Are chips, chocolate, and cookies irresistibly attractive? Do you find it difficult to say NO once you see, smell, or even start thinking about them? Rarely do I get through a speaking engagement without at least one question about how to control these food cravings. And, since I suffered for years with an eating disorder, I know first-hand how overwhelming these cravings can be.
So, how do you control these cravings? Here’s what worked for me:
- Realize the cravings are (mostly) in your head. Stop telling yourself that there’s some nutrient in that decadent dessert that you’re deficient in. While babies and young children seem naturally to like sweet flavors, do you notice that they don’t go overboard until they get older? That’s because we start associating these foods with good memories so that eating them stimulate pleasure areas of our brain. No wonder we crave them – we’re trying to replicate those happy times in our life.
- Start a CRAVING journal. Each time one of these uncontrollable cravings happen, pull out a piece of paper (or your notes app of your phone or computer) and jot down what’s going on. What are you FEELING? Overwhelmed? Sad? Anxious? Unworthy? Exhausted? Disappointed? Unsuccessful? Intimidated? Discouraged? Once you find out what’s going on you can better come up with a healthier solution to the emotion that’s promoting the craving.
- Take good care of yourself. You’ll notice fewer cravings when you get enough sleep, eat healthy, fit in exercise, and manage your stress. So, don’t take good care of yourself only when the cravings are out of control – take good care of yourself to help prevent these cravings!
- Don’t get overly hungry. How many times have you gone into a restaurant with all good intensions of eating healthy, but then find yourself ordering all the wrong goods and then eating too much? This is much more likely to happen when we allow ourselves to get too hungry. In my book, REBOOT, I encourage people to eat small amounts of food throughout the day to keep hunger at bay. For me this was the most important change I made to recover from my eating disorder. Once I managed my energy (using REBOOT techniques) I had the energy to focus on the head piece of this craving issue.
- No deprivation. In a previous article I wrote about the downsides of having an “all or nothing” mentality. That’s why, even back when I couldn’t control myself around food I STILL enjoyed a weekly ice cream cone at my favorite ice cream parlor. Now I enjoy a small treat every day!
- Keep a healthy environment. Notice I suggested eating your favorite treat at a restaurant. That’s because it’s more difficult to say, “More please” when someone is serving you. Buying an ice cream cone (even if it’s a triple dip…which I’m not encouraging) is still better than putting a half-gallon in the kitchen freezer when you can’t control your portions.
So to keep those cravings at bay stock your kitchen with lots of healthy foods, fuel your body on a regular basis, treat yourself right with plenty of sleep and exercise, and maintain a healthy environment at home and at the office. Let me know how you conquer your cravings!