I had just finished my green smoothie for breakfast at work when someone waltzed in with a box of donuts. If I’m being honest, I felt quite smug in telling them I had already had something healthy and felt superior to anyone that was about to eat all those empty calories.
Fifteen minutes later, I went into the breakroom to brew some tea. I glanced at the open box of donuts on the table. Concerned that they would get dried out with the top off, I went to cover them up and was close enough to get a whiff of sugary heaven. I back away with resolve and retrieve my freshly brewed green tea, giving the box a nice hard look as I exited through the door.
For the next thirty minutes as I’m trying to work, those beautiful puffs of pastry keep wandering across my mind. I was unable to concentrate. I will not give in, I will not give in. I finish my cup of tea and decide I need another one. Green tea is good for your metabolism, right? I go back into the breakroom and brew my tea.
The lid is still down on the box of donuts. Hmm, wonder how many are left? Let me take a look. Only three left and one is a glazed one, my favorite. Next thing I know I’m putting it on a napkin and vowing that I will eat a light lunch or not at all. But surely, all that green tea I’m drinking will help burn off the extra calories. Returning to my desk I inhale it in seconds.
At lunchtime, someone asks me to go out with them. I’ve brought my lunch from home. I should say no, but that’s rude, right? I mean, I can always eat it tomorrow so it’s not like I’ll be wasting food. I can order a salad since I had that donut earlier. (Spoiler alert: I did not order a salad.)
The whole drive home, I beat myself up with a ton of negative talk, so when I finally arrive home I’m feeling awful and defeated. I decide I’ve pretty much blown this day so I order a pizza for dinner. Fuck it.
I don’t know of too many people who really have a healthy relationship with food. They are either always trying the latest dieting trend or feel like they have to make an excuse every time they want to indulge in something considered a “bad” food.
Restriction, either specific foods or calories, is not the answer. When we put restrictions on food we actually send our brain a message that food is scarce and throw it into starvation mode. This causes our bodies to store fat. When we feel guilt or shame eating certain foods, our body feels threatened like we won’t give it what it needs. The brain becomes preoccupied with finding and eating food. Chronic dieting leads your body to interpret that it won’t get consistently fed and therefore lowers your metabolism. So your efforts to make your body more ‘fit’ are actually throwing it completely off track.
So what do you do? I’ve compiled several tips for actions to take to avoid and survive cravings, and also ones to reconstruct your thinking to help repair your relationship with food.
Hunger is often confused with thirst, so make sure you take in plenty of water throughout the day. When faced with a craving, drink a full glass of water first. Water aids in reducing your appetite. Add some lemon to your water for a bonus as the pectin fiber fights hunger cravings as well.
Eat More Protein and Fat
Protein helps you feel full longer and curbs your desire to snack at night. So fill up on eggs, greek yogurt, nuts, seeds, lean meats, fish, lentils and dark green veggies.
Healthy fats quell blood sugar spikes. You’ll find these in avocados, nuts and oils.
Eliminate Food Related Decisions From Your Day
Reducing how often you need to make a food related decision will add to your success. Plan your meals out for the following day and commit to it. No calling audibles, no changes. Wanna go really badass, plan them out for the whole week.
Or try eating the same thing everyday for either breakfast or lunch. Find something you like that is healthy and put it on repeat.
Avoid Extreme Hunger
Do not skip meals and always have a healthy snack within your grasp. Store trail mix in your purse, keep sunflower seeds in your car, or have tuna kits in your desk drawer. Watermelon is 90% water and the fiber helps you to feel full. Summer is the best time to stock up!
Take Spinach Extract
Spinach extract is a supplement made from spinach leaves that delays fat digestion which in turn increases hormones that reduce appetite. Taking 3.7 to 5 grams with each meal reduces cravings for several hours. Even just five grams per day has shown to reduce cravings specifically for chocolate and high sugar foods by 87-95 percent.
Get Enough Sleep
Sleep deprivation causes poor appetite regulation and strong cravings. Seven to nine hours a night will keep you, on average, from eating an extra 250 calories a day. Get better sleep by avoiding caffeine and using electronics at night. Keep to a regular sleep schedule and have a specific bedtime ritual. Make sure your room is cool and free from noise and light.
What Makes You Happy?
List out other things that make you happy and do more of those.
Stress is a major culprit in sending you face first into a heaping plate of pasta. Minimize stress by incorporating deep breathing, listening to calming music or sounds, meditating, exercising regularly or keeping a diary.
