We all have those moments where we just simply breakdown. We cut ourselves a break, we give into cravings, we cheat on our diet. For those days when you do overeat or overindulge, take a deep breath–it’s okay, you haven’t ruined everything and you are not a failure. But repeated situations like this can cause serious damage to your overall fitness journey if not addressed properly. So we’re here to help you work to understand why you broke your diet, so you can learn more about yourself and how to prevent it from becoming a habit.
Let’s start with the beginning. The next time you get a craving, pause. Ask yourself a few questions. Where am I? Who am I with? How do I feel in this moment? Taking note of your internal and external circumstances can help you identify exactly why this craving is happening.
Are you hungry or thirsty?
Before acting upon a craving, think about the last time you had a snack or drank water. Cravings can be biological responses to nutrient deficiencies–so that food you’re craving may just be a dehydration notice from your body. When a craving hits, try first to drink 8 ounces of water quickly–cleansing the pallet and filling up your belly can be just what your body needs to stay in-check.
Did you just see something delicious?
We’ve all been there–a billboard depicting the best french fries you’ve ever seen pops up, and you have the taste of their golden glory in your mouth all the way home. This is all thanks to your brain, which immediately recognizes imagery, and hits you with a rush of sensory memories that involve the treat. It’s a natural response, but it’s not hard to become aware of it and stop it. Knowing that you might only want something because you’ve just seen it or talked about it, not because you need it to function, can help you say no. So the next time you’re craving hits ask yourself why you want the food in question.
Are you with friends?
For some it is easy to continue a diet in the presence of others, for others, it is easier said than done. A typical girls night includes gossip, laughter, and of course–junk food. You may feel left out of the group if you choose not to partake in the feast. To prevent this feeling, make the decision to plan ahead and beat your cravings by eating ahead of time or baking healthy snacks to share with the group.
Are you stressed or sad?
When you’re having a rough day, your brain will unfortunately try to solve the problem with food. Our favorite, usually unhealthy, foods cause the release of serotonin in our brains (the feel-good chemical in our brains). It is for this reason that you must ask yourself how you are feeling before you eat to ensure you’re eating for the right reasons. Chances are, the sweet momentary indulgence will not solve the external problem causing the craving, so a better option would be to relieve stress in a different way such as a walk, a bath, or a journal entry.
But what happens when you’ve asked yourself all of these questions and your craving still exists?
Remember that it’s okay to give in (sometimes). Keeping yourself from the foods you’re craving can often lead to overeating or binging later on in the day. For this reason, it is okay to give in to a nagging craving–just make sure to do it in the right way. Be prepared by keeping healthier, crave-reducing options on hand such as:
- Flavored gum: Sometimes, you just need to be chewing on something to reduce a craving. Luckily for you, chewing gum companies have gotten pretty smart and now produce a wide array of flavors like birthday cake and cinnamon roll. This way, you get the flavor you need while distracting yourself from the need to crunch on something more substantial.
- Fruits and Veggies: A carrot is probably the exact opposite of what you’re looking for in these situations, but fruits and vegetables can be a great option. They can not only provide us with the crunch we’re looking for, but also fulfil some sweet and savory cravings. Instead of reaching for candy, grabbing a piece of fruit can curb the sugary craving while providing you with fiber and nutrients. If you’re craving something salty, dipping a vegetable like carrots or celery in hummus can give you the satisfaction you’re looking for without the empty calories contained in a bag of potato chips.
Another method to squash cravings that many dieters find successful is the concept of small bites. Taking a tiny portion of what you’re craving–such as a fun sized candy bar, or a small handful of popcorn–and savoring every bite can help the brain relax and give you the feeling you need for the craving to subside.
Cravings will happen–you can’t stop them. But with a little bit of planning, you can help to successfully avoid them and maintain your health and fitness goals.