• 15 Ways to Curb Cravings

    For those struggling with their weight, cravings tend to originate not from the stomach but from the brain.  TV commercials, time of day, stress, and boredom are just some cues that trigger us to crave certain foods, often subconsciously.  So how do you battle those triggers that follow you around wherever we go? Here are 15 tools to help you out.  There is sure to be one here that works for you.  If not, feel free to reach out to us for more tips, there is no craving you can’t crush.
    Break a Sweat - Getting your heart pumping and your body moving not only serves as a powerful distraction from cravings, but it also helps produce endorphins.  This chemical, when released in the brain, makes us feel happy.  It’s the same chemical released when we feel love, have sex, and eat sweet and fatty foods.  So what you actually may be craving is happiness.  Do yourself a favor and break a sweat instead of eating a cupcake. Your brain won’t know the difference.
    Plan Ahead – So you’re going to dinner, and you know you’re going to have a hard time saying no to the warm bread rolls or seductive basket of chips.  What are you waiting for?  Don’t just expect to eat them, expect not to.  When you know you’re walking into an ambush, be on the defensive.  The moment your waiter stops by, ask him to cancel the bread/chips.  You’ll have more room to enjoy the food you’re actually paying for, which, we hope, is a more nutritious option.
    Earn It – We’re fans of cheat days and food rewards.  That doesn’t mean to say that we eat cake every night, but we do indulge in a little extra on our plate or a glass of wine when we’ve put in a good workout and eaten clean that day.  If you absolutely must have a bit of chocolate after dinner or that slice of pizza at work, make sure you’re countering those decisions with some exercise or less calories at another meal.  This way, you’ll not only learn to manage your cravings but you’ll program yourself to expect that satisfying a craving must be earned.
    Talk to Your Smarter Self – Did you plan on having that chocolate shake at dinner?  Do you wish that you hadn’t given in to the never-ending basket of breadsticks? Then next time, remember that.  Next time you have a craving, speak to your wiser self - the one that’s made the mistakes and feels remorse.  Remember what you felt after you ate that second helping and then wished you could take it back?  Use that memory to power through your craving.  Once you move onto another activity and are distracted, the craving will likely go away. All you’ll be left with is a feeling of accomplishment and pride.  Not a bad exchange.
    Eat – So it’s 4pm and you’re craving one of your co-worker’s famous double fudge chocolate chip cookies that are piled up in the kitchen.  Don’t do it.  You’re likely just hungry again after lunch and looking to find immediate gratification rather than reaching for a handful of nuts, a yogurt, some string cheese, etc.  Often a craving is just hunger and laziness combined to wreak havoc.  Make sure you have healthy food on hand at all times so that you can feed yourself when hunger strikes instead of succumbing to superficial cravings.
    Drink a Glass of Water - Studies show that 37% of people mistake hunger for thirst. It’s an easy mistake since thirst is a much weaker sensation and a lot harder to pinpoint.  Still, you should get familiar with it. Your body needs water more desperately than it needs food.  Still, we seldom over hydrate and often over eat.  So next time you think you’re craving a little something, drink a glass of water.  You’ll feel refreshed and also give your stomach something to do while you walk away from those chips.
    Find a Replacement – We are creatures of habit... and habits die hard. Recent studies show that it takes an average of 66 days to successfully break a habit – some are successful with less time, some need more.  In fact, our oldest habits, like eating dessert every night, often feel almost impossible to break.  So how do we fight something we feel powerless against?  Replace the habit.  If you crave sweets after dinner, try eating some fruit like pineapple or grapes that are high in sugar but fat free.  Over time, your body will get used to it.  Eventually, you can switch to other fruits or maybe even chewing gum or a cup of tea. The longer you stave off food cravings, studies show, the weaker the urges become.
    Sleep – Have you ever noticed that when you are busiest and sleep deprived you eat the worst foods?  That’s not so much a function of time management but diminished self-restraint.  Our brains are programmed to handle only a small number of tasks well - others fall to the wayside. When your biggest priorities are diet and exercise, you are successful; but when you are stressed about paying the bills and supporting your family, saying no to fried foods on the drive home from work seems an impossible task.  When you have a lot on your plate, try and get a good amount of sleep in, even if it’s in pieces.  Sleep helps you heal both physically and mentally.  Sleep helps your mind load up with the power of self-restraint, as well as the power to focus and problem-solve. With more sleep, you’ll have more energy to eat healthy and focus on your daily tasks.  Sleep helps you do more with less.
    Get Busy – Are you bored or hungry?  Sounds like a ridiculous question, but how many times do you find yourself roaming the office kitchen when avoiding a daunting task or waiting for the end of the day to roll around?  It’s no surprise that we often eat out of boredom. Next time you can’t seem to say no to Jelly Bellies, ask yourself if you’re hungry, or if you just have nothing better to do. Then walk away and get on Facebook or call a friend.  It’s a calorie-free activity!
    Meditate – Stress is the nemesis of a healthy diet.  It makes us do things we don’t want to do like yell at our spouse, cut people off in traffic, and eat Twinkies.  One simple way to reduce stress on a daily basis is meditation.  Now we’re not talking about cross-your-feet-wear-a-robe-and-sit-on-a-rug meditation, just some simple breathing exercises.  Breathe in through your nose as slowly and deeply as you can.  Fill your lungs completely with air. Do not hold your breath.  Let it out through your mouth as slowly as you can.  Do this 10 times while focusing only on your body and your breath.  You may constantly have to shove things out of your mind to do this – this is normal.  Studies show that after just two weeks of consistent mediation, the brain begins to change – adding strength to its ability to self-regulate (i.e. fight cravings).photo courtesy of anieto2k
    Do Something that Makes You Happy – Sometimes a food craving is more of an emotional side effect than a sign of hunger or deficiency.  We often crave “comfort foods” - whether sweet or savory – as a result of stress.  That is because these comfort foods often trigger those happy chemicals called endorphins.  So next time you think comfort food will satisfy that craving, ask yourself if in fact what you’re looking for is a moment of happiness or respite from stresses in life – then walk away from the donut and call your best friend or play with your dog.  The tension will soon ease away as will the craving.
    Light a Vanilla Candle – St Georges Hospital in London conducted a study that suggests the smell of vanilla may help curb cravings for sweets.  Although this did not work for pizza or extra cheesy mac and cheese, it may help you say no to the never-ending bowl of M&Ms that sits in your office.
    Chew Sugarless Gum – Since most cravings are not driven by hunger, they can be satisfied by things other than food.  You may be used to having something sweet in the afternoon or perhaps the sensation of chewing calms you. Don’t underestimate the power of a good piece of sugarless gum when cravings attack.  PLUS, it helps keep your teeth healthy.
    Visualize – Our most powerful tool in fighting cravings is our brain.  So use it!  If you have a particular time of day when you are most vulnerable to giving into that craving, imagine yourself doing any of the above instead.  Make sure you pick something you can actually follow through with (most of us can’t nap at work).  Many successful people in all areas of life have found success by first visualizing it on a daily basis. After some practice, your mind will get used to that image and direct you to recreate it in real life.
    Give In, Sort of – Lastly, just give in.  There is nothing wrong with eating a sliver of that cheesecake your grandma made especially for you.  The problem is we seldom stop at one sliver, one cookie, or one slice of pizza.  If you must have pie after dinner, just have a sliver, or share with a friend.  It’s likely that after that first bite, you’ll kill that initial animal need and be able to say no to the rest.  And frankly, depending on the size of the bite, that counts as having said no altogether!

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