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I am a 21 year old Division 1 college cheerleader, so keeping my bad eating habits in check is vital for me to look, feel, and perform my best every day. I am currently starting my 11th year as a cheerleader, but I have loved being active and participating in numerous sports all my life. Because my lifestyle is so active, I know that I need to fuel my body correctly and not indulge too much in unhealthy food. I have never followed a diet because I believe they are too restrictive and cause cravings to become more intense, which only leads to binge eating. Instead I still allow myself to have sweets and fast food, but not as frequently and in small portions. The two bad eating habits that I have struggled with the most are eating too much sugar/sweets, and snacking too much throughout the day. I will address these habits and give tips on how to overcome them in this article.

Image by David Calavera

Eating Too Much Sugar/Sweets:

 Of all my cravings, sweets are what I crave the most; ice cream is my weakness and I crave it almost every day. I often find myself wanting sweets many times throughout the day and it’s hard for me to restrain myself from eating them. Some ways that I limit my sugar intake are by having less sweets in the house, highly minimizing the amount of juice and soda that I drink, and finding healthier alternatives to eat instead.

One of the best ways I have found to slowly decrease my sugar cravings is to simply buy less at the store. I would not recommend completely ditching all sweets at once, but rather slowly decreasing the amount you normally buy. At first you may be upset that you don’t have as many sweets in the house when you crave them, but very quickly your body will get used to eating less sugar and not crave it as much. I was used to having dessert almost every day, but now I only buy a carton of ice cream once every month or two. Over time your cravings will decrease and you won’t eat as much sugar without even noticing it very much. Buying less sweets at the store will save you money and help you overcome eating too much sugar. Allow yourself to still have sweets, just limit the serving size and decrease how often you eat them. 

Image by Anthony Espinosa

A source of sugar that many people don’t think so much about are in the drinks we have all the time. Even juice, which is advertised as healthy, has much more sugar in it than you would think. One simple way to cut down on your sugar consumption is to stop drinking so much juice and soda. I drink almost exclusively water every day and no longer crave flavored drinks. Start by replacing some of your drinks with water to slowly lower the amount of sweet drinks you have. If you are not someone who likes to drink something without flavor, then drink juice but dilute it with water and slowly increase how much you dilute it over time. Reducing how much sugary drinks you have will cut down on the total amount of sugar you consume throughout the day without much change to your daily life. 

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Another way to conquer your sugar cravings and reduce your sugar intake is to find healthier alternatives to sweets that still satisfy your cravings. I personally love fruits because they still have the sweet taste that I crave, but are overall much more healthy than candy, brownies, or ice cream. I have started making berry smoothies almost every day, which has helped to curb my ice cream cravings. I blend frozen berries with greek yogurt, and juice, and with some spinach and protein powder if I want. The sweet berries overpower the taste of the smoothie, so I get the sweet flavor I crave while adding healthier ingredients as well. I am also a chocolate lover, and I’ve recently started to really love dark chocolate. I know that dark chocolate has less sugar and more health benefits than milk chocolate, so it can be a great healthier substitute as well. Although substitutions help curb some cravings, they can’t entirely replace all the sweets you love, so it is important to still allow yourself to eat the sweet foods you want, but in moderation. 


    I am the kind of person that likes to snack a lot throughout the day simply because I’m bored and enjoy eating. I know that it is unhealthy and unnecessary to snack when my body doesn’t need any more food, so I came up with some ways to help me snack less that may be useful for some of you as well. To be clear, I am in no way encouraging not feeding your body, these tips should only be used when your body has been fueled and you are no longer hungry but still craving snacks.

First off, substitute many of your snacks for healthier options. One of the easiest snack swaps to do is to trade chips for crackers. Crackers are less greasy and have less fat, but still give you the salty flavor that many people crave. You can also change up some of your carbohydrate-heavy snacks for fruits and vegetables. This way you have something to munch on that you don’t need to feel guilty about. 

Tortilla Chips in Basket
Image by Giorgio Trovato

One of the best tips I have ever received to help determine if you are actually hungry or just craving something is called “The Banana Test”. When you’re craving something, think about if a banana would satisfy you right now. If it would, then you must be hungry, so go ahead and eat what you wanted to eat (it does not have to be a banana). However if a banana could not satisfy you, then you are most likely just craving something and you’re not actually hungry. Bananas are great to hold someone over when they are hungry, but usually aren’t quite sweet enough to satisfy sweet cravings and clearly would not satisfy salt cravings. It's the perfect food to quickly think about and determine whether you are actually hungry or simply experiencing cravings or bored. 

If you struggle with eating because you are bored or you eat when you are stressed/nervous, it has really helped me to keep myself busy. Find something else to do that can keep you entertained and/or calm your nerves or stress. This could mean studying harder for school and working harder at your job, which could lead to benefits such as better grades or a promotion. If you need a break from school or work, then find a new hobby that interests you. It can especially help to find a hobby that keeps your hands busy such as sewing or photography to keep you distracted while your body is full and does not need binge snacking. 

Image by Avel Chuklanov
Image by Sandra Seitamaa

And my last tip to help curb over snacking is to chew gum. Especially if I find myself craving something after I just finished a meal, it has really helped me to chew gum. This keeps me from snacking by keeping my mouth busy and, in a way, tricks by body into thinking I’m eating.

 Write out Your Goals: 

In addition to starting your new healthy eating habits and stopping your bad eating habits, it may really help you to write down your eating goals to stick to them. You can write them down in the notes app on your phone to look at wherever you want, or even write them on a post-it note that you can put in your kitchen to remind you every day.

While working to change your bad eating habits, it is extremely important to ensure that you are still fueling your body with enough food for your lifestyle, matter what your goals are. 


Best of luck kicking those bad eating habits and I hope these tips help some of you!

Image by Nils Stahl
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