First of all let’s get one thing straight:
Struggling with food cravings doesn’t mean your weak…let’s kick that notion in the butt, straight off. Most often, the foods we crave are processed carbohydrates, which change the brain’s chemistry by increasing the level of serotonin, our feel-good neurochemical.
We literally train our brain that when we’re sad (or bored, or anxious) the cure is ice-cream (or whatever) and as long as we’re in that emotional state, our brain is going to keep signaling us, with growing urgency, to “fix it!”
In other words…we’re not weak, we’re junkies, and just like junkies, we have to admit we have a problem, and then take responsibility for changing our behaviors.
Next time you’re watching a flashy fun commercial for junk food, remember that you are essentially watching the pusher in the trench coat and sunglasses, standing in the shadowy corner of the schoolyard, whispering “Psst, kid…come here…”
Not to put too fine a point on it.
Okay, here are some tips for overcoming food cravings:
1. Write it down
Start by keeping a food journal. Include what you ate, how much, where, and who was with you (if anyone). Note what you were doing when the craving hit, how you were feeling before, during, and after. This will help you recognize, track, and eliminate “triggers” that start you snacking.
2. Clean House
Right now, while you’re motivated to do so, purge the kitchen, pantry, and the secret stash in your sock drawer, of everything that you wouldn’t want your personal trainer (I know…pretend you have one) to know you were eating.
If you’re not motivated right now, or if it begins to wane halfway through the purge, take off all of your clothes and stand in front of the mirror for five minutes. I don’t know about you, but that’ll push me to toss that half a bag of Oreos.
3. Something Shiny!
Distract yourself! Food cravings are often associated with boredom. If there is nothing to do, eating is a way to kill time and satiate any unwanted emotions that may arise when we have nothing better to do than think. Get out of the house and walk, jog, garden or drive somewhere (preferably not to Krispy Kreme).
Just getting moving in another direction can distract your mind from food. Meet a friend at a bookstore, a hiking path, musical venue, gym or zumba class, anything that will change your focus.
4. Never, ever, ever, ever shop hungry.
This is a biggie, because once the junk is in the house, you’re gonna hear it’s evil little voice calling your name 24/7. Don’t let it in the front door. Visit the supermarket on a full stomach, and take a list (you know we’re all about lists!); both strategies help counter impulse-buying and stop you reaching for less healthy options with more eye appeal.
Shopping strictly from a saved list also helps you hold out against bad impulse buys and overspending.
5. Give in (seriously!)
Very few people can live in a constant state of self-denial. If you really want a piece of chocolate after dinner, then buy the best quality you can find and have a little piece. Sometimes that’s all it takes to be satisfied, and it can stop you from ingesting a ton of other empty calories. Just keep it to a small piece, or better yet, find somewhere that you can walk to and just buy one bite (gas station mini-marts are great for this.)
If chocolate is your thing, switch to a darker version (look for those with 70 per cent or more cocoa solids). You’ll find you need to eat less to feel the positive effects.
Brushing your teeth, chewing gum, drinking water (especially hot with lemon or a thin slice of ginger), are also accepted methods for overcoming cravings. Getting enough sleep is another biggie.
One last thing…as a former drug user, with life-long weight struggles, I have more than a little personal experience on this subject, and I want you to know that there will be days you win, and days you don’t…but as long as you don’t give up, you’ll never fail.
You can do this!