Don’t Go To the Supermarket Hungry
When you are hungry it is super hard to control impulses. Have a list and don’t deter. Better yet use one of the countless apps to order your food ahead of time and just pick it up.
Do something to shift your mind on something else. Chew gum, take a walk, or take a shower. One website even suggested having sex everytime you have a craving. If your partner is nearby – go for it, you little vixen!
Maybe commit to doing 10 pushups or squats every time you want a snack. You’ll either be somewhere you are too embarrassed to do them, so no snack for you! Or you’ll start seeing the benefits from them and won’t want to spoil it.
Clench your fists. Tell yourself “I love myself more than I love this food.” Do this 10 times. Open fists.
Put Your Workout Clothes On
Just the act of wearing workout clothes shifts your mindset enough to turn off your craving for a snack.
Tackle That To Do List
Knocking out things on your to-do list and being able to cross them off is pretty motivating. I put this into play every weekend to get way more than I think is even possible done. Stopping to eat is almost annoying when I’m on a roll.
Visualize Reaching a Goal
You want to run a 5K, hike up a mountain or fit into a particular outfit? Stop and visualize yourself actually accomplishing that. Now how does eating that cupcake vibe with your goal?
Stimulate Both Sides of Your Brain
Pass a ball back and forth between your hands for one minute. This act spreads blood and electrical impulses to both sides of your brain and diminishes the urgency of the craving.
Pros and Cons
Quickly jot down the pros and cons of giving in to your craving and then the same for not giving in. Once you have it in black and white in front of you, you’ll make the better choice.
Find Your Mantra
I’m sure you are tired of me suggesting affirmations, but they work! Here are a fewl that you can begin telling yourself every morning and then they will come to mind when faced with a craving later in the day.
I’m changing to the person I want to be and I’m in control.
I honor my commitments to myself.
I respect my body and listen to it’s needs.
Ask yourself if you would be okay with a plate of broccoli instead of whatever is tempting you. If the answer is no, figure out what you are really feeling. Are you tired, upset, depressed, lonely, anxious or bored? Once you figure out the emotions that trigger cravings, you can come up with game plans on how to address those feelings without using food.
Check the Time
3-4 PM our cortisol is slumbering. Get out into the sunshine, move around or snack on a carb/fat or carb/protein combination. The snacks will regulate your blood sugar, the movement will oxygenate your blood and the sun will sync up your circadian rhythm so your body knows it’s not time to wind down.
Think About the Future
Stop and think, how will you feel in a few hours after you give in to a craving. Are you going to instantly regret it? Are you going to feel guilty about eating it? Going to beat yourself up? Is that really worth the two seconds of enjoyment that Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup will give you?
Yell and Clap
Physical actions with verbal cues quiets negative voices. So the next time those donuts are hollering from the breakroom, clap your hands and shout ‘Stop’. Maybe that annoying co-worker will think you are talking to them.
Phone a Friend
Have a friend that will remind you that bikini season is coming, or can tell you what is really in what your about to eat to gross you out, or can make you laugh by cursing out whatever is tempting you. Call that bitch!
CHANGE YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH FOOD:
Practice Mindful Eating
Be fully present when you are eating your food. Avoid eating while doing something else. Chew your food more thoroughly, put your fork down between mouthfuls. Focus on how the food makes you feel, register what it really tastes like, and be grateful for it.
Give Yourself Permission
I already told you that restriction is bad mojo for your body. So give yourself permission to eat and enjoy foods. Because you gave in and had some french fries, doesn’t reflect on who you are as a human being. Enjoying forbidden foods in moderation is actually balance for a healthy diet.
Let your body tell you when it is hungry. Let it tell you when it is full. Use rational thinking when eating. Eat slowly and calmly. It takes 20 minutes for your brain to register that you are full, so take your time.
Double Check Blood Sugar
Maybe it’s not just that you have no will power. Strong desire for low quality carbs is a symptom of pre-diabetes. It’s worth a check with your doctor. To test, you would fast for a day and then take some blood. If you have it, your doctor will probably prescribe some diet and lifestyle changes.
Replace Your Scale with Tight Jeans
Scales can throw you off track. If you lose, you feel that you deserve a treat. Stay the same, you become frustrated that you are doing all that work for nothing. If you gain, you switch your mindset into starvation mode. Clothes feeling loose are a better indicator that you are making progress anyway, so ditch the scale.
Whoa, that was a pretty long and heavy post. I think I deserve some McDona…Er, I mean…reading. Yeah, reading. I deserve some time to relax and read. Now where did I put that damn book?