How to cope with cravings

Do you ever get food cravings or the urge to snack that has nothing to do with being hungry?

Azmina Govindji RD MBDA, award-winning dietitian, nutritionist and best-selling author gives her top tips on how to cope with cravings.

View our videos on YouTube.

Do you ever get food cravings or the urge to snack that has nothing to do with being hungry?

You can think about cravings in terms of waves: it starts to build up, and crashes as it ebbs away. Cravings are a little bit like that; as it builds up, we get a stronger urge to eat, but if you wait long enough, you actually find the urge gets weaker. Most cravings only last 10 to 15 minutes, so you might be able to ride this wave.

  1. Talk yourself through your cravings

Some people find it helps to talk themselves through as they surf the cravings wave.

As you feel that urge building up, you might say to yourself ‘I’ve been here before, I’m just going to wait a little bit longer and I’ll be fine,’ or ‘I know if I just wait a little bit, that urge will get weaker, and it will help me towards my goal if I don’t reach for a snack.’

  1. Distract yourself from cravings

Other people find distraction techniques work quite well.

You could write a list of activities that might help distract you for when those difficult moments strike. Choose things that you enjoy and get satisfaction from. The more active that activity that is, the more effective it is likely to be.

You could:

  • Call or visit a friend
  • Go for a walk or bike ride
  • Have a relaxing bath or a shower
  • Paint your nails
  • Work on a hobby such as sewing, decorating, gardening, or playing a musical instrument

You could do something that involves moving from one place to another, although nothing that involves food of course. It can help to not take any money with you, or you might be tempted to buy something on the way. Try writing down a few of these ideas and see what suits you best.

  1. Make conscious decisions

Make conscious choices and get into the habit of thinking before you reach for something to eat, such as whether the snack you have in mind will actually satisfy your hunger or give you energy. This will help you to stay focused and stay conscious of whether you are really hungry or not. And if you do choose to eat something, eat it mindfully.

  1. Try using a hunger scale

Before you reach for a snack, ask yourself how hungry you are. Some people find using a hunger scale really helps, so for example, if you take a scale from one to ten, with one being incredibly hungry and ten being uncomfortably full.

Gauge where you are along this scale to assess whether you are physically hungry, or whether you are eating because of a possible emotional trigger, boredom or habit.

If you are towards the lower end of the scale, and really need to eat, try something light like a yogurt or a piece of fruit first, and then see how you feel after 20 minutes. You can reassess how you are feeling afterwards, and whether you are physically hungry.

  1. Be kind to yourself

Lastly, be kind to yourself and don’t beat yourself up if you have eaten something that was unhealthy. Accept it, learn from how you felt afterwards and move on. Ups and downs are a normal, realistic part of life.

How to eat mindfully

Azmina takes us through how we can eat more mindfully, with a small piece of fruit as an example:

  1. Look at what you are eating – feel the texture, notice whether it is shiny or rough.
  2. Bring it towards you - does it have a smell?
  3. Put it into your mouth - start to bite through it slowly, moving it from one side of your mouth to the other.
  4. Notice the flavours - is it sweet, sour or bitter? What is the texture like?
  5. Imagine, as you swallow, it coming down into your digestive system.


The slower and more carefully you do this process, and the more mindful you are, the more mindfully you will be eating. Mindful eating really helps you to keep to a healthy diet. 

If you’re trying to be more mindful about the food you’re eating and would like some inspiration for healthy, delicious recipes, have a look at our collection of Healthy Living recipes.

Page last reviewed on 27/01/2020