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?

12 Responses

    1. HA! I do the same thing. I suck on the Hershey Kisses until they melt. It satisfies my chocolate craving without me going nuts. And it takes so long to eat them I’m usually satisfied with just a few. So glad I’m not the only one that does this. LOL

  1. Thank you for saying is it a craving or a habit! I was talking on Facebook about mindless eating. I noticed yesterday how many times my hands reached for things I didn’t necessary want, it was just out of habit. I kept telling myself – “no!” Sure enough, that worked, I was satisfied at the end of the day, and I probably saved myself 300+ calories to boot.

    I am the queen of picking at plates when I clear the dinner table – that definitely is a habit I want to break!
    Biz recently posted..I Really Missed My Coffee

    1. Isn’t it amazing how much we mindlessly eat? I do it all the time. I’m trying to be more mindful of it and asking if it’s something I really want and not just mindless munching or habit!

  2. I also had to learn to eat just a little bit of something to satisfy a craving. And I agree, the best thing to do when you crave something is to eat a little bit of it. I like something sweet most days and usually have an 80 calorie Justin’s Dark Chocolate Peanut Buttercup.

    I also like that you point out that we should examine when we eat out of habit. It’s easy to get used to something and just automatically eat it without asking yourself if you really want it. That’s why I like to do a (real food) cleanse once in a while. It really gets me back to the basics, and I learn (again and again) that many of my “extras” are not really necessary. Also, one interesting thing that happens during a cleanse for me is that I don’t have any cravings (which really surprised me the first time I did a cleanse since there are quite a few things you can’t eat). I’ve read that if you eat more greens, you tend to have fewer cravings. Not sure if there is something to it, but it seems to work for me.
    Andrea@WellnessNotes recently posted..Walking at Disneyland and California Adventure

    1. That’s interesting about your cleanse. I went through something similar. I’ve gone sugar-free a few times (didn’t usually last more than 2-3 weeks at a time) and once I stopped eating sugar, I didn’t crave it. Same with bread. But the second I’d eat it, I’d be obsessed again.

  3. Processed foods! Giving up processed foods, added sugar, and grains. Cravings went largely away. That left the emotional eating. Because my mind was in a better spot and I could think and make changes better after the brain fog left, I could finally- over about a year and a half address the emotional/binge eating.

    Originally, I went no sugars no grains to maintain weight loss. I found that, plus the food cravings stopped, plus a clear mind. Unexpectedly life changing.

    Keep up the good work, Lisa. Glad you are posting about these topics.
    Karen P recently posted..Crock-pot Chicken Curry Stew – Karen’s favorite

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