You’re sitting at your desk going about your workday when suddenly, out of nowhere, you’re overcome with the desire—no, need is more like it—to devour a chocolate cupcake with butter cream icing. Next thing you know, you’re licking frosting off your fingers.
What just happened? You were clobbered by a food craving. In a study from Tufts University, 91% of women said they experienced strong food cravings. These urges are fueled by feel-good brain chemicals such as dopamine, released when you eat these types of foods, which creates a rush of euphoria that your brain seeks over and over. What you need is a plan that stops this natural cycle—and helps prevent unwanted weight gain.
These smart strategies below can help you learn to manage your cravings — and even lose weight in spite of them.
To Curb Cravings…
Avoid your triggers. Spend a day taking note of where you are and what you’re doing when you experience cravings; then try to change one trigger at a time. Take a different route to work if it’s impossible to drive by the doughnut shop without stopping.
Take control. Develop strategies for the triggers you can’t avoid. For example, if someone brings cupcakes to a meeting, resolve that you’ll split one with a colleague or take just a couple of bites. Remember, you have the power to make healthy choices.
Stick to a schedule. Aim to eat only at set meal and snack times — about every four hours — to help prevent mindless grazing.
Get some satisfaction. If you bring a salad for lunch every day, it’s no wonder you’re likely to ditch it for pizza. Include indulgences a few times a week, but keep portions reasonable. Packing a few cookies to satisfy your need for something sweet is a better strategy than depriving yourself until you rebel and eat a huge sundae.
Cut back on coffee. Too much caffeine can lead to a sugar craving, because you’ll need a pick-me-up a few hours later. Drink no more than two cups a day and pair them with protein, like almonds, to keep your energy level steady.
5 Steps to push through cravings:
- Wait it out
The urge will eventually pass. It may not be that minute or hour or even that day…but it will pass.
- Distract yourself
Do something else…anything else.
- Wash your face and brush your teeth.
- Call a friend.
- Check your e-mail.
- Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths.
- Go for a walk.
- Identify the trigger
Ask yourself “Why am I craving this particular food?”
You may be craving a particular food because:
- You see it or smell it.
- You hear someone talking about it.
- You’re in a particular place or with a particular person.
- It’s a certain time of day.
Sometimes, if you understand why you’re craving something, it’s a little bit easier to deal with.
- Satisfy your real craving
Take a step back and identify what you are really craving.
For example, you might really be craving:
- Stress relief
- A nap
- An end to your frustration
- Give in
If you are truly craving a particular kind of food, give in to your craving….but just a little. For example, if you’re craving chocolate, choose to eat a small piece of it, savor it, and enjoy! If you give in to your craving, choose to do it in a controlled manner. This way, you can feel satisfied without overeating and feeling guilty.