The hardest part about changing your diet is fighting cravings. Depending on just how drastically you’re trying to change your diet these cravings could seem almost insurmountable, but I’m going to give you a few tips that should help keep your inner cookie monster in check.
Just like with any addiction we all have food triggers – things that set us off down the path of poor eating. For some it will be stress or tiredness, for others it could be location or social pressures. Whatever it is the first step to fighting it is being aware!
When most people cheat on a diet they want to forget about it as soon as possible, but rather than just pretending it didn’t happen acknowledge it, and see how your new-found awareness can help steer better eating habits. Spend a week to get to know your cravings by writing down not only what it is you are craving but the circumstances of the craving.
Try asking yourself these questions… Were you hungry or thirsty? Were you tired or stressed? Did you “have” to eat it because you didn’t have a solid plan for snacking or eating healthy throughout the day? Where is it that the craving hit and where did you go to satisfy it?
For some of us it will only take a day to see patterns emerge and indeed most of the time we satisfy our cravings in the same way or same place day after day. After you know what these places or things are, suddenly the task of eating right is more manageable – all you have to do is swap in something else and stay away from your triggers.
Avoid places or situations that act as triggers. If you know that passing by the break-room is going to end with you grabbing a donut or two, then take another path! If you tend to get the 4:00 slump and turn to sugar, then spend the 15-20 you would normally spend going to get a snack to find a quite place to shut your eyes and relax. If you tend to visit with friends only over food try something new that could probably benefit both of you greatly. Try taking a class together or grabbing a cup of tea and going for a walk around a local park. Or just spend an hour cooking something you can both feel good about together!
If you are going to be stuck in a tempting situation like a business lunch or party then prepare ahead if you can. Eat something before hand, make sure you drink lots of water to keep yourself feeling full, and if you have to order out food have an idea of what you are going to order before you go in so that you don’t have to look at the menu…and by extension you don’t have to be tempted by the cheesecake on the last page. You can also ask your server to put half of your meal in a to-go box so that you don’t go crazy on the large portion sizes that are so common here in the Bay.
Willpower is a Muscle…Get Some Exercise!
Don’t make it too easy on yourself to get those craving foods. If you tend to give into cravings in the home then the solution is simple…don’t keep junk food in the house!Especially if you cannot eliminate junk foods from your house because you live with others, there are steps you can take to eliminate unhealthy foods from your diet. Separate other people’s junk foods from your own by actually putting their food in another cupboard or section so that you have no reason to even go near it (or look at it). If you make it difficult enough to get those junk foods you may find yourself perfectly satisfied with your healthy choices that are readily available. If you do getting a craving you just can’t kick…eat something healthy before hand (preferably with protein, fiber and healthy fats), park in the furthest parking space and don’t take leftovers home. Even more importantly make it an event with a friend! If you are going to treat yourself, make it something special!
Get Some Help
Let the people you are close with be your allies in the journey. Tell them what you are trying to do and how they can support you in positive ways. Perhaps instead of inviting you out for things you shouldn’t be eating they too could change their habits to be more inclusive and supportive. Also tell them when you are doing well so that your closest friends can share the joy of your accomplishments and congratulate you accordingly. Who knows your example may inspire them to make some changes of their own!
Know that we are all at different levels when it comes to self-control and eating and that changing your diet is a long process. On the way to your goals you will make mistakes and that is OK! But use those mistakes to learn more about yourself. As far as this article is concerned take the information you can use right now and come back to this article as a reference as your willpower grows stronger.
You’ve Earned It!
Schedule in a reward for yourself with very clear ground rules. For example if you are good this week you’ll go out for an ice cream with a friend. But rather than walking in unprepared, have a mental game plan and exercise your willpower by sticking to it! For example before you go in plan what you’re going to order…”I will have one small scoop of my favorite ice cream” so that when you get in there you don’t become overwhelmed with the option of having more – because there are no options you have already decided what you want. Some of us will have to schedule in more cheats than just an ice cream a week from now, but overtime you will begin to appreciate food in a different way and those “special treats” you love really will be special.
It is also nice to do other preparation for your special treat like taking the time to make it memorable by sharing the experience with a friend. Or eating a very healthy breakfast before hand so you aren’t starving when you get there. Or scheduling in a workout for afterwards so you can put those carbs and sugar to good use.
I personally will not eat a treat by myself any longer. I found when I made my treats an experience to share with a friend, not only was it more meaningful, but I also ate less treats because it is very difficult to match schedules with other people. I realized that many times rather than actually wanting a treat I wanted to take some time for myself and give myself something special, that same thing doesn’t always have to be accomplished with food. I am not saying this will work for everyone, but spend some mental energy finding a solution that works for you and then stick to it. By making your new standard the law you make your eating choices easier to maintain.
Pay the “Six-Pack-Tax”
The six-pack-tax is the extra premium you pay to have good and healthy food over cheap government-subsidized corn and grain based fast foods. It is buying a treat at full price because it is special and you don’t eat it everyday (if you don’t eat it all the time you wont have to have a sale to justify eating it anyway!). It is the extra $0.50 you pay for veggies instead of bread and butter as your side dish. It is the extra gas or bus money you spend (or even better the extra energy of the bike ride you take) getting to where ever you go for your special treat instead of buying brownie bites in bulk and keeping them around the house.
The funny thing about the six-pack-tax is that, over time, it actually saves you a ridiculous amount of money – and not just in medical bills because you are healthier. As you begin to switch over to a real food diet and you stop purchasing all of those overpriced packaged foods, you’ll see that meat or legumes and fresh veggies make for delicious and much cheaper snacks. Your venti caramel sugar bomb with a muffin from your favorite coffee shop could set you back $10, but a well prepared soup and an iced tea might cost 1/2 that. Most importantly it is an investment in yourself and in your future health and happiness. In my opinion you are worth it!