It’s midafternoon and you’re sitting there at the office, minding your own business. Suddenly, it hits you: the desire for something sweet. A cupcake from your favorite bakery comes to mind, and now it’s all you can think about. The task you’re working on fades to the back of your mind as you debate which flavor you would buy if you went there after work. The more you think about it, the stronger the desire to indulge becomes. You are now dangerously close to breaking your medical weight loss diet as you watch the clock in anticipation of your evening treat.
This is a food craving, and chances are you’ve experienced one yourself. They aren’t always for cupcakes. You can get a food craving for salty foods like French fries or potato chips. Sometimes the craving is for a cup of coffee. Whatever the craving is for, it’ll often feel irresistible. The first step to learning how to overcome a craving is to know that they are not.
Cravings happen between the ears. They aren’t your body telling you it needs something. A craving is a mental desire for something specific. The desire might have been triggered by a memory, a stressful event or fatigue. Knowing where the desire came from isn’t going to help you much in overcoming it. When a craving settles in, it is time to go into damage control mode.
Many people mistakenly believe that the only way to get rid of a craving is to give into it. How many times have you coped with a strong craving for something all week before finally caving on the weekend? We often rationalize the action at this point by thinking “I just couldn’t shake the craving!” and telling ourselves that now it will be easier to concentrate on following a proper diet. But it usually doesn’t work that way. Another craving comes and undoes another day of hard work.
You don’t need to give in to your cravings. Here are a few tips to kill them where they start:
- Reassert your control: Your craving doesn’t dominate you. It doesn’t tell you what to do and it can’t force you to eat something. Sure, you want it. Be honest with yourself and admit that you want it. But that doesn’t mean you have to have it. Practice discipline in telling yourself no.
- Stop thinking about it: Thinking about your craving feeds it. The more you contemplate how wonderful it would be to indulge, determine ideal flavors in your mind and picture yourself enjoying it, the harder it will be to avoid.
- Exercise instead: This is a great way to clear your mind, as well as remove yourself from a situation where you might break down and indulge. If you want to go to that bakery, head to the gym until the bakery is safely closed and the treats are out of reach.
You can also try substituting your craving for a healthier alternative. If you are craving chocolate cake, think about your next chocolate optifast shake instead. Since you’ll get similar flavor out of the healthier option, this might help your craving subside.