10 Effective Ways to Control Food Cravings
Do you constantly crave for your favorite comfort food like adobo, ube ice cream or that a big tub of french fries? You’re not alone. Many people, including myself, could learn a lot when it comes to coping with these nasty food cravings, especially for food that are unhealthy.
As they say, a little “reward” may not create a huge dent on your diet but if your mindless overindulgence starts to take control of your life, you might want to step back and do something about it. But don’t fret; there’s still hope.
All you need is a little discipline and a plan to outsmart it. Read on to get some practical tips on how to combat these food cravings so you can enjoy eating without ruining your diet and sanity.
How to Control Food Cravings
1. Create a distraction for yourself.
According to John Foreyt, PhD from Baylor College of Medicine, “cravings typically lasts for ten minutes”. Learn to acknowledge it and find ways to divert your attention from it. You can listen to rock music, walk your dog, call a friend, hit the gym or any activity not related to food until those cravings subside.
2. Learn how to deal with stress.
For most of us, food cravings kick in when we feel stressed or anxious. When left unchecked, high stress may lead you to overeat in an attempt to satisfy your emotional needs.
This is the time when you are most likely to eat high-calorie food rich in sugar and fat. This couldn’t be truer for me when I used to work at a call center many years ago where the working environment was so stressful I would compensate it by consuming 2 cups of rice 3 times a day.
This was the time I gained a considerable amount of weight, too. Knowing how to deal with stress may potentially keep you away from “stress eating” every day. Health experts suggest practicing relaxation techniques like deep breathing exercises and visualization to help reduce stress and stimulate positive energy and mood.
3. Stay away from trigger food.
Marcia Pelchat, Ph.D., of the Monell Center said that “you crave what you eat, so if you switch what you’re eating, you can weaken your old cravings and strengthen new ones. Volunteers in her study drank bland dietary-supplement beverage for five days.
They realized that they crave less of their favorite trigger food and by the time the study ended, they now craved for the supplement beverage instead. In reality, it’s hard to completely eliminate old food cravings but the longer you can stay away from trigger food, the less likely you’ll crave for them.
Instead of caving into your junk food addiction, why not transfer that craving towards something healthy?
4. Know when you’re hungry or not.
Sometimes, cravings are often mistaken for hunger but the truth is, they are two different things. Susan Albers, an Eat Q author and clinical psychologist at Cleveland Clinic said that “not all hunger is created equal, but we often treat it the same.”
If you’re not able to identify your hunger level, this may often lead to bad food choices and unnecessary food cravings. When you’re really starving, you will most likely settle with what’s available to satisfy your hunger whereas cravings happen when you choose a specific food or drink without necessarily being hungry.
Ask yourself this question: “Does it makes sense to eat now even if I had a full meal an hour ago?” You might want to wait it out for 15 minutes or more until that craving stops.
5. Stick to a schedule.
Make sure to eat only during meal and snack times that you’ve set. Ideally, once every four hours to prevent any unguarded munching.
6. Take a power nap.
Craving strikes at the perfect moment when you’re tired. So instead of giving it any attention, why not focus on taking a 30-minute power nap to help energize the body.
7. Give yourself a break but within limits.
It’s perfectly fine to indulge yourself with your favorite food once in a while just as long as you do it in controlled portions. So instead of buying a pint of ice cream, try one scoop instead. Don’t stock up on tempting foods at home or anywhere within reach because that would be too easy to devour the whole thing and then regret your decisions later.
8. Cut bad habits.
Do you believe that we are all creatures of habit? Anything we are right now is a product of what we repeatedly do on a regular basis. You might not notice it, but simple routines like eating potato chips while watching your favorite movie create a pattern that your brain associates with.
Just the sight and smell of food will create strong cues so make sure to get rid of these common triggers. You can change your habit by moving your movie viewing in your room where it’s farther from the kitchen and snack on healthy food item instead.
9. Replace it with healthier food.
You might be craving for something sweet but replacing it with something healthier will curb those food cravings just as effectively. For example, drinking a banana peanut butter smoothie might satisfy you as much as a cup of vanilla ice cream.
The level of satisfaction may not be immediate but normally it takes around 10-20 minutes for it to kick in. The trick here is to eat in the same equal portion as your desired comfort food, otherwise, you will sense something lacking and that nasty craving will just wait for you to cave in.
10. Imagine yourself healthy.
Each time a favorite food pops up in your head, stop, take a deep breath then visualize a healthy image of yourself. It takes a bit of practice and patience but you master this skill over time, your head will reject your food desire and the craving will die down.
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