If one more person tells me to go take a hot bath instead of drink wine, I am going to strangle them.
Well, not really, but I do think that the current tools out there to handle cravings are getting pretty lip-service-y. Want some chips? Just stretch on the floor during commercials! Ice cream? Read a book!
Okay, okay, these distraction tactics actually do work in the people who can harness the willpower to do them but for me, I’ve found cravings are a bigger issue than simply choosing some arbitrary activity over giving into the crazy urge for sweets and sweets IN REAL TIME. Because let’s face it, once you are in the moment, it’s really, REALLY hard to stop yourself from giving in. Willpower is at zero, especially at the end of the day and when we are often at the mercy of our every craving whim. It’s hard to attack it when we are at our weakest.
So let’s first remember that cravings start way before we actually feel them. So we may feel them at 8pm, but what we ate earlier in the day matters (protein? preemptive cheats? fiber? water? where’s your level of satisfaction?) AND how we acted earlier in the day/week matters too (are we stressed? do we need “a reward?” are we drained from decision-making? how charged are our willpower batteries?). These things preempt the cravings. And need to be given attention.
Furthermore, cravings require foresight in order to be handled. Don’t plan for best case scenario. In other words, don’t plan that you will just have iron-clad willpower tonight and go to bed at 8pm. I WANT YOU TO PLAN TO HAVE CRAVINGS. When you plan instead for worst-case scenario, you are able to be more mindful when you have them, because, “LOOK! Here it is! I knew it would happen! Here’s what I’m going to do about it!”
Having strategies in place AHEAD OF TIME can go a long way. And all that takes is a little mindfulness, some originality and knowing yourself.
I asked JillFit Ambassador and long-time Metabolic Effect Fat Loss Coach, Erika Nall, to provide the JillFit readers with her #1 strategy for helping her clients with cravings. Erika has worked one-on-one with dozens of women over the last few years to help them come up with unique approaches to THEIR specific cravings, and the results speak for themselves.
Erika’s awesome strategy includes using both taste and bulk to navigate your craving. This requires we have A PLAN in place to attack the cravings head on. Thinking begins now :)
Take it away Erika!
Roasted chicken lingered in the air. The dishwasher swished and swooshed. I turned off the kitchen lights, but something turned on in my brain.
“I want ice cream,” she said seductively.
I flicked the temptation away, like a pesky mosquito. “You don’t need ice cream tonight.”
She somersaulted back into the recesses of my brain only to be quieted for a few seconds. She stomped back with “the look.” Like a teenage drama queen, she protested, “I want ice cream. If I don’t have it right now, I’m just going to die.”
Perspiration beaded on my forehead. I closed my eyes, sucking in all the air I could into my tighten chest. More firmly I said, “You’re not going to die. Go sit on the couch.”
“No! I want ice cream!”
Immediately my body filled with a nervous energy. I paced behind the couch, clenching my fists to get rid of it. I chanted, “you got this. You’re going to be ok.”
Then with all her strength, she threw herself into me screaming, “I want it now!”
When I came to my senses, I was taking out the chocolate chip ice cream. “Wait a minute. Oh no you don’t! You be quiet now. You’re fine.”
I shut the freezer, looped around the island, and went back into the living room. This time she came back with guns a-blazing. Sweat trickled down my back. I rubbed my arms vigorously to settle down my crawling skin. She now drowned out all thought. I could only think, see, and taste ice cream.
“Erika, what is wrong with you? You’re driving me crazy,”
“I don’t know, honey. I think I’m going crazy.”
“Ice cream cravings are not to be taken lightly.” ~Betsey Cañas Garmon
Or, any kind of craving for that matter.
Conquering food cravings is hard. When we change the way we eat, the brain fights back because its happy state is to keep everything the same. When homeostasis is threatened, it naturally increases cravings. It uses powerful tactics like increasing frequency and making it more mentally, even physically intense. So, it’s not surprising most of us give in. If we can’t get control over them, we may give up trying to eat healthier altogether.
Crave-busting strategies like visualization, deep breathing, and mindfulness are effective, but most of my clients say these are too hard. They come away from the battle exhausted. Often times, another part of their plan suffers like, too tired to workout.
Good news! There is an easier way. I’m going to share a secret tactic that allows to give in and and still lose fat. In the end, we will gain control over them.
“Ice cream is happiness condensed.” ~Jessie Lane Adams
“Erika, tell me what’s wrong or go crazy somewhere else.”
“Well, I’m not suppose to eat any more food today, and I want ice cream.”
“Can you have a protein shake?”
With puppy dog eyes, the craving begged, “Please?”
I struggled a few moments. I wanted to be perfect, but I didn’t to be hauled away in a straight jacket. I consented with trepidation.
“Awesome,” she squealed, dancing back into the kitchen.
I made the blueberry shake extra thick and scooped it into a bowl, hoping this little trick would convince her that is was real ice cream. When I took my first bite, she exclaimed, “This ice cream is amazing,” and all was right in the world again.
“There’s nothing wrong with me a little ice cream won’t fix.” ~Author Unknown
Or, a good substitution for the ice cream.
While most techniques use the front door to tackle cravings, like a door-to-door salesman, think of the technique I’m about to tell you like a side door, like the one your best friend uses when she comes over for a cup of coffee. There is no change in the habit, keeping our brain happy. There is no change in the taste and/or texture we love and we still lose fat, keeping us happy.
Here’s one super simple solution to use, and when implemented strategically and mindfully can be the biggest difference-maker for you:
The Substitution Technique:
1. Identify ONE food or drink craving habit you want to change.
Is it the donuts in the break room every Friday morning? The chocolate bar from the vending machine every afternoon? The 64-ounce Diet Coke on the way home from work? Do you keep finding your hand in the Costco-size animal cookie jar? Or a bowl of ice cream after dinner every night?
2. Find a food that tastes the same, but has fewer calories and more bulk.
The bulk comes from adding fiber and protein. Because these are digested more slowly, we are fuller for longer and our blood sugar remains stable. This is why big, thick, yummy chocolatey protein shakes work well. And for goodness sake, make them taste good! ;)
Why this works:
Over time, “your [food] brain can “disassociate” this trigger food from the feeling of need and make it a less urgent sensation,” Susan B. Roberts, PhD, a senior scientist at Tufts University explains.1 This means when we crave, our brain won’t immediately respond with a powerful craving. We will not be on the defensive.
Instead, a space has been created, and now we can recruit higher level thinking. We will have the ability to evaluate why we are craving. Then, we will be able to choose what’s the best action to take.
- Hungry? Eat a fat-loss meal, stuffed with protein and veggies.
- Tired from trying to solve a difficult problem? Take a break with leisure walk.
- Feeling lonely and disconnected? Call your spouse or best friend for social connection.
- Craving ice cream? Strengthen your willpower using a more advance tactic like mindfulness and “surfing the urge” — requires time and practice.
Me and ice cream. Best friends forever. -Jessie Lane Adams
I still chose to eat ice cream 1-2 times a week. When I do, I don’t beat myself up over it. It has become a guiltless, shameless indulgence.
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