Cravings are the dark shadows of weight loss. Without cravings, that scale would drop without any obstacle to slow it down. Sadly, cravings aren’t something that we can escape entirely. They are nagging, distracting, and refuse to be denied. Sometimes they are a result of a nutritional or hormonal imbalance (I tend to crave chocolate right before Aunt Flo arrives and I want potato chips when I’m dehydrated) but sometimes they are just the product of an overactive or bored mind. They are such a nuisance, but there are ways to deal with them. Here are six tricks I keep up my sleeve to slow them down.
1. Distract yourself
Our minds are tricky things. Sometimes a craving seems to come out of nowhere. Then I stop and think about it, and I realize it turned up when my mind and/or body wasn’t active. Usually, I’m sitting on my couch or driving. My mind has time to wander, and it wanders straight to food. When this kind of craving turns up, I do my best to give myself something else to focus on. Listening to music or a good audiobook are both excellent distracters. So is catching up on my housework or going for a walk. If you find yourself wandering towards the pantry when you are not as engaged, give your favorite distraction a try before you give in to the power of the craving.
2. Drink water
We all have been guilty of confusing thirst for hunger. There are even have days that thirst makes way more sense, but the rebellious part of my brain is nudging me towards the nearest fast food place. I try to drink a glass of water when cravings hit. I don’t always succeed, but when I do, I find that it often dissolves the need for the chocolate cake that just showed up uninvited.
3. Find the healthiest version of your craving
Halloween is just around the corner, and with it comes one of my favorite treats: caramel apples. It seems that the moment October hits, caramel apples are on my mind. Last week I had a brainstorm that took care of my craving in a healthier way. I did buy a huge apple, but instead of traditional caramel, I cut up the apple and drizzled it with sugar-free caramel sauce. I try to stay away from artificial sweeteners, but sometimes a little sugar-free caramel can divert a trip to the local candy store for that giant apple.
4. Make it yourself instead of buying a packaged item
Cinnamon rolls are one of my main cravings. I love cinnamon in all forms, so cinnamon playing a starring role in my cravings makes sense. A traditional cinnamon roll isn’t something I consider a good food choice, so a while back I chose to make something at home that would satisfy the craving but not add more padding to my butt. The most common substitute I make that tastes so much like the full-fat version is Oh, Sweet Basil’s recipe for [Lightened Up Cinnamon Roll Oatmeal]. This recipe is so good. The only changes I make are cutting the recipe in half and using unsweetened almond milk instead of low-fat milk. This oatmeal hits the spot. It is way less calorie dense than my favorite sweet roll.
5. Just eat it
There are times that it is just best to give in to that craving. In the past, I’ve eaten a ton of other not so healthy stuff to satisfy a craving for something completely unrelated. That issue is often linked to a convenience store cupcake. Instead of just eating one cupcake, I would eat two bananas, some crackers with peanut butter, some cheese sticks, and maybe a yogurt. I would be so full, yet my mind would still be clamoring for the cupcake. Not hard to see how I got over 300 pounds at my heaviest, right? So, then I would go get the cupcake and eat that too. Now, if the water and the distractions don’t work, I eat the cupcake. It helps me save my sanity and my waistline.
6. Eat healthy around the craving
I know this sounds like it contradicts the last tip, but I’m not referring to eating other things to try to satisfy an unrelated craving. When I do give in to a craving, I do my best to stay on track for the rest of the day. Giving in to several cravings a day is the root of a lot of weight gain, so if I eat the cupcake mid-morning, I have a healthier lunch and supper. That’s the beauty of lifestyle change over dieting; there is room for flexibility.
Cravings will always be a roadblock in our journey to lose weight, and once we lose it, to maintain that loss as well. We do have the power to decide if that roadblock is a 12-inch garden border or a 10-foot security fence depending on the path we take. The six tips above will help lead you to the road with the garden border.