You’re reading this because you know what it feels like to really, really want to eat something that you know you shouldn’t. And you’re not alone; a recent study in the Journal Appetite found that 97% of women and 68% of men reported having cravings. It isn’t a matter of “what should I eat?”; it’s more of “how do I stop myself from eating that?” Try these tricks out next time you salivate at the smell of french fries or find yourself face-to-face with an opened package of your favorite cookies.

DELAY

Force a 5 to 10 minute wait window. Waiting before eating allows you to be mindful about your snack and gives you the opportunity to make a more deliberate, less impulsive choice.

DETERMINE

Are you truly hungry? Actually thinking about whether you are hungry or not forces you to consider what exactly you are putting in your body. It also helps to figure out the real reasons for your craving. Are you craving crunch? Salt? Sweet? Cold? Creamy? The more you understand the basis of your craving, the better you can manage it.

DISPLACE

Sometimes a simple swap nips that craving in the bud, allowing you to give in and move on without destroying your diet along the way. For example, instead of that ginormous  cinnamon bun you’re dying for, try sinking your teeth into Shredz Cinnamon Bun Protein Bar for women – you’ll save 710 calories, 30 grams of fat, and 53 grams of sugar, while packing in 2 more grams of protein.* Smart swaps like this satisfy your sweet tooth AND allow you to stick to your plan. A true win-win!

DISTRACT

If you're not hungry, distracting yourself with something could help you to avoid the temptation of eating. I know it seems too easy, but distractions DO work.

 

Try one or more of these to conquer your next craving:

• Chew gum; drink water or seltzer

• Smell a nonfood item, like lavender oil, a scented candle, or a fresh pine cone (betcha didn’t know… the scent of jasmine has been shown to reduce chocolate cravings!)

• Go out for a walk, bike ride, or to the gym

• Wherever you are, do sit-ups, pushups, squats, lunges, toe raises (you get the picture)

• Housework / cleaning (just the other day, I resisted my urge for an early evening glass of wine by detailing my car! No regrets here!)

• Check email / social media

• Run an errand

• Read, do paperwork, do a puzzle, draw, or color

• Watch TV or movie

• Call or visit a friend

• Listen to or make your own music

• Meditate or visualize something pleasant

DISTANCE

Mentally (and eventually physically) distancing yourself from the food you’re craving can give your mind time to re-evaluate your decision. One way to do this is to think about the consequences of your options. In my case of choosing to detail my car over the wine I really didn’t need, I was able to imagine how nice it would be to drive in a cleaner car, and how much better I would feel with the right decision. And I was on point.

DECIDE

Decide to indulge or resist. If you regret the indulgence, use that as future ammo to decide better. Some people find it useful to keep a “cravings log” to keep track of cravings and details like time of day, mood, hunger scale, energy level, foods craved, what was eaten that day, etc. Doing this helps to identify patterns and triggers to crave, which will help to avoid cravings in the future.

Bonus! Here are a few things to strive towards in your healthy life. These strategies encourage optimal health in general, and they will help keep those cravings from striking in the first place.

Get enough sleep. When you’re well-rested, your hunger and appetite hormones are under better control and you will crave less often, and less intensely.

Tame the sugar habit. The less sugar you eat, the less you crave sweets over time. Satisfy your sweet tooth with fresh fruit or a stevia-sweetened beverage.

Exercise daily. Regular exercise promotes feelings of well-being, overall fitness, and brain chemistry balance, all of which fight cravings.

Manage your stress. Stress drives so many unhealthy behaviors. Successful stress management allows us to more effectively handle life’s challenges.

Evaluate your diet. Are you getting enough calories? Being hungry sparks cravings. Are you mixing it up enough? Monotony fosters cravings: studies show that people who are getting their nutritional needs met with just shakes experience far more cravings than those eating a varied diet.

 

*Mall cinnamon bun (Classic Roll) contains 880 calories, 37 grams of fat, 13 grams of protein, and 58 grams of sugar. SHREDZ Cinnamon Bun Protein Bar for Women contains 170 calories, 7 grams of fat, 15 grams of protein, and 5 grams of sugar.

by Dina Aronson, MS, RDN

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