Nutrition Tip of the Week

Author: Nadea S. Minet, MS, RD, LD

Week of March 11, 2013

Dealing with Cravings

Let’s face it; we all have food cravings.  Some of us crave chocolate and sweets, while others crave salty and savory foods, and some just like to nosh on empty-calorie carbs. Whatever you might be craving, there are specific ways to deal with it and actually win the battle. However, before we discuss/learn about the ways to deal with our cravings, we should first dissect what is a craving and some of the causes of cravings.

Food cravings are like waves forming in the ocean and finally breaking on the beach. Usually, waves slowly build to their strongest point (when, in the case of food, most people give in) and ultimately weaken. Regrettably, most people forget the waves (cravings in this analogy) fade over time and, instead, fear they will get out of control and can only be stopped by eating. Unfortunately, many of these cravings are for foods that are high in calories, sugar and fat, all of which are not the best food choices for the weight loss surgery patient, or anyone trying to lose weight for that matter.

Dealing with cravings can be very difficult. While many people may fight the craving for a period of time, they ultimately give in and, when they do, they end up eating a large amount of the desired food.

To combat your cravings, here are some tips to beat a food craving and/or avoid them all together:

Change your scenery. Craving a certain food can be triggered by your surroundings.  Every now and then, just being in a different environment can eliminate a craving.

Drink water. Often times a craving can be squelched by hydration.  Try drinking a tall glass of water and waiting fifteen minutes.  If the craving is still there, try something else (go for a walk, call a friend, etc.) to fight the urge to eat.

Sweat. You work hard to stay healthy which includes eating right and exercising/being physically active on a regular basis. Why would you want to undo all of your hard work by giving into a food craving? Resist a craving by going for a walk or working out with a short exercise video. You will be more likely to overcome the craving and do something great for your body and waistline.

Avoid sugar. Sugar in itself can set you up for a craving. When we consume sugar, our blood sugar spikes and then falls very rapidly. This is also referred to as a “crash.” When your body “crashes”, the instinct is to rebound by eating more sugar, but this just makes the cycle repeat. Try to eat a well-balanced meal and/or snack with protein, as well as carbohydrates to avoid the crash and burn phenomenon.

Do not starve yourself. Make sure to eat regularly.  Eating 5-6 mini-meals per day is recommended to keep up your metabolism, but it helps to control your cravings and hormones, too. By eating smaller, well-balanced meals, there is never a time when you feel like you are hungry or “starving”. When you skip meals, you are setting yourself up for a dilemma because the lower your blood sugar drops, the weaker your willpower becomes. In the end, you will be more prone to eat the foods you crave during low blood sugar episodes.

Identify your weaknesses. If you have a weakness for chocolate, accept it, and avoid it by not having any in the house to tempt you. Obviously, you cannot always avoid every situation where trigger foods might be present, but knowing your weaknesses can help you prepare for what lies ahead.

Substitute. If you crave sugary foods, try chewing sugarless gum.  Eat your favorite foods in moderation and never ban yourself from a food.

Or go for the real thing. Sometimes, you have to go for the real thing and eat what you are craving.  For some people, this may work. Eating a small amount of what you are craving might be enough to satisfy the urge. However, for a lot of people, eating a small amount of what they are craving might set the stage for a bigger binge.  So figure out what works for you and employ that method for long-term success.

Keep healthy snacks around. Having healthy snack options, such as The Simply Bar, a handful of almonds, veggies, fruits, and/or low-fat or non-fat cheese at your fingertips can prevent a craving from happening.

Be forgiving. Just knowing that you and (everyone else) slips up from time to time is comforting. No one is perfect; however, when you do give into a craving, be aware of the reason, and then move back on the path of healthy eating immediately.  Do not wait for tomorrow or Monday to start eating healthfully again.

Most of us could use a good dose of nurturing. By taking good care of yourself now and on a day-to-day basis, you may be less likely to feel stressed, angry, unhappy, etc., and therefore less likely to crave comfort foods.  If every time you turn around you want to indulge in junk food, it may be a red flag that you need some nurturing.

Here are some non-food ways to nurture yourself:

  • Treat yourself to a facial and/or a massage
  • Meet a friend for coffee
  • Read a good book or magazine
  • Listen to your favorite band on Pandora or your IPod/IPhone
  • Get a manicure/pedicure
  • Take a hike-literally!!

By taking control and dealing with your cravings, you will be well on your way to success.  Make sure to Celebrate your successes along the way.  You have worked hard and definitely deserve it!!

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