10 Ways to Overcome Life’s Little (Food) Addictions

What foods do you crave?

My biggest weakness is Kettle Chips Salt ‘N Vinegar potato chips. And select desserts like gooey chocolate chip cookies, chocolate sheet cake, lemon icebox pie and all-time favorite, bread pudding with some sort of rich, creamy sauce on top.

Psychology Today tells us that Americas most often crave pizza, ice-cream and cake. Chocolate tops the list.

Whether they’re sweet, salty or high in fat, these cravings may not simply be objects of desire, as once thought. In its article entitled “Why We Crave”, the magazine suggests cravings may be acquired habits! And surely if we can establish a habit, we can just as easily squelch it.

Well maybe that’s wishful thinking. Or more easily said than done.

But perhaps we should at least try. Because when a craving goes haywire, it may not simply be unhealthy. According to Business Week, processed foods and sugary drinks resemble addictions to cocaine, nicotine and other drugs.

So how do we detach ourselves from unhealthy treats? Here are a few tips that have worked effectively for me.

  1. Graze through the day. And make sure you’re filling up with nutrient rich snacks so you stay energized. Not only might you avoid your evil craving, but you’ll feel healthier and stronger, too.
  2. Don’t skip meals, especially breakfast. This is the time of the day when your body is most deprived of nutrients; and without them, you’re far more likely to splurge on an unhealthy craving later in the morning. And don’t forget the protein. And all-carb breakfast gets digested very quickly.
  3. Substitute and pretend. If you are hungry and craving chips or chocolate, make yourself eat fruit and/or veggies instead, e.g., sliced apples or carrots. Even if the healthy substitute doesn’t immediately satisfy you in the same way a high fat snack would, it will fill you up and reduce your craving. It’s also a great way to get an  extra serving or two of veggies and fruit.
  4. Don’t snack on your craving when preparing dinner or lunch. A potato chip never tastes better than just before you have bitten into that sandwich you’re making for lunch. And you’ll be amazed at how many you can eat during a 5-minute sandwich preparation time period. Same goes for dinner, only the outcome might be worse because it generally takes longer to prepare, thus extending your window of opportunity.
  5. Let your food settle. If you’re craving a post-meal dose of sugar, then relax and let your dinner settle before you dive into dessert. You stomach hasn’t had time to tell your brain that you’re actually full. And often, if you can hold off for 30 minutes or an hour, you’re craving will dissipate.
  6. Go cold turkey. In some cases, you have to “do without” for 4-5 days before your craving starts to subside. The less you eat of it, the less you want of it. For me, this is particularly true of sweets. Until I get the sugar out of my system, the sweet desire keeps haunting!
  7. Ration your craving. If cold turkey is not required, then learn to lighten the load by rationing how much of your craving you will eat. Eat a few chips, have a bite of cake or ice-cream, or eat one less slice of pizza. Sometimes it’s about training yourself to eat less. And showing that you do have the power to control your urges!
  8. Make it a game. As an extension of your rationing, see how long your craved item will last – all for fun! Challenge a friend or spouse to compete against you. If your bag of chips or package of cookie lasts longer, you win. And maybe it’ll get stale before the last bite, and you won’t want to eat it anyway!
  9. Slow down. Sometimes cravings are a nervous habit. We’re so busy running this way and that, we don’t slow down long enough to think about what we’re eating. We grab a piece of chocolate cake as we move from Conference Room A to B because it fills a void, not because it truly satisfies. Slow down. Stop and think. And don’t grab the first thing you see to eat.
  10. Forgive yourself. We all goof. It’s impossible to break a bad habit overnight! So cut yourself a break if you cave – life is about moderation, after all!

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Melinda Hinson