Chapter 7: How to Stop Food Cravings ?
Most of you must have experienced that late-night feeling when you suddenly have a massive craving for sweets. You feel as if the chocolate bars and jellybeans you have stuffed in your kitchen are sinking deeply into your thoughts, and however much you may try, you cannot shake off the image of food from your mind. The image only grows larger and more vivid until you finally get up and head to the kitchen to grab a bite of chocolate. But that one bite invariably leads to more bites, until you have slammed down a day’s worth of calories right before bed. If this sounds familiar to you, you are not alone. In fact, almost everyone experiences food cravings that are difficult to control, especially when they are on a diet.
These food cravings can be ruthless. Most of us find it impossible to control food addictions. Fortunately, there are a few tricks that can help you stave off impulsive eating that slows down your weight loss efforts and makes you put on the pounds.
Turn your subconscious habits into conscious ones. This will help you identify the situations or triggers that start the cravings for you. Write down these situations as a part of your food journal. It can be anything–the sight or the smell of food, time of day, any particular location, stress, or even lack of sleep. Once you identify these situations, it will help you alert your mind about your subconscious eating in these situations and prevent unnecessary eating.
Yes, at times it is beneficial to think negative! Pair unhealthy junk foods you crave with a stream of unappealing images. It’s exactly the opposite of what the advertising agencies promoting junk food do. So, next time you have a craving for a chocolate bar, picture the bar in your mind as a bag of sugar. Then, imagine scooping 20 teaspoons of sugar into your mouth. The thought will make you feel nauseated and averse to eating the bar and put your mind off the urge to eat it.
Food cravings are known to rear their ugly heads when you are not getting sleep or in a stressful situation. Grab a piece of chewing gum to stave off your craving for pastries or whatever is your vice. Try tactics like meditation to control stress instead of eating junk food.
Many people eat simply out of boredom. Eating is a pleasant way to kill time and satiate the emotions when there is nothing else to do. So, next time you think of heading to your kitchen to fight boredom, start moving in the opposite direction. Get out of the house and walk, jog, or drive somewhere. Meet a friend at a bookstore, musical venue, a hiking path, gym or yoga class, or do anything that will change your focus. Creating momentum will distract your mind from food.
When there is food around you, get away. Distance yourself from family and friends when they are having their food. Initially, you may feel you are not able to enjoy snacks with family and friends, but in the long run you will find you have achieved good control over your cravings. Then, you will be able to join in with your loved ones moderately.
Repeat the mantra
Meditation is great for mental conditioning. Create a mantra to empower yourself during times of temptation. One popular mantra that works well for controlling food cravings is, “A minute on the lips, a lifetime on the hips.”
Food cravings can be a sign of anxiety. The acronym HALT stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and Tired and is used in Alcoholics Anonymous. Answering these will get you to the bottom of what is causing your craving. If you are hungry, then your food craving can actually be just that. Checking when you had your last meal will help you determine whether it is actual hunger or otherwise. If you are truly hungry, then eat responsibly. Be honest with yourself and do not skip meals, as it will only increase your cravings.
Confront the urge directly
Learn to be responsible and make a reasonable decision. Ask yourself whether you must have the food. Statements like, “I’m not hungry, I don’t have to eat every time I think of food” or “If I control the urge now, it will become easier for me to lose weight” can help.
Drinking water is a good way to trick your brain into thinking your stomach is full. When you feel a strong urge to eat, reach for a glass of water. Icy cold water will be more effective in this case as coldness will stimulate the metabolism to warm the water to body temperature. You will burn a few calories in this process and also feel full in the stomach.
You can also trick your brain into believing that you ate something sweet by simply brushing your teeth. Carry travel toothpaste and a toothbrush with you at all times. When a food craving arises, go to the restroom and brush. You will not only stave the hunger, but will also come out with clean teeth and fresh breath.
Use a Stopwatch
Remember, a food craving usually lasts for only 5 to 20 minutes. When you get a food craving, drink a glass of cold water, start your stopwatch, and wait. Keeping an eye on the clock will distract your mind. You will be surprised to find the urge to eat disappearing by the time the stopwatch reaches 20 minutes.
Eating an ounce of nuts (approximately 12 almonds, 6 walnuts, or 20 peanuts) will give you a feeling of satiety and control the impulse to eat junk food. It will dampen your appetite by changing your body chemistry.
Following these simple tips will help you stop the food cravings deeply rooted in your physiology and psychology and optimize your weight loss results.