Does anyone actually know how to do this? KIDDING. But you must know, this formula isn’t a one and done. I come back to this often when I find myself slipping up.
Temptation in terms of food, is a fact of life. It’s not something you can peacefully avoid when theres a voice in your head screaming at you to eat the lemon bluberry cupcake- which happens to be my fave flavor. I also don’t believe life is worth living without indulgences. I take indulgences very seriously and put them as a high priority as something to savor.
So, just how do you stop? How do you stop grazing the cabinets every night to fill a void you’re not even sure food can fill? Well, that’s the first step. Figure out what it is on your mind that you’re looking for in food. Because its probably something you’re missing in your life in some other aspect. This is hard because it requires a level of honesty with yourself most people spend their whole lives running from.
The second tip that I have in overcoming cravings is pretty obvious- don’t keep things you crave at the house. Practice leaving the kitchen after a meal that fills you up, and distract your mind with something else. A good book to look forward to, a puzzle, a game, a movie, fill that space with a healthier guilty pleasure.
A say “guilty pleasure” because I know that you understand what I mean. But actually, I don’t believe any sort of guilt should be present, not even in the same sentence, as indulgence. Indulging in something feels like a gift on your birthday, guilt feels like I’ve done something wrong and need to be punished for it. That’s how majority of us treat our bodies. And so the vicious cycle begins. What if, instead of calling it a “guilt free” or “cheat meal,” you reverted to “treat meal?”
I start by buying fresh produce, planning my meals, and being gentle with myself. This is the time most of us restrict because we’re mad at ourselves. But instead of going extreme, I start slow. I start by showing up to my workout appointments at 6 a.m. in my living room every morning. I start by having a healthy breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I keep eating dessert, I keep snacking if that’s the case, but I make good meals.
There’s an ebb and flow that happens about every 3 months where I get off track, usually its around a certain time of the month. I don’t freak out, I don’t get super angry at myself, I just let it be and know that it will pass. If I didn’t allow myself to have fluctuations, I wouldn’t be a healthy, well-rounded person. I love sweets even at the cost of savoring them once in awhile.
The next tip I have to overcome cravings is to figure out what you can’t live without and work around that. Personally, I can live without alcohol. I prefer it. I don’t love the way that I feel when I drink, I don’t need it to have a good time, so I choose to drink socially once or twice a year if that. I also don’t eat meat or fish for moral reasons and fried food gives me bad migraines and doesn’t mix well with my system. Something I absolutely cannot live without is cookies, pastries, and chips. So I make that list, and then I compromise.
Look, there are plenty of people who will tell you to give up sugar because of how bad it is for you and to give up drinking and fried foods, blah blah blah. My thing is, I’ve tried it. I’ve tried living without the small indulgences that I love, and I was not happier than keeping them. The mindset I have around cravings is to give into cravings when they arise in a way that both benefits your treat center and your nutrition center.
I highly, highly don’t believe in suppressing cravings. Think of cravings as emotions, because first of all, it is an emotion. If something horrible happened to you and you pushed it way down without dealing with it, chances are you explode on people around you who don’t deserve it. How about giving into cravings in a way that compromises both your health and your craving- hence the protein biscuit I eat for dessert. 50% of something is better than 100% of nothing, it applies both to craving and both to eating well.
I encourage you to stand back and observe your cravings- when they’re the worst, how long they last, what other habit patterns you follow when they come, and how best you can make space for them to temporarily visit?
Maybe you have kids, a grueling job, or you’re in school- every time you prepare a meal, think about how that’s going to translate in the long run of the goals you want to achieve. You want your kids to grow up and be healthy and strong? Great, they’re watching your every move, make sure your meals are worth mimicking. You’re leading a team of people at work, so how can you muster up the ideas, the confidence, the energy to deliver your best if you aren’t eating things that are green? If you’re in school, it’ll be so much easier for you to focus and work smarter not harder to get assignments done and remember what you need for the test when you’re eating fresh berries that have so much research behind how good they are for memory.
The way you eat defines how well your brain will be able to perform either at it’s best or it’s worst on any given day. Tie your nutrition into how well you’d like to show up for your future self and you may change your mind about that next time you crave something that’ll spike your blood sugar. You can’t live to your fullest potential if you’re coping in a chip bag because life is overwhelming. Figure out the cause, and the effect of taking your stress out on food will likely take care of itself.