Cravings can become a big distraction. This kind of distraction steals away time and energy.
After we spend time thinking about food we don’t want to eat, we can feel powerless or deprived. Neither of these feelings are very helpful.
If cravings are getting you down, I would like to share my health coaching list of 8 Steps to Reduce Cravings. If you want to take back the power, and feel more friendly toward your food, try one or two of these this week. Let’s reduce them!
- Cravings love it when we skip meals. When we skip meals, we may think we’re reducing our calories for the day, and that is sometimes a goal. The problem with this is that by mid-afternoon, hunger hits with a vengeance and then we get mad at ourselves for giving into the temptations that always seem to present themselves. This can lead to eating even MORE calories, because you were truly hungry, and at these times, the best food choices may not be available. A better plan is to spread out your meals as evenly as possible throughout the day, and add a healthy snack when needed. It is important to keep blood sugar stable so we don’t crash. Planning ahead is the key action step to making this craving-buster habit work.
- Don’t have low-quality, mass-produced food in the house. If you want to make good choices, only keep good choices in the house. I like to keep our fresh produce at eye level in our fridge, so it’s one of the first things we see and it’s easy to get to. It’s even better if you can keep some washed, cut up and ready to eat. Stock your kitchen with whole foods that fill you up and also satisfy your hunger, giving your body the nutrition it deserves. Eating food that doesn’t nourish us is partly a habit of availability.
- Eat enough protein and healthy fat. The low-fat diet craze caused people to fear all sources of dietary fat (including healthy fats, which our bodies desperately need to function properly and absorb vital nutrients, vitamins and minerals.) To make up for this lack of fat and taste, food manufacturers added more sugar! Low fat foods are not very satiating, which leaves us hungry again a short time later. It has been said that we gain weight by eating what we think we’re supposed to, followed by what we really want to. I know you can find satisfying foods to have on hand at home that taste great, add to your health and vitality, and do not contain addictive properties.
- Get a good night’s sleep. What does sleep have to do with healthy eating and reducing cravings? Think about how you feel when you wake up tired and how the rest of your day goes. How do you feel after you get a full night’s rest? We will typically make different food and activity choices throughout the day when we feel rested and energetic. Research shows that our appetites can increase by as much as 25% when we’re tired, which make sense. Our body craves more energy and we get more energy from simple carbohydrate foods, which is another way of saying junk food. Consider the steps you enjoy taking that make for your best sleep and make this part of your day a priority.
- Be a food label detective. We’ve been taught to look at the calories and fat content on food labels, but not the actual ingredients. It’s shocking what is in some of the most popular American food items! When we consume sugar, our body craves more sugar, so it’s important to know where all the hidden sugars are hiding. Here are just a few of the names sugar goes by: high fructose corn syrup, brown sugar, raw sugar, cane sugar, sucrose, dextrose, and maltose. Before you put it in your grocery cart, know what it is that you’re buying. The front of the package is designed to be an advertising billboard to sell you the product. Buzz words like Healthy, Natural, Baked, Whole Grains, are words that are being used more than ever to provide a sense of “wholesomeness” to the consumer. For example, Baked Lays potato chips contain more sugar then the regular type. I am talking about added sugar, not just the natural sweetness inherent in a potato. Even most loaves of bread contain high amounts of sugar. Ignore what the front of the package says and look at the list of ingredients. If it sounds like a science experiment with names of ingredients you cannot identify, put it back on the shelf. We can all do better than this.
- Postpone your craving. As you think about the day ahead and the meals you’d like to eat, consider setting aside a craving you are now feeling and skip that low-quality item. If you know you can enjoy that item at the end of a nutritious meal, if you still want it, then you are mindfully quieting the urge for immediate gratification. Like strengthening a muscle, we can learn to strengthen our ability to wait: wait until a little later to eat that cookie, for instance, if we’re still hungry. It is a self-loving act to think about the meals that are still ahead today and gently decide to fill our plate with some fresh produce, a delicious portion of protein, and some high fiber vegetables that sparkle with nutrition. After enjoying a quality meal, and taking some time to relax your mind, it is perfectly fine to enjoy a cookie.
- Satisfy your sugar cravings with healthy sweets. Sometimes, I reach for a sweet snack out of habit. Did you know that approximately 40% of what we do each day is purely the result of habit? If we had to think about every single thing we did, it would be completely overwhelming, wouldn’t it? Some of our eating patterns are purely habit and we do it without much thought. What are your most closely guarded habits that have food choices attached to them? I have practiced satisfying my sweet tooth with healthy sweets that are packed with fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants which actually help me feel better. For instance, I am a big fan of eating a dish of semi-frozen blueberries when we watch movies at home. It completely satisfies what used to require a bowl of sugary ice cream, and when I’ve finished eating it, I feel good about myself instead of having “what did I just do!” feelings.
- Are you hungry for food or something else? Sometimes cravings are caused by things we feel are missing from our lives. Many of the world’s most self-disciplined people have chosen to fill that void with food. Stress or feeling bored or lonely can do it for me, I am honest to report. Get in touch with what you’re craving that’s not food, and learn other ways to nourish yourself. If you just ate a meal an hour ago and know that your portions were realistic, maybe you aren’t really hungry? See if doing something else takes your mind off of mindless munching as a distraction. Here is my list of favorite things to do instead of focusing on food.
What would be on your list?
Call a friend Practice yoga Learn something new
Read a book Enjoy your favorite hobby Take a nap
Take a walk Manicure, pedicure, massage Enjoy a hot bath