You’re on a really great weight loss program, and so far, you’re doing great. You’re eating right, controlling your portions, and can feel (and see!) all the positive effects. But then you suddenly get a wild, crazy craving. Goodbye, diet.
Cravings can be very hard to control, and if we do manage to say no, we often feel very deprived and miserable—which can weaken resolve, and eventually cause us to quit a diet altogether. Here are easy, effective ways to control cravings that (most importantly) still make us feel good about saying “no.”
Weight loss tip # 1: Postpone your cravings
Our cravings are based on memories and associations with food. The more recently we indulged in cravings, the stronger these memories will be.
That’s why indulging in a craving can be counterproductive: ‘just one piece of cake today!’ we say, but the next day, we still remember the way the chocolate melted in our mouths. So try this: when cravings hit, tell yourself, ‘I’ll eat it next week.’ You’re not completely saying no, so you don’t get depressed and deprived, but you give yourself a chance to weaken the memories and associations.
Why one week? Studies show that the cravings tend to be very strong for about five days, then the intensity drops. Meanwhile, you can create new cravings, based on the healthy things you are already eating. ‘Hey, that yoghurt smoothie was pretty good. I think I want another one tomorrow.’
Weight loss tip # 2: Wash the cravings away.
Studies show that drinking about two glasses of water and a handful of nuts can subtly change your body chemistry, plus take the edge of your appetite. This will actually reduce the intensity of your craving, making it easier to control.
Weight loss tip # 3: Prevent stress eating.
Cravings tend to emerge when we’re stressed, mainly because we associate favorite foods with comfort. So when we’re freaking out at work, we’re more likely to reach for a chocolate bar or a big tub of ice cream.
That’s why it’s important to partner a weight loss program with a stress management program. Try meditation, or exercise like yoga (which burns away tension as well as it does calories), or start a hobby or activity that keeps your hands busy—you can’t eat if you’re gardening or writing in your diet journal.
And when cravings hit, ask yourself: ‘Am I hungry or am I stressed?’ If you’re stressed, then reach for a non-food treat, like a scented body lotion (the aromatherapy can work wonders!) or a few minutes of reading your favorite blog.
Weight loss tip # 4: Sleep off the craving.
As we said, we’re more susceptible to cravings when we’re stressed…and tired. This can partially be from association: sugary snacks give a very quick sugar high, so our body says, ‘Give me a chocolate bar and I’ll wake up really fast.’ But the sugar high leads to a sugar crash, or a jittery kind of energy that’s not very productive. So if you’re tired, give your body what it really needs—a nap—and wake up feeling better and less likely to binge. (You can also read our article on quick energy boosters.)
Weight loss tip # 5: Brush your teeth.
This is really a psychological trick: we’ve been trained, by years of association, not to eat after we’ve brushed, flossed, and gargled with mouthwash.
Weight loss tip # 6: Keep busy for 10 minutes.
Studies show that cravings last for an average of 10 minutes, so distract yourself with a quick and non-stressful activity, preferably one that’s far away from the refrigerator and will make it impractical to eat.
<h5.Weight loss tip # 7: Plan ahead
Know yourself, and when your cravings tend to hit. For example, you may be used to eating while watching television, so vary your routine so that you’re doing something else (like buffing your fingernails while watching ‘Glee’). Or, if you’re going to a Thanksgiving party and you know that you won’t be able to say no to the pumpkin pie, then adjust your portions so you have room for the extra calories.
Photo from saidaonline.com