emotional eating

How to Deal With Cravings

CRAVINGS-COVER

This may surprise you but my advice on how to deal with cravings is to EAT what you are craving.

That kind of sounds like the opposite of what you should do if you’re trying to lose weight. When it comes to weight loss, the simple equation is eat less and move more. It’s really that simple. It took me a long time to come around to realizing that but once I did it made the process easier. I no longer felt like I was fumbling around trying to figure out what the magical secret was to weight loss. I discovered it and it worked. I COULD lose weight. Eat less, move more.

This is not to say that cravings weren’t the bane of my weight loss journey. Boy were they ever! When you’re used to eating whatever you want, whenever you want, in large portions, the idea of denying cravings is ridiculous. Why would I? I’m craving a big piece of chocolate cheesecake. I’m going to drive to the grocery store at 8pm at night and buy it. In fact, since I’m there, why not buy a few more pieces for tomorrow so I won’t have to come back?

Moderation, moderation, moderation.

The trick with giving in to cravings is to do so in moderation. If there is something I’m craving, I eat it, but sometimes just having a bite or two of whatever it is I am obsessing about it enough. Half the time I give in to the craving and feel like I didn’t really need or want it.

As a former binge eater, resisting the cravings was really hard. I remember many many evenings where I knew I had some kind of dessert in my freezer and my brain would fixate on it. I’d try to distract myself, I would do other things; I did a lot of crafts and scrap-booking as a way of keeping my hands busy. But there would still be that little voice in the back of my head…You have ice cream sandwiches in the freezer…You have ice cream sandwiches in the freezer…you can just have one. One won’t ruin your day for calories…

I bet you understand that! I’d give in and have one and in the early days when I wasn’t quite in control of my food and binges yet, I’d have another, and then another. And then my day was blown. I ate too many calories. I’d feel despondent and hate myself, and regret eating even one.

Then something changed. I LOST WEIGHT. Seeing progress on the scale boosted my mood and my motivation in ways I never expected. Suddenly I didn’t want to sabotage myself! I wanted to be successful. I wanted to keep seeing a smaller number on that scale each week! Finding this motivation helped me resist the binge eating demons. It didn’t come to me immediately and it took work, but once I got there it got easier to resist the donuts at work or the chocolate cake at a potluck.

The point is, for me, if I deny myself something I’m craving I can only hold out for so long. Then it’s days and days of obsession building up in my mind and that leads to a binge.

Know the difference between a CRAVING and a HABIT.

This is something that went hand in hand with my binge eating. It might surprise you but a lot of the bingeing I did was because of a HABIT. I “always” ate ice cream when I watched movies on the couch. I “always” ordered a pizza to be delivered on Friday nights. When I started working at my job a few years ago I gained some weight because of the truly horrible Candy Room in my office. It was actually a room of candy. And I got into the habit of always having some candy after lunch. Or when I was bored. It became so ingrained that I wouldn’t even think about it, it wasn’t even something I wanted some days but habit made me walk into that room and rummage.

Stupid. What a stupid waste of calories. This brought me to another realization: if it doesn’t taste good, spit it out! Don’t just eat something to eat something. So many times I’d be standing in the candy room, trying to decide what to eat and nothing looked appealing; I’d end up eating something I didn’t even want because it was a HABIT.  Sometimes going cold turkey is just what is needed to get some clarity.

When you shouldn’t give in…

You shouldn’t give in to a craving if you are emotionally distressed. This is a big pitfall. Emotional stress, a bad day–emotional eating can lead to binges and then self-loathing. We’ve all gotten stuck in that cycle! This is not the time to experiment with eating your cravings in moderation. With that stress weighing on your mind, it will get harder to think rationally.

Another time you shouldn’t give in to a craving is in the first stages of your weight loss journey. It takes time for good habits to click and become something you can fall back on. The “everything in moderation” didn’t actually work for me for a good six-eight months in the beginning of my weight loss. I didn’t trust myself to stop after a few bites and so I didn’t give in to the cravings. It made me stronger! Give yourself some time to get used to the healthy eating lifestyle. Then slowly reintroduce some of those lavish things. See how you do.

sweet-cravings

Of course everyone is different and not every method always works for everyone. It works for me because I know I will crave some chocolate at the end of the evening. The most satisfying, delicious dinner is not complete in my mind without a dessert. So I leave myself some calories at the end of the day for that dessert! I’m currently eating Hershey’s Kisses as my dessert. At first I was worried about having something like that in the house. In the old days it was a big binge-trigger! A big bag of candy! EAT IT ALL. I’m finding that having to unwrap each individual kiss slows me down. I’m eating less of them and I take my time. And I enjoy my half dozen little chocolates.

