There are a number of strategies that you may find helpful in overcoming food cravings including:
- Eat every 3–31⁄2 hours with good quality foods e.g. fruits and vegetables, proteins, and good fats contained in nuts for example.
- Understand why and when you tend to crave foods (called ‘trigger times’) by writing a four-day food diary – three weekdays and one weekend day. Write down your thoughts throughout the day around eating. The most common appetite trigger times are between 3–6pm and 8–11pm. Most people give in to these craving and then will skip a meal to make up for it, which will set them up for another failure by lowering blood sugar to very low levels. It is important to maintain blood sugar levels by fuelling the body with the right type and amount of fuel i.e. healthy breakfast, lunch and dinner with morning tea and afternoon tea and an evening snack if you eat dinner early.
- Keep water with you at all times as many times the body confuses hunger with thirst. Take the edge off your craving by having a drink of water when you feel the desire to eat a less healthy option. Keep handy snacks on you that you can eat that will not only satisfy your hunger but also keep you on the right path toward healthy living.
- Alter your environment to remove tempting foods from your home, office, car etc. Do not keep these snacks in the house for your kids. You can choose to give them these snack foods once or twice a week outside of the home if you wish.
- Avoid mindless eating – eating when you are doing something else e.g. watching TV, on the computer. It only sets you up to eat more than you should and to associate the activity with food. The true pleasure of most foods is in the first few bites.
- Retrain your tastebuds. What you continually practise will eventually become a habit.
Your body only wants what you normally give it. Retrain your tastebuds by not indulging on foods that are designed to get you hooked but learn to choose better options.
Change your behaviour by being prepared for a craving when hunger sets in. You could try adopting the ‘Five Ds’ for when a craving sets in when you are not actually hungry i.e. emotional eating rather than hunger:
Delay Eating – avoid eating by 10–15mins (cravings come and go in waves).
Drink Water – this can curb cravings.
Deep Breathe – take ten slow deep breaths to switch off the stress nervous system.
Develop an Ability to Say ‘No’ – visualise yourself saying no to comfort foods.
Distract yourself – develop a list of non-food related activities (short activities that take no longer than 10–20 mins to complete) that you can do to take your mind off the craving e.g. warm bath, walk around the block, paint your nails, check your emails, read a book etc.
These practical strategies to overcoming food cravings tend to work best if practised regularly. Keep in mind that everyone at some point has food cravings and so. to a certain extent, they are a normal part of our everyday hectic lives. Cravings can, however, come under some level of personal redirection so that we do not have to succumb to them every time and therefore jeopardise our health.