I woke up the other morning with a junk food craving like nobody's business. I'm not talking a casual "a cookie might be nice" type of thing. It was more of a "I'd kill my relatives for a Snicker's" nature. I don't know what kind of demon inhabited my brain the night before, but it wanted me to do things that weren't going to be pretty. Aside from the obvious problem for my butt and thighs, I would get violently ill within about 15 minutes, were I to indulge. Ill enough, in fact, that I haven't eaten sugar in years. Most of the time, I don't miss it, but every so often a craving hits hard.
Blame it on stress, hormones, you name it, but my immediate issue is what to do about it. Over the years, through a lot of trial and error, I've assimilated a go-to list for when the health-conscious going gets tough. I'll share my top five, and the next time you're in a battle of wills with a tub of Breyer's, you'll be prepared.
Distraction: The fastest way to shake a craving is to occupy yourself with something else. Obviously my preference is that it's something physical, as the endorphin rush will give stress hormones the boot and physiologically stop the craving. If that's not possible, paint your nails, call a friend, play a game, whatever. Give your mind something else to focus on.
Substitution: Craving chips? Make kale chips. Mom's apple pie? Bake an apple till its gooey inside, and cover it with cinnamon and agave nectar. Get creative! You can make a healthy version of anything!
Give in, but just a little: This is the opposite of substitution, but I've seen it work just as well. If you can't live without it, go ahead and have it. I've consumed hundreds more calories avoiding certain foods than I would have with a single serving of what I was avoiding. The trick here is to be honest with yourself; this method is not for the weak-willed. If you can break off a square of chocolate and be satisfied, do it. If you can't, employ another tactic.
Turn off the television: How many solid meal plans are unraveled after 9 pm by mindless munching in front of the tube? Those calories show up in the daylight even if you eat them in the dark, people. Read a book! Or a magazine. Or a website. You can't stuff you're face if your hands are busy turning pages. If you must watch t.v (and sometimes- hello, Walking Dead- we must!), and snacking is an issue, chew some strong, minty gum.
Play the tape all the way through: This one takes the most practice, and the results won't be instant, but it truly puts an end to mindless eating once you get it down. Eating is only a temporary activity; once you've given in to the craving, it's like it never happened. Five minutes later, the only difference between giving in and resisting is the way you look and feel after. So jump to the end. How will you feel after falling off the wagon? Bloated, guilty and physically primed for more cravings, to name a few. If you can focus on the end result, the craving will naturally pass. Your psyche, and your waistline, will thank you.
This is not to suggest that you should never eat cake at a wedding, or order in pizza on a Friday night, or have a muffin just because. No one is perfect all the time, and who wants to be? But when your actions are not aligned with your goals, you're not giving yourself the respect you deserve. Know your body, and
your mind, a little better, and you'll have far fewer "I can't believe I ate the whole thing" moments.
Erin stays busy pursuing her own fitness goals, and helping to educate and inspire those she loves to live healthier lives. A hair stylist by trade, she manages a salon, and is chipping away at a degree, ultimately in dietetics and kinesiology. She lives in South Florida with her husband and a “pound puppy” named Pedro.