What about you? How do you deal with cravings?

Funks and Ruts and New Beginnings

It’s been no secret I’ve been in a funk, probably since October but if I was entirely honest I’d say it started when Michael got laid off a year and a half ago. That was a tough 10 months but we got through it and his new job (since last September) is going great!

I recently said I got a temporary promotion at my job. I have to say it’s a lot of mixed emotions. 1) I’m stressed because I’m doing something new and I want to do a good job. 2) I felt an instant sense of relief stepping away from my previous job duties and responsibilities. 3) My new job has renewed my passion for what I do. I LIKE what I do again!

It’s a good feeling to not have dread. But since I’m still learning and feeling very fish-on-dry-land, I’ve come home feeling like a sloth. I still worked out but the second I got home I sat in front of the TV. For hours. And I definitely did some stress eating.

Weight Lifting & Running 3/4 mile
Weight Lifting & Running 3/4 mile

My dinners have been healthy and portion controlled. One night we had blackened salmon with steamed broccoli and raw peppers. The next night I made honey mustard chicken breasts and ate half the breast with satueed squash from the yard and more peppers. All healthy! Both meals between 500-600 calories total.

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The after dinner snacking was not great. Friends brought ice cream to our 4th of July BBQ and left 3 cartons in our freezer. Sigh. One is Butterfingers (my effing favorite AND a trigger food for me). Michael bought a 5 pound bag of Gummy Bears from Costco. At least I only like the red ones….

Needless to say, temptations abound in my house. Not only are there temptations to eat but the temptation to sit and veg in front of the TV has pretty much been given in to these past few weeks. My reasons are above, Michael’s reasons are cycling. He’s biking to work every day and doing over 100 miles a week. I think his last update for the year was at 1100 miles total so far for 2013. Wow! So I get why he’s tired. 🙂

Friday night came and instead of going home and sitting in front of the TV I suggested we have a date night the cheap way. I went to my yoga class and then came home, cleaned up, and we got dinner to go from New Seasons Market in Sellwood.

Yoga
Yoga

They have a sandwich bar, kind of like Subway, but upscale and fancier. You get a checklist of what you want on your sandwich and basically build your own. They make it for you and wrap it up nicely and then you can go. The sandwiches are really good, too. I was surprised at the good quality, and much better than Subway! They also have lots of options; so Michael got his sandwich on a gluten free bun and I got mine on a regular ciabatta roll. We both got smoked turkey and havarti cheese, but Michael got bacon on his and I got chipotle mayo with grilled onions and Mama Lil’s Peppers. SO GOOD!

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Don’t notice my pale white leg in the photo! We went to the Sellwood Waterfront Park that I’ve biked past a million times on my way to and from work. It’s right near the Springwater trail with a view of the Sellwood Bridge and downtown Portland. There’s also a free, off-leash dog park and there were tons of cute dogs playing in the park.

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We sat on a grassy knoll overlooking the water and ate our sandwiches for dinner, enjoying the sunset over the hills. I tried a new drink, too:

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I was never a fan of coconut water. I WANTED to like it, especially back in the days when I was running a lot. It seemed like a healthier option than gatorade but no matter how much I tried, I hated it. I’m glad I gave this stuff a second chance because I liked it a lot. It was Kevita Sparkling Probiotic Drink with mango and coconut and I think it was only 20 calories for the bottle. It was like a sparkling water slightly flavored with mango and coconut. I’d definitely drink it again.

After our sandwiches we had dessert. Michael had half of his gluten-free brownie and I had half of my real brownie. It was pretty good but I make better brownies. 😉

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We cleaned up our picnic and walked down to the beach and docks. The sun was setting and it was getting cooler. The mosquitos and gnats were coming out, too. We watched the sun set, lounged on a park bench for a bit and then headed home.

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It was a nice, cheap, lower-calorie option for a date night than going to a restaurant. I definitely want to do it again because it was just really nice to be outside in good weather! It was peaceful and relaxing by the water. And it definitely got us out of our rut!