So, you’ve got cravings. Ready for the truth? Cravings are psychological, not physical, so the only way to break a craving is to change your mindset. If you’ve tried calling a friend, going for a run, drinking endless glasses of water, replacing what you really want with a “lighter” version that didn’t cut it, then it might be time for science to step in.
Hunger is real. Cravings, on the other hand, focus on wanting specific foods, which stem from our relationship to that food. Because we are in a constant push-pull with real hunger versus habitual cravings, we have to get clear about what, why, and when we crave certain foods.
If you’ve tried everything and still can’t kick that daily urge for chocolate or an ice cold beer (or three), try one of these seven, little tried-and-true tips to get rid of cravings for good.
Our brains put a lot of effort into our desires and when focused on food, it’s hard to think of anything else. Rather than distracting yourself with other activities, simply ride it out. Visualize yourself indulging. Taste it. Smell it. Act as if you’re already eaten it. Still not satisfied? Wait 20 minutes, and then move on with your night.
Quick Fix: When a craving hits, move on to another visual task, which has been proven to shift your mind off food.
Because it has been proven that sugar is addictive, chances are your food cravings might be in the sweet category. If so, by reducing your exposure to sugar in your daily diet, you will reduce your food cravings overall. Sometimes this all or nothing approach really does work. Remove the culprit and the cravings actually do go away.
Quick Fix: Say “I don’t eat that” instead of “I can’t eat that.” By telling yourself and others that you don’t do something, it’s not even an option and is no longer up for negotiation.
You’ve probably tried the whole “drink a glass of water” trick if you have cravings. But if a nightly cocktail is what you want, then this rule’s for you. For every alcoholic beverage you drink, you must down one glass of water beforehand. Unless you have a bladder the size of a whoopee cushion, then this should limit your overall consumption.
Quick Fix: Make a fist or tighten your muscles. Because we often tense our muscles when we are using willpower, making a fist when tempted with cravings can actually help you resist them.
Everywhere you turn, someone tells you to eat every few hours in order to keep your metabolism stoked. If you’ve been eating five times per day for as long as you can remember, it might be time to give your digestive system a break. Studies show that eating three balanced meas is just as beneficial as eating smaller meals throughout the day. Once you eliminate the need to “snack,” you can focus on getting adequate nutrients that don’t leave any room for extra food (i.e., no desserts, or midday protein bar or processed snack) that won’t fill you up anyway. Try a few days of eating three balanced meals and watch the cravings take a hike.
Quick Fix: Add spices or hot sauce to your entrees, which have been shown to slash cravings. Spices lower the hunger-inducing hormone, ghrelin, and increase the hunger-suppressing hormone, GLP-1.
If you just know that after dinner you’re going to want chocolate and there’s nothing anyone can do about it, then have the chocolate (make it dark), but eat it after lunch so you have time to burn it instead of store it. If you have the chocolate and still want more of it after dinner, then you know it’s more of a habit than an actual sweet craving. This takes us to the next trick.
Quick Fix: Craving something sweet? Take a long whiff of vanilla, which has been shown to slash cravings for the sweet stuff.
While eating was initially intended for survival, the process of dining has become a pleasurable and social experience. We don’t often think about fueling our bodies for daily activities; instead, we focus solely on what we want and then we have the means to make it appear. So, dig a little deeper. What is it that you love about chocolate? A nightly whisky? French fries and a burger? If you perpetually want to eat something because you’re sitting on the couch every night and are bored, then this is what you need to do: get up, stretch, foam roll, make a fist, meditate, do something with your hands, jump your partner, etc.
Changing cravings is about shifting the behavior that goes with them, and that just involves making new habits instead of sitting firmly in your old routines. And if that still won’t work? Then…
Quick Fix: Grab some gum. Just the act of chewing often slashes cravings and will give you super fresh breath in the process.
If you tell yourself you can have it one day, that will suffice. Just like we promise ourselves that we’re going to become morning exercisers, or finally get your office organized, your brain registers that you will do it and can then use its energy to focus somewhere else.
Quick Fix: Make a pair. Pair the food you want with a healthier option, so you get what you really want with a dose of what you should want.
BY REA FREY