your self up to fail. Self-improvement tricks don't work because the struggle for improvement often doesn't come with a responsible motive attached.

Judging what you can't have as bad and telling your self that only low-carb foods are good doesn't normally turn out well if you don't really believe that.

If you hate vegetables, or even mildly dislike them, you are pretty much doomed to fail.

Your inner critic is not on your side.

Don't listen to him or her.

If you don’t honestly find pleasure in eating meat and vegetables, then your discomfort during meals and snacks will eventually win the war.

Try restructuring how you talk to yourself.

Instead of telling yourself you can’t have something, try saying, "I don't want to eat that right now."

Mentally confirm that your current purpose is to get to goal weight, so anything that doesn't help you get there isn't to your advantage to do right now. While a diet is never a temporary adventure, don't make anything forever off-limits.

Strategy #10: Try to Distract Yourself

Water Fight with The Kids is a Great Way to Distract Yourself After Dinner
Distract yourself with something fun to do.
Have a water fight with the kids!

If your animal brain is trying to derail your dieting efforts, if you know that you have eaten enough food for dinner but find yourself craving more because it tasted so good, try focusing on something other than food to distract your self.

Attention is a powerful tool that you can use to keep your self on plan. Where you place your attention matters.
  • take a walk
  • do the dishes
  • jump in the shower
  • head for the gym
  • or even scrub out the tub
Do something that requires mental concentration. When you keep your self physically active and busy, you will feel less hungry throughout the day because your attention will be on things that are not food.

Strategy #11: Make Sure You are Drinking Enough Water 

You can easily get the signals for hunger and thirst mixed up, so always go and drink a glass of water first whenever hunger strikes.

Give yourself a good ten to twenty minutes of distraction, and then if you are still hungry, eat something you really like. True hunger won't go away after drinking, as hunger causes your stomach to contract, as well as rumble.

Strategy # 12: Fill Your Life with Things You Enjoy

Many times when you set your self up on a diet that you think you are going to follow for the rest of your life, you don’t fill it to the brim with things that give you pleasure.

If you go into Keto with a deprivation mindset, that mindset will convince you that a low-carb approach to nutrition is only temporary.

Don’t try to control a craving with food or activities that are just so-so. Always remember that cravings are because the body and mind are seeking pleasure. Give it to them. But do it in such a way that it won't disrupt or stall your forward movement.

To be sustainable, your new approach to life must be filled with:
  • foods
  • recipes
  • nonfoods
  • activities
that you really enjoy. If you are enjoying your meals because they are filled with foods you love, if you are enjoying your day because it is filled with activities you love, you will be less tempted to seek for pleasure elsewhere.

If Your Purpose is Pleasure, Fulfill that Purpose the Best Way You Know How

Never do anything with only half your heart. If you're going to do something, go at it 100 percent.

Human nature seeks after pleasure and does everything in its power to avoid discomfort. That is the legacy you have been given and what the greater majority of humanity does each and every day.

It doesn’t matter if you are following a low-carb diet, a low-calorie diet, or eating at a maintenance level of calories, this core human tendency controls what you think, do, and eat.

But you can use it to your advantage.

Cravings are a signal. They tell you that you are somehow feeling deprived. You have a limiting belief that is holding you back from being the best that you can be.

Look at your cravings. Study them. And then do what needs to be done to reach your goals. Self disciple isn't willpower. It's restructuring your values and remembering to keep your values uppermost in your mind each and every day.

When you feed your cravings in a healthy way, they will disappear. It's all about ditching the feeling that you are being deprived. 

You are not being deprived. 

You are doing what needs to be done to hit the target that you have set up. You can't reach your weight-loss goals if you're letting those feelings of deprivation control you.

Do or don't do.
There is no try.


  1. Hello...congrats on your results so far. I was/am a carbon copy of you. As far as height and starting weight. I started my weight loss with 5 (very strict)rounds of HCG injections. I was doing great with that. Down to a (loose) size 10 before the holidays. Then everything went way, way, WAY off track! After you finish a
    "round" of HCG, you are supposed to strictly follow--no sugar, no starch for at least 3 weeks. I was (easily) following that. Then I fell off the wagon (holidays) and into all the yummy food and drink I wasn't supposed to be eating. In 3 short months, I had put myself back in a size 12. I did also quit smoking. Yea for my lungs...boo for my bottom.
    My question for you...I decided I was going to get back on track...but instead of HCG, I thought I could try Atkins again. I found your blog, specifically your post on "Which version is best".
    I have been following (online Atkins) the 20 carbs or less induction and have lost 0pounds. It's been almost a month. You mentioned in the "which version is best", that you initially struggled. You mention all three versions (of his books). Which book or version ended up working for you??? The original 70's, or 1992? You don't specify what helped YOU get over the hump. I want to order the book from whatever year helped you the most. Also, since I just happened along your blog...not yet gone through old posts...did you allow yourself to have sugar-free jello and sweet-n-low and such things? I saw a recipe today for Dt. Root Beer, heavy cream, mixed with ice (it sounded delightful)...would YOU have had that on induction...when you had not lost weight? I don't want to raise blood sugar...if you tell me to eat protein and only protein....I will DO It! I so appreciate any help you can give me! Thanks so much, Belinda

  2. Belinda,
    I personally have found Atkins as written to be too much fat. It works extremely well for those who are new to low carb. It works somewhat for those who are not.

    As for me? The greater majority of my weight I lost doing a modified version of a diet called Kimkins that was popular in 2007, but I didn't go quite so low in fat or calories. Kimkins was low carb (20g not net), low fat (30g per day or less), and very low calories (500). Many individuals ended up with medical issues from following it. Instead, I ate 20g carbs, 45g fat, and 900 calories. Today, I'm very sorry that I stopped doing what was working for me, but there was a huge blow up about Kimkins and people were claiming severe health issues as a result. At that time, I weighed 145; today I'm a whopping 170!

    I have done one round of hHCG drops, so I understand why you'd rather do Atkins. I lost 20 pounds doing that round, but have gained 10 of those pounds back. It was a horrible experience for me. I did tweak the instructions a bit because it is far, far too low in protein and calories.

    While I'm not a doctor and can't tell you how healthy my personal tweaks would be for you, what worked best for me was a diet that fell somewhere in between Atkins and hHGG.

    I have had a few individuals come to me lately with similar issues. So I'm working on a post right now that explains how to go about tweaking Atkins to make it work for you. The bottom line is that you have to find the level of fat and calories that will enable you to lose.

    Thanks for your comments. I can really, really relate to this. Especially since my current food sensitivities are really interfering with my weight loss efforts and desires.

  3. I like this article because it suggests that there are many types of hunger and that those hungers can be the source of food hunger. It's difficult suppress emotional hunger without finding the source of discomfort. You also mentioned advertising ' role. There are so many entertaining food shows that can unconsciously affect your emotions and conditioned responses to food. It's no wonder that any diet works for long. All these factors makes one question how much food does one really need as compared to insight into personal development. Also what are the true indicators of hunger? All these forces that affect appetite is worthy of separate exploration. Thankyou for this analysis of the issues and triggers of hunger.

    1. My mind keeps circling back around to how sensory our modern-day environment is compared to even a couple of hundred years ago. People earn their living from making us fat and lazy. I was quite shocked, when I first started watching myself, to see how often I was cramming food in my mouth for reasons other than physical hunger. And I totally agree with you. Insight into why we do the things we do would go a long way toward reversing the obesity epidemic.


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