Reducing, Indulging, and Everything In Between
1. Avoid Bringing Addictive Foods Home
We all have certain foods that trigger addictive behavior. For me, it’s ice cream. If it’s in the house, it consumes my thoughts, and I can’t seem to forget about it until I’ve eaten it all. The best strategy: Don’t bring it home! If I want it bad enough, I’ll get one at the ice cream shop.
Another option is to buy a less addictive version. If I buy frozen yogurt or sorbet instead, than I will only enjoy it occasionally, and it lasts for weeks. For you, it might mean buying plain dark chocolate instead of your favorite chocolate bar, or whole grain crackers or plain popcorn instead of chips.
2. Set Up Obstacles
If we do have treats in the house for whatever reason, than I will often stick them in a cupboard up above the refrigerator, and if I really want something, I have to get out a step stool in order to reach it. The goal is to keep it out of sight and out of reach. It may be stuffing the ice cream in the bottom of the deep freeze downstairs rather than having it readily available in the fridge freezer, or keeping treats in the freezer that need to thaw before you can enjoy them.
3. Identify Your Triggers
Some foods, people, or situations trigger specific cravings. When you are experiencing cravings, spend some time thinking about why. When you buy a coffee, do you feel like you need a donut? When you watch a football game, do you feel like you need a pizza? When you go to the movies, do you feel like you need popcorn? Just recognizing your triggers can help you to plan accordingly. You might choose to buy a tea instead, make a healthy snack for the game, or eat before you go to the movies.
4. Keep Healthy Snacks Around
If you’re at all peckish, your cravings are going to kick in. Keep fruit on the counter. Keep whole grain muffins in the freezer. Keep veggies, left overs, and ready-made snacks at eye-level in the fridge, where you are more likely to grab them. Packing an afternoon snack for work will help you pass the drive-thru on the way home and give you the little boost you need to go home and prepare something more wholesome for dinner.
5. Re-engineer Your “Junk” Food
Homemade cookies made with butter and sugar are difficult to resist, but if you adopt a healthier recipe (perhaps one made with whole grains, minimal sugar, and dried fruit and nuts), they become far less addictive and far more nutritious. At our house, we make banana ‘nice’ cream probably a couple times a week. Try roasting your own seasoned chickpeas. They may curb your cravings for a salty snack, and they’re packed with nutrition. If chocolate is your weakness, try making avocado or silken tofu chocolate puddings.
6. Try On New Habits
If you’ve gotten into the habit of eating junk food at night, try substituting a healthier habit: maybe a new hobby, an exercise routine, or meal prepping for the next day. Have you tried drinking apple cider vinegar yet? It’s rumored to have numerous health benefits, including helping people overcome their cravings.
7. Nourish and Rest Your Body
I think this is the most powerful and understated strategy. The more I increase my intake of healthy whole foods (like greens and beans and grains), the less appealing processed junk foods are.
Do you crave junk food when you’re tired? Cause I sure do. In fact, if I’m still sitting on the couch watching Netflix at 11pm, guaranteed I will start thinking about what might in the fridge to snack on… and what I really need to do is go to bed.
8. Start Paying Attention
When I started paying attention to how food impacts my health and energy, I noticed that a bowl of ice cream just made me want another. I noticed that I felt lethargic afterwards, no matter what time of day. I noticed that it just started a cascade of cravings that would last for days and usually end with several empty tubs of ice cream and a greasy pizza. This new awareness gave me more control over the craving.
9. Indulge Mindfully
Plan to indulge in your favorite foods on occasion. Slow down. When you’re eating to satisfy a craving, the objective is pleasure, so enjoy it. As soon as it becomes less than awesome, stop eating it.
10. Don’t Beat Yourself Up
There is no sense in feeling guilty about over eating or indulging in something delicious. Keep in mind that processed foods are carefully engineered to be addictive. You are being bombarded by advertisements continually. We live in a culture that makes it really difficult to make healthy choices consistently. So relax. Study your own behavior, and set yourself up to be more successful next time.
What are your strategies for reducing or indulging in your cravings?