Curb those Cravings
A healthy diet can reduce cravings
What is a craving?
The definition of a craving is simply a great desire or yearning. That sums it up quite well. Often when we are trying to lose weight we feel very motivated and may even be making progress but then a craving strikes. It may be for a food that we haven't had for a while, often something that we think we shouldn't have if we are on a diet, and it can be very hard to resist these cravings.
Some people suggest that if we crave something maybe we need it, perhaps some mineral or nutrient that our body is lacking. Opinion is varied a little but in the video below the suggestion is that we often crave foods not for their nutrients but for a variety of other reasons. Because we like them, they taste nice or we associate them with feeling comforted or with some other positive emotion. It may even be a response we have 'practised'. We diet then after a few days we crave something, end up eating it, feel bad about ourselves and then diet again.
In many ways it doesn't really matter why we have the craving the important thing is our response. Will we give in to them or can we learn to curb them.
Why do we crave certain foods?
The first thing to remember is that a craving is a desire for something. But like all desires, whether or not we gratify that yearning is a matter of our own choice. It may sometimes feel like it does, but actually the chocolate (or crisps or pizza or whatever) doesn't leap into our mouths, ever. We make quite conscious decisions to eat it. Sometimes we might even decide to go out and buy it first!
It is worth reminding ourselves that we are in control and we make positive decisions about what we do and don't eat. However it is important to eat regularly, not skip meals and have a healthy balanced diet, even when trying to lose weight.
Once there is something you are yearning for it is very hard to think to yourself that you WON'T have it. So try just deciding to delay it. That way you simply put it off for a bit and cravings tend to come in waves and the intensity of feeling often lowers a little. So try deciding that you'll give it half an hour or an hour (or even just a few minutes at first) and then decide whether or not you still feel like you have simply GOT to have it. Many of the clients that I work with say that often it is empowering to do this and sometimes the craving goes away OR sometimes they decide they can wait even longer. Cravings do pass.
Delay giving in
We have all had the experience where we tell ourselves not to think about something and find that it becomes simply the ONLY thing we can think about. That is just how it is with cravings. Once you have the thought it seems impossible not to think about anything except, chocolate, crisps, peanuts whatever the particular food is that you crave.
So make a decision to distract yourself by deliberately filling your mind with other thoughts, watch a movie, read a book, do some housework, clean out a cupboard or if you are at work either get round to that job you've been putting off, something hopefully engrossing or chat to some colleagues.
When you are craving a particular food you generally think only that food will do. Certainly some people tell me that only the particular food will satisfy the craving BUT others tell me that when they are craving something badly eating a substitute food takes the edge off the craving.
The key is to choose a food which is similar to the one you are craving, and often that is something sweet OR something savoury.
So if you are craving crisps try an alternative that is still salty, maybe a few nuts or popcorn sprinkled with a small amount of salt. If it is chocolate you crave then try something sweet maybe some dried fruit or some yoghurt.
It will definitely NOT be the same as satisfying your craving with the food you love BUT sometimes surprisingly it will do - it is worth experimenting with different substitutes but always choose something that you do actually like to eat.
Find a substitiute
A Tiny Taste
Another approach that works well for some people is to simply give in to your craving but just have a tiny amount.
This is definitely the approach that works for me - if I am craving chocolate, for me always a rich dark chocolate, I find it works to just have one or two (maximum 2) small squares. I do often delay and distract myself but sometimes I decide just to give in and treat myself to a small taste of whatever it is I am craving, and that works for me.
I am able to stick to just a small amount and it leaves me feeling nicely satisfied. So give it a try but if opening the bar means eating the lot then maybe another tactic will work better for you.
The secret is to be honest with yourself about what you can and can't manage. If having one square of chocolate isn't an option then try the other tactics. If it is ice cream you crave then share out just one small portion don't attack the tub with a spoon.
When you start to be honest with yourself you can build in lots of helpful strategies. Some people find it helpful not to have particular foods in the house but others find that this panics them a bit and they end up craving certain foods more.
It is worth examining triggers for cravings - do they always occur at a particular time, or when you do a particular activity, or maybe when you are with a particular person or in a particular place. Food is very often something we associate with people or places or emotions and working out what triggers a craving can sometimes help you to deal with it.
Almost everyone will get a craving from time to time. If you are used to eating a lot of high sugar, high salt, processed foods they are likely to be worse than if you eat a lot of fresh, nutrient rich whole foods. Try the following tactics to curb those cravings.
- Delay - tell yourself you will wait a while - then extend it
- Distraction - find something that can take your mind off your craving
- Substitution - if you crave something unhealthy then try finding a healthier substitute
- Tiny Taste - see if you can satisfy your craving by having just a mouthful or two of the food you crave
- Know yourself - work out what works for you AND then do this whenever you crave unhealthy foods
- Plan treats into you menu planner then sometimes you can just put it off
- Fresh Start - each day is a new beginning in diet terms - so even if you give in to your craving one time it doesn't mean you will the next time.
- Don't beat yourself up - you will just find you crave something to comfort you
Be careful not to let yourself get into a negative cycle if you do give in to a craving. So what, it happens. BUT remind yourself that you are in control, you make the decision about what you eat. Just because you gave in to a craving once doesn't mean you will the next time.
Remind yourself about your weight loss goals and focus on what you are hoping to achieve to help you stay strong in your motivation. Also you can make a decision about when you will allow yourself a treat, it is really important to timetable them in so if a craving hits, you know when you will be 'able' to eat the food you crave.
Remember too that losing weight is often about retraining yourself in terms of eating and any sort of training or change can bring it's challenges. You are always free to go back to old ways of eating but if you have weight to lose then you definitely know that the results of those habits were not the ones you wanted.