That sweet, gooey, chocolate candy bar has you convinced you need to eat it right now. Whether it’s because you’re stressed, bored, anxious or are searching for some sort of relief, trying to cure your food craving with a handful of almonds or carrot sticks may not cut the mustard. So you cave, and for a brief moment, everything in the world is just fine. But afterwards as that candy wrapper is staring you down, you know it wasn’t just hunger, but a craving.
“That’s because cravings arise not from your stomach, but your brain–the areas that are associated with memory, pleasure and reward,” explains Lisa Talamini, Jenny Craig’s Sr. Dietitian. “And foods that are typically craved usually include a combo of fat and sugar.”
That makes chocolate, pizza and chips hard to resist, but like anything else in life, this too shall pass in about 10 minutes. Talamini suggests “surfing the urge” and controlling your sweet tooth with these 5 tips:
Say it and breathe
Say to yourself exactly what you’re feeling: “This is a craving, and it will pass.” Then, breathe. Allow yourself to go into a meditative state and search for how you’re feeling. Are you tense, bored, anxious, stressed or scared? Keep breathing, allowing yourself to then focus on how you inhale and exhale, reaching a peak and falling downward. With each breath, your craving will begin to fade and over time, with practice, you will learn how to ride your cravings out through breathing.
Talmini says to use the HALT tactic. “Beware of getting hungry, anxious, lonely, or tired–all common triggers for unplanned eating,” she explains. Recognize these cues and respond with self-care. Eat regular meals and snacks, talk to a friend and get plenty of rest.
If you just can’t give up a certain food, like chocolate, either reduce the portion or choose a lower-calorie, alternative version of the same food, such as the many food options Jenny Craig offers. If eaten slowly and mindfully, your craving will subside with the lower-calorie version and you won’t derail your weight loss journey.
Fight back against unplanned eating by keeping portable, healthy snacks with you. Try keeping a small zipped bag of heart-healthy nuts in your purse or a low-fat cheese stick and non-starchy vegetables (carrot chips, cucumber slices and mini bell peppers) in the refrigerator at work.