Food cravings are a natural part of life but many people think of them as their worst enemy. Most people think they are alone in the battle to outsmart cravings and don’t realise that will power or self control often has little to do with them. The trick is in how you deal with them because ultimately that is what we have to do- manage our cravings, not hope that they will one day disappear.
Firstly, identifying what behaviours spark your cravings is a priority. There are different situations that can encourage cravings to arise more often, such as:
WHY? Dieting and severely restricting what you eat can make cravings stronger. Often we want what we can’t have.
SOLUTION: Don’t try to avoid “bad” foods forever! Save them for special occasions. Don’t be scared to eat a small amount of any food.
WHY? Putting foods into categories of good and bad. Trying to totally avoid certain foods can lead to over eating them in the end.
SOLUTION: Stop labelling foods as “good and bad”, “legal and illegal” or “forbidden and allowed”. The food itself is not bad, often it’s the quantity. Stop feeling guilty about eating special foods. Allow yourself to include your favourite foods into your life in moderation and without feeling guilty.
WHY? Eating way too few calories.
SOLUTION: Eat 3 balanced meals per day. Skipping meals leads you to feel hungrier at the next meal and makes it hard to watch portion sizes.
WHY? Habit and expecting certain foods at certain times, places and with certain people can lead to craving them.
SOLUTION: Start new habits. If you always eat with around a certain person, chose an activity that cannot include eating.Change the environment you are in to discourage mindless eating. Sit in a different chair, in a different room, etc…
WHY?If we look to be comforted by food when we are stressed, our body learns to expect pleasure and comfort from certain foods.
SOLUTION: Exercise regularly. This not only helps to burn calories but it also helps to relieve stress and anxieties due to cravings.
WHY? Having cupboards stocked with sugary, high fat foods (or the foods you crave).
SOLUTION: Buy smaller portions of the foods you crave.Portion out the amount you want to eat- don’t eat directly out of the box/bag/carton.
To help yourself manage your cravings, try to understand them. Is there a pattern? Are you setting yourself up for more cravings by doing some of the things mentioned above?
You cannot always control the occurrence of cravings but you can control your reactions to them.Think of cravings as suggestions to eat, not opportunities to overindulge.
Lastly. disarm your cravings with the 5 D’s:
- Delay: wait 10 minutes before you eat
- Distract: keep yourself occupied with an activity that requires your attention
- Distance: don’t keep food handy at all times and within easy reach
- Determine: establish how important it is for you to eat this food.
- Decide: what exactly you are craving: something salty? Sweet? Sour? Hot? Cold? Decide what food item you want to eat. Portion out a reasonable serving of the food you crave. Put the rest of the food away, out of site. Sit down, eat slowly and enjoy the food.
Have faith in yourself that all cravings will pass. Think of a craving as a wave and you are a surfer who is trying to ride the wave, not wipe out because of it. The more you practice riding the wave, the better you get.