Did you think you had a handle on your food intake before the holiday, but now you’re feeling that old familiar affliction – food cravings? You’re not alone. Between now and the end of the year, the average American will gain approximately 3 – 5 pounds. Now doesn’t that just send a cold shiver up your workout clothes…?
So what can you do to overcome cravings and perceived “addictions”? First and foremost, experiment with eating heftier breakfasts and lunches to abate hunger. (No, you will not “get fat” by eating more during the day. If you listen to your body, you will observe you are less hungry at night and will simply be able to consume fewer calories.)
And although it’s easier said than done, work on that attitude. Your mind is very influential. If you believe you are addicted to a food, you’ll have a hard time convincing yourself otherwise despite research that refutes the concept of food addiction and puts the focus on deprivation as a trigger to (over)eat.
If all else fails, the next time you have a craving for a specific food, relax, enjoy eating it slowly, taste it, savor the flavor, and linger over the treat. Do this several times throughout the week. Learn to enjoy the treat slowly, in moderation, without feeling guilty. Enjoy the foods you crave at every meal. For example, have a few Hershey’s Kisses day after day, at breakfast, lunch, afternoon snack, and dinner. Eat them so often that you get sick of them. This may sound unhealthy in the short term but a week or two of excess chocolate will not ruin your health (nor your waistline) forever.
Dr. Mehmet Oz, better known as the host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” explains that, we crave food for the same reason we crave sex. ”There’s a biologically mandated desire to nourish and procreate that’s hardwired at numerous levels to ensure there’s redundancy in the system, so it can’t fail because those are the two things you need to survive as a species.”
He offers some ways to get control of your cravings so they don’t end up controlling you.
- Know your enemy. “There are two types of craving foods,” says Dr. Oz. “Those we can occasionally eat a bit of, feel satisfied and are done. And those that have you licking the crumbs from the bag then tearing apart your kitchen hunting for more. Everyone’s craving foods are different, so figure out what sends you on a food bender, then steer clear. Knowing the foods that you’re powerless around isn’t weak, it’s smart.”
- Banish those pieces of kryptonite! “You’re less likely to gorge on chips or cookies or candy if they’re not readily available in your pantry or fridge, so you do yourself a huge favor by not even bringing them home from the market,” says Oz.
- Put something healthy in its place. If you’re something craving sweet, try a date or a few strawberries. Something creamy? How about a low-fat Greek yogurt? When you need salt fix, reach for a dill pickle.
- Cleanse your palate. “There’s a reason fancy restaurants serve sorbet between courses,” says Oz. “It cleans your taste buds so you can enjoy the next dish without being distracted by the flavors from the dish that came before. Use this same tactic to quell a craving. Brush your teeth, gargle with mouthwash, or chew some gum. Why? Because not much tastes good after you have that tooth-pasty taste in your mouth.
- Cry for help. You don’t have to do this alone. Withdrawing from any addiction can get easier if you appoint a buddy to help. “Venting to a friend is a much more waist-friendly way of relieving stress,” says Dr. Oz.
By learning your body’s responses to different foods, you can at least become educated: food is not necessarily addictive and cravings are not all bad. What’s bad is trying to live hungry as well as denied and deprived of foods you enjoy. Then, like a phoenix rising to meet the sun, you just might find peace with food at last.