CSIRO Research On Our Struggle With Food Cravings – So What Can We Do About It?

By Robyn Foyster Robyn Foyster has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team
on 18 January 2023

Hot, salty truffle fries. Spoonfuls of fluffy chocolate mousse. Or perhaps that round of creamy brie at the farmer’s market.

Cravings, we all succumb to them at times. But for those that truly struggle to control them, they are one of the biggest obstacles to successful dieting. In fact, research shows that not only do people with higher-than-average cravings have more weight to lose, they also tend to lose less weight.

A recent survey of 330 Australians by CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, found that a whopping 66% find resisting cravings to be a constant struggle, while 82% feel that losing weight would be a whole lot easier, sans cravings.

food cravings junk food dounuts

With one in five of this group having made over 25 attempts to lose weight, CSIRO carried out a study to explore ways for people to better curb their cravings, and finally make a diet change that sticks.

The study involved people having two meal replacement shakes in combination with one wholefood meal per day. After the three week mark, they transitioned into the regular CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet’s high protein, low-GI weight loss program.

By week three, the average amount of weight lost was 4.1kg and 80% of people felt better at controlling their cravings. By week six, the average weight loss was 5.9kg, two-thirds of people had lost a clinically significant amount of weight, and confidence in being able to resist cravings increased by 19%!

Weight loss was just the tip of the iceberg though.

CSIRO Total Wellbeing Dietitian, Pennie McCoy said “We know that if people engage with changes in the first 3 weeks of a weight loss journey, they’re more likely to achieve their goals at week 12.

“Many people don’t know where to start when it comes to losing weight so feeling adequately supported during the early weeks is really important in maintaining motivation and staying the course.”

The study found that when meal replacements were used within a supportive framework, where transitioning to a wholefoods diet was the goal, people learnt to eat well and adopt the healthy practices required to manage cravings and keep off the weight.

healthy food

Off the back of the findings, the CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet has launched its Fast Start program – an alternative way to begin the CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet’s 12-week program. Meal replacement shakes are used for two out of three daily meals for three weeks, before transitioning to the standard high protein, low GI wholefoods program.

To further support and educate, members also have access to the program’s full suite of tools, including menu plans, food and exercise tracker, Positive Psychology tools and community support groups.

“The more we learn, the more we see that there is no one-size-fits all approach to healthy weight loss. Fast Start provides the added support that people who struggle with cravings need to start strong and cement the new habits that will last them a lifetime,” said Pennie.


Top tips for getting started on, and remaining committed to your health goals. 

Without adequate support, cravings can easily derail a weight loss journey. Set yourself up for success by leaning on tools and support networks, says Pennie:

  • Find the journey that works for you – weight loss isn’t a one size fits all approach. Exploring alternatives options like Fast Start are a great way to find a pathway that suits you best.
  • Be real about your goals and expectations from the start – reflect on past experiences and think about what you really want to achieve and why – motivation from within is important and not comparing yourself to others! Your best self-reflection is a great place to start!
  • Take time to plan and prepare your week ahead – plans can change, but a goal without a plan leads to problems! Think food and shopping, think making time for exercise and think about making time to learn and reflect

Find out more about the CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet’s Fast Start program by heading to www.totalwellbeingdiet.com

For more health and wellbeing tips, check out:

10 Best Apps To Improve Your Mental Health

Keep It Cleaner – An Australian Health & Wellness App Which Avoids Toxic Diet Culture

20 Of The Top Wellbeing Audibooks And Podcasts For This Year

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