One of the common questions I get from readers is ….HOW do I control myself when I start craving unhealthy foods?
Caving into the urge is the ultimate diet double-whammy, and you’ve probably experienced it before.
Not only does digging into that bag of greasy chips wreck the laid clean eating plans, but the subsequent guilt that emerges afterward also has a good chance of leading you to eat even more.
When you’re face-to-face with that tempting treat, the internal struggle in your head isn’t imaginary – one brain region tells you that you must have it, while another attempts to suppress that desire.
How can you make sure that it’s the healthy impulse that wins?
The answer probably isn’t what you might think – it’s not willpower.
Those urges are fueled by “feel-good” brain chemicals like dopamine which are released when you eat certain types of food, creating a rush of euphoria that your brain wants to enjoy again and again.
Before you get hit with that insatiable urge for peanut butter fudge ice cream, arm yourself with information that can help prevent you from giving in.
Remember, your reward is a fit, strong body that is capable of almost anything – and, being able to get into those cute pair of skinny jeans isn’t too bad either!
Consider the results of giving into temptation.
One of the best ways to break a fixation on food is to consider the negative, long-term consequences of eating it.
Every time the food you crave pops into your head, think “STOP!”
How will you feel after you actually eat it?
How much longer will it take you to reach your goal?
Now, envision the healthy results of sticking to a clean eating plan – infinitely better, right?!
Distract yourself. Just a five-minute distraction is often enough to beat a food craving.
Try taking up a hobby that keeps your hands busy – and, away from your mouth, such as crocheting or painting.
Going for a walk offers double the benefits: exercise and the ability to keep you distracted long enough to forget about those chocolate chip cookies.
Eat regularly. When blood glucose levels drops, so does self-control.
In order to keep your energy levels up and cravings down, you may want to eat more frequent mini-meals, or keep healthy snacks like a small handful of almonds, at ready in-between larger meals to avoid becoming ravenous.
Get your Zzzzs. If you aren’t getting enough sleep, you should know that a lack of sleep has been shown to drop levels of the hormone leptin, a substance that tells your body you’ve had enough to eat – and, it boosts levels of ghrelin, a hormone that triggers the appetite.
These changes kick the appetite into overdrive, increasing cravings for sweets and starchy foods.
Practice stress relief techniques. When you’re under a lot of stress, the body triggers the release of a hormone known as cortisol which signals the brain to seek out rewards, including comfort foods loaded with fat and sugar.
When you reach for an unhealthy food in response to a negative feeling, like sadness or anger, you’re inadvertently creating a powerful connection in the brain that perpetuates the cycle, so the next time you face a similar problem, your brain will probably tell you to turn to Twinkies or Cheez-Its again.
Practicing stress relief techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or just turning up the tunes and dancing around, is a great way to stop that unhealthy pattern.
Yours in Health,