Food cravings can spell trouble for the most committed of healthy eaters. It’s viciously hard to hold up under the all-consuming drive to eat that makes your mouth start watering just imaging the food you want. Even if you can battle through it once, could you keep battling until you break?
Most likely not, it is not at all healthy for you either – and that’s why you need a better strategy than “willpower.” Save your willpower for the emergencies when you really need it, and take a look at this list of 8 better ways to tackle food cravings:
1. Prevent The Craving In The First Place
What’s better than successfully powering through a craving? Not having one in the first place! Before you start searching into psychological tricks and processes, ensure you’re doing both of the following to reduce the amount of cravings you get:
- Eat when you’re hungry. If your stomach is growling, it’s not a craving; it’s hunger. Feed it with quality fat and protein. Eating enough fat and protein at every meal can help prevent cravings from starting in the first place. And in fact, if you’re already having a craving, eating some quality fat and protein can sometimes get rid of it just like that.
- Don’t cut down on the carbs. Many people find that when they add in more Paleo-friendly starch to their diet on a regular basis, they stop craving carb filled junk food like pretzels and crackers.
Cravings are often born of calorie, carb, or fat restriction – you can nip them in the bud by not doing that to yourself.
2. Distraction Can Be Key
Everyone had a lot of fun with this study, which showed that playing Tetris helped reduce food cravings. But even though it sounds silly, it’s true: if you get food cravings out of your head for just a few minutes, you can break its hold on you. Once they’re gone, they rarely come back. Here’s why…
- Read something that stretched your mind. Work your mental muscles!
- Watch an episode of your favorite TV show.
- Look through old photos that make you smile.
- Call a friend.
- Stretch or do gentle yoga.
- Write down your health goals.
- Do something else to keep your hands busy.
- Clean your house or car.
- Organize a folder on your computer
- Find someone who needs your help and do something to make their day.
- Take a nap.
Any random thing will work; the point is just to focus on something else for a while. If you can interrupt the craving, the desire to eat whatever it is becomes much less urgent, and it’s easier to make a healthier choice.
3. Happiness Counts
This study found that cravings were not necessarily associated with increased hunger, but with negative mood. People crave sugar when they’re bored, anxious, lonely, or stressed, and it’s not just your imagination: in the short term, eating junk food does actually make you feel less awful, both physically and mentally.
But if you can get a mood boost from somewhere else instead, you can eliminate the funk that caused the food cravings to begin with. Try something new and experiment. It’s all about experience.
4. Acknowledge And Deal With Your Craving
This one isn’t for the faint of heart, but sometimes it does help just to sit quietly and let yourself feel the craving without judgment or shame. Often, being upset about the craving is more upsetting than the craving itself; if you can stay calm and accept that it’s happening, suddenly it becomes much more manageable. You will feel more at ease, calm, in control and accepting of your own body and mind’s needs.
Look at the craving with detachment, and remind yourself that the craving isn’t you; it’s just a passing emotion that you happen to be experiencing right now. It doesn’t make you weak or inadequate; it just makes you human. Acknowledge it, don’t try to fight it, and then let it go. Just let go people…
5. Maybe Replace The Craving?
A very common response to craving some junk food is to eat something healthier, such as fruits as a substitute for sugary foods, especially very sweet fruits like dates.
If you’re craving the food for its own sake, this can work. If you just really loved the taste of lemon cake, then something healthier that tastes similar may scratch the itch. But if you’re craving the food because you’re bored, or lonely, or stressed, then the healthy imitation won’t fill the hole any more than the original junk would.
The second situation is much more common. So before you try concocting some healthy replacement for whatever you’re craving, take an honest look at why you really want it. Is it for the sake of the food? Or is it an emotional crutch? If you’re eating for emotional reasons, you’re not doing yourself any favors by eating something different; the only way out is to deal with the emotional problem and find a healthier way of addressing those feelings.
One of the effective methods that athletes use to prepare for an event is to visualize themselves winning. You can use the same technique to give yourself a little boost: just play a scenario in your head of yourself the way you would like to be in the face of this craving (strong and committed, completely capable of resisting), and concentrate on what that version of you would do. How would perfect-you handle it? That is the question here.
7. Walk Away From Temptation
You don’t have to be limited to mental distractions like playing a computer game or picking up a book. It also helps to just get up and physically remove yourself from the food you’re craving. Go somewhere else – ideally somewhere “safe” with no unhealthy food to prey on the edges of your mind, and then sit down to do something else.
This helps by removing the need to keep fighting that “I-want-to/I-shouldn’t” battle. It’s not even an issue any longer, since the food you’re craving is physically unavailable anyway. Now you can use your mental energy on other things, and reassess the situation from a calmer point of view. It’s funny how much easier it is to turn down pizza when you don’t have to smell it!
8. Work It Out- By Working Out
A surprisingly effective trick is to promise yourself that you don’t have to make a decision about whether or not you’re going to eat this food right now – you’ll do it when you get back from the gym. Don’t worry about resisting forever; just make a deal that you’ll put it off for an hour or so while you work out. Then go get sweaty. This is one really helpful tip when tackling food cravings!
What do you think of these tips on how to get rid of food cravings? Let us know in the comments below!
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Writer. Current student at Manchester Metropolitan University. Major interest in all things literary, poetic & stylish. Instagram: @hearts_residue