Food cravings have been known to break down even the most iron wills and spoil the healthiest eating plans. However, according to Dr. Joyce Nash, you don't have to let urges to eat run your life and widen your waistline. She says, "The good news is that there are specific steps you can take to change the way you react when your brain tells you to eat something, now."
"It's easy to get stuck in a mental rut, just ruminating on the thing you want to eat," states Dr. Nash, a California clinical psychologist specializing in the treatment of eating disorders. "Try to consciously catch yourself doing this and purposefully turn your attention to something else – think about a project you're working on or recall a recent vacation. Don't let yourself focus more and more on eating."
Out of sight, out of mind is a good way to deal with the foods you can't seem to resist. "If you're serious about eating well, then get out of the area of temptation!" urges Dr. Nash. "Cross the street if you see a bakery looming in the distance. Stay away from the food table at a party. Hang out anywhere but in the kitchen at the next family gathering!"
The next time a craving hits you, make your senses focus on something totally different. "If possible, brush your teeth and gargle with strong mouthwash or put a strong mint in your mouth when you feel a craving coming on," advises Dr. Nash. "Alternatively, try dabbing some cologne or strong-smelling ointment under your nose. These are short-term ways to stop a craving in its tracks." The mental health expert also suggests engaging in activities not related to food to curb the urge to eat. It's summertime, after all, so get outside and have some fun in the sun.
Managing your personal environment in terms of food is a crucial step not only in curbing cravings, but in eating well in general. "Get in the habit of putting leftovers away promptly and storing tempting food out of sight," Dr. Nash recommends. "Also, when you shop, use a list and don't go to the grocery store when you're hungry."
"How do you think about yourself in terms of managing what you eat? Is it positive or negative?" asks Dr. Nash. "The fact is, thinking things like 'I'll never resist eating a piece of that cake,' or 'I already ate a handful of chips -- might as well go all out since I blew my diet anyway' make you much more likely to obey your body's request for a particular food at a particular time." She suggests, instead, to talk powerfully and proactively against your cravings.
When you're extremely hungry, unhealthy foods are not only more attractive to you than usual, but your will power to resist cravings will be at an all-time low. "You've probably heard this advice before, and it's still as true as ever," confirms Dr Nash. "Don't skip meals, and eat at least three of them a day with planned snacks. Never go more than three to four hours without eating. And drink plenty of water!"
Just like waves in the ocean, cravings peak and then subside. Using the tips above, learn to ride your cravings out and, sooner or later, your cravings will miraculously be gone. "If you find your hand twitching toward the door of the pantry, tell yourself to wait 10 minutes, then decide whether or not to eat," suggests Dr Nash. "In the meantime, get busy doing something else. Tell yourself something like 'It won't kill me to wait. I can handle it.' Because guess what? You can!"
"Maintaining a healthy diet doesn't mean that you can never have deep-fried chicken or decadent German chocolate cake ever again," Dr. Nash assures. "Just don't allow these things to become the norm on your menu. When you do indulge, watch your portions and do so without guilt!"
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