Have you been hungrier than usual? Craving crunchy, starchy, salty or sugary things sooner than being drawn to fresh greens, proteins, fruits and beans? (Is it just me or do I sound like Dr. Seuss so far today?) Chances are good that if you're not now, you have at some point experienced this. We all do - we don't just want what our bodies need, we want what we want - nutrition be damned.
When these cravings come about, they're typically a sign of stress or lack of sleep, however there is a checklist you can try in order to balance things out again. To return to a more rational and practical approach toward what you put in your body. You know the difference between the days when you decide fettuccine alfredo wins over the salad with grilled shrimp - you can't IMAGINE getting that salad and feeling anything beyond angry.
The number one answer is that you've lost your balance somehow, so it's time to implement some ground rules to get it back.
1) Make sure you're getting enough water. Sometimes when we're a little dehydrated, our bodies mistake thirst for hunger and will poke at you continuously for more food. Replenish those finicky, thirsty cells first. Toss back 2-3 glasses of water, aim to get between 6-8 glasses a day more regularly and see if that helps.
2) You might be lower on protein and health fats, and have been eating too many salty, crunchy things - or even fruit. If your carbohydrates aren't balanced, even the good ones, you will crave more of them more often. If you sit down to a meal, eat your healthy protein source first. And do NOT have a meal without protein and healthy fats until your appetite starts to feel balanced again (even then).
3) Check in with the size of your recent meals. If your body has suddenly become accustomed to bigger meals, it starts to roll with that. You will have urged it to a new standard and you might have to feel a little bit dissatisfied / hungry while it adjusts back to its normal feeding amount. Cut the meals back down to size, yes, but also apply the tips from #2 - prioritize the protein/fat first, eating the carbs on your plate last.
4) Get enough sleep. You might have to tell your girlfriend/boyfriend/wife/husband/best bud/dog/cat you're skipping that last episode of House of Cards (!) but having a balanced day the next day, making healthy food choices and being high energy is worth it.
5) Exercise. Nothing calms us, regulates stress and hormone levels quite like exercise. Even if you're psycho carb-craving beforehand and feel like nothing will save you, a workout will. Afterwards, you'll be rational and calm and wanting only the best food in your body that just performed the way it did. Out with the bad, in with the good. That's a REAL natural craving that the body possesses, we just have to facilitate it.
I'm not a carb hater by any stretch of the imagination. I LOVE carbs - they do wonderful things for our brains, moods and energy levels when they're approached with balance. Balance your macronutrients and treat your body with respect, and you'll have a handle on that chip/pizza/cookie craving in almost all instances.