At one point a few years ago I weighed almost 300lbs. I didn’t get there by indulging in bushel baskets of organic vegetables. It was good old fashioned junk food. High quality baked goods or gas station candy bars and soda, I was an equal opportunity eater. As long as it was full of sugar and corn syrup, there was a good chance I liked it.

I still struggle with cravings for junk, and late afternoon can be really tough. It’s a long stretch between lunch and dinner. Here are some tips I’ve discovered that help me eliminate or minimize the cravings most afternoons.

Controlling cravings is easier with a basic understanding of what causes them in the first place. Your body breaks all carbohydrates down into sugar, or glucose. This glucose is then used to support your immediate energy needs. If your body doesn’t need any energy right now, the glucose is converted to fat and stored for later use.

Insulin is a hormone that plays a key role in the conversion of glucose to energy. When your blood stream becomes full of glucose from eating a lot of carbs, your body responds by releasing a large amount of insulin. The problem comes from the fact that after all the glucose is taken care of, there is still extra insulin floating around in your bloodstream looking for something to do. This signals the brain that you need some glucose, and the cycle of eating begins. This is why you can stuff yourself at the Chinese buffet only to have cravings again in a couple of hours.

The faster a food breaks down to sugar, the bigger the effect on cravings. How fast foods break down is measured by something called a glycemic index (GI) with higher numbers meaning faster breakdown. This means foods with a high GI will tend to have a bigger impact on cravings.

So here is the breakdown, high GI foods break down quickly into glucose which forces an insulin dump. The insulin left in your bloodstream after the glucose is mopped up triggers cravings for more sugar.

So how to avoid this junk eating spiral?

Don’t Pull the Trigger
High GI foods can act as a trigger that starts the whole cycle spinning. Even if you only eat a few chips, or a small candy bar, it might trigger bigger cravings later. Remind yourself that eating the snack isn’t going to satisfy your urge, but it may cost you later.

Power up With Protien
Protein helps to limit the impact of high GI foods. So if you must indulge try to include some protein with your snack. Getting lots of protein with breakfast and lunch will also make you less hungry in the first place.

Plan Ahead
If you know you are going to be hungry between lunch and dinner make sure to pack a snack ahead of time. If a craving kicks in eat your healthy snack and tell yourself you can give in if you you are still hungry in 30 minutes. Most of the time your craving will go away and you won’t need to.

Watch What You Drink
Stay away from soda and soft drinks. Even diet soda can be a disaster. While the chemical cocktail in most diet sodas is definitely not good for your long term health. The bigger problem for cravings is the fact that a bag of chips goes much better with a diet soda than an apple does. It’s almost impossible to eat healthy with a diet Coke in one hand.
 - Bill Thomas