You know the feeling, you’re humming along on your new diet and exercise program and the BLAM!… you’re hit with the strongest cravings for every food item that isn’t listed on your meal plan.
What do you do?
For most of us, when we are at our most vulnerable (like when we are hungry and buzzing from less than stellar nutrients and calories) – we give in to the cravings and eat anything …and pretty much everything in our vicinity.
Why does this happen? Why do we sabotage ourselves when working on being healthier and and losing weight?
Here are some simple take aways you can implement right now to diminish these cravings when they come. Because, first of all, we can never stop them entirely. Why? For one thing, our bodies are used to a certain amount of food and energy we feed it and when it realizes that the “norms” have changed, it reacts by telling us to EAT MORE FAT! This is actually a good thing if we were really starving but in reality…we are not, but our body doesn’t know this. It also reacts erratically when it comes to hormone fluctuations that occur with stress in our lives, foods that we eat and a plethora of real life happenings that occur.
Simply put; we will have cravings at one point or another. We just need to understand how to minimize the power and impact over us and work on balance so we don’t feel deprived. Here are some ways you can lessen and overcome these cravings as they come:
- Make sure you are eating enough calories to sustain your body’s basic needs. This means calculating (or doing some of your own research on foods eaten and satiety) your body’s calorie needs on a daily basis and then adding in additional calories for your workouts and activity levels. You’ll then subtract no more than 300-500 calories per day to be in a “calorie deficit” and be able to lose weight. The problem with this formula is that many of us underestimate our body’s needs and think that cutting back on calories more drastically, will help us to lose weight faster. This is a bad idea. Another common practice is to eat mostly “diet” food items that give us close to nothing in terms of nutrition and our body is now in hyper-active “starvation” alarm mode. How to change this? Once you know your calorie needs to lose weight (again, don’t cut more than 500 calories a day to minimize your body’s starvation cues), choose whole foods and eliminate all diet and processed foods. This will help to “feed” your body the nutrition it requires, even when you are cutting back on calories so that your body doesn’t work against you to eat more. Choose a large assortment of vegetables (the more colorful, the more nutrients), lean protein choices, whole grain carbohydrates (these are NOT bad for you) and don’t forget to get in enough healthy fats like nuts, nut butters, avocados, and olive oil. In order to create a “happy balance” in your mind and your body, plan to eat a food that’s completely off limits at least once or twice per week. This can be a decadent dessert you would crave or a serving of your favorite fat-laden foods. The key is to eat these fun treats with dignity and a fork or spoon in front of other people, rather than shoving un-portioned amounts into your mouth with your hands. Trust me, this will be one of the most important steps you can take in helping to curb those nasty cravings.
- Now that you’re on track with your food choices and getting in enough calories to sustain your body’s daily needs, let’s talk about what to do when you get a craving and aren’t planning your treat yet. Imagine this; you come home from a busy and stressful day at work and you eat dinner with your family and sit down to relax on the couch while watching the latest episode of “The Walking Dead”…when all of a sudden…BLAM! You need something STAT! On a commercial break, you head into the kitchen and open the refrigerator door to stare into the abyss…what do I want? What do I want? ..you ask yourself. You close the door and open the pantry door, only to repeat the process again. You may go back to the refrigerator and stare again…hoping to find what you’re looking for. But guess what? If you ever find yourself doing this, standing in front of the open refrigerator or pantry wanting something …but not quite sure what that something is…close the door and go someplace quiet. Sit down and feel that emotion. Because, that feeling of “wanting something” and not knowing what you want in food…means you are hungry for something emotional. It could mean you need to cry. You might need a hug and a close friend or loved one to listen to something that’s bothering you. You might need to grab a pillow and beat the crap out of it. Whatever it is, it is not about food. This is huge. We use foods for so many things and we wear foods when we overdo it on the emotional things. Start a journal and write down what happened that day and what you felt and start to process your emotional ties to food. Food used in this way is no different than overdoing it on a drug or alcohol. It gives us a rush of a good feeling and takes away that emotional need – but only for a brief moment. Then it passes and we need more…or we stop and find out how to deal with that emotion. I know, this one is deep but it’s important to get ahold of.
- Hormones and habits. I really don’t have much more to say except they can wreak havoc on our healthy plans. We may be humming along just fine and then BLAM!…we want to eat everything covered in chocolate. Or we may prefer crunchy foods when stressed out and hormones get out of control. Another issue is the habits we’ve created in eating certain foods when we feel these hormone surges. This takes some time to break. Again, it isn’t easy to do but trust me, it’s EVERYTHING as you move forward in your weight loss and fitness goals. Journaling will help you find patterns that bring about specific cravings and you can then learn how to better deal with them before they show up. One important thing to realize too, is when you give in to your craving and binge…you need to accept what happened and move on. Don’t beat yourself up or throw in the towel. Find out what happened and why you had your break down…and deal with it better the next time around. Because there will be a next time if you don’t…and there might be a next time even if you do.
There you have it on simple solutions for your emotional eating. I struggled with this for many years and the only other thing I didn’t mention above is getting therapy when dealing with deeper emotional needs. I hope this helps you today and shoot me a message if you would like to share your story or questions with me! 🙂