Here’s how it happens: someone brought cake to work, and you had two (okay, three) slices. The donut box was left open and who can resist those Bavarian crème-filled beauties? You answered the 3 pm beckoning of the vending machine down the hall, again.
These are only a few of a million sugar indulgent situations that we face on a daily basis. Evolutionarily speaking, we are preprogrammed to salivate at anything sprinkled or frosted. High-calorie foods are good investments for a species that spent 50,000 years scrounging for food. Our brains remember that surge of happy juice we got from our last cupcake and we can’t seem to help ourselves. These days, however, when food (especially the overly processed, low-quality kind) seems to be EVERYWHERE, we have to smarter than our genes.
Identify Your Triggers
The best way to avoid a food craving is to prevent what triggers it. Do you cave every time you pass the break room? Try a different route. Have a hard time resisting sweets at lunchtime? Pack a lunch and make it whole fruit instead of a 44 oz sweet tea. There’s still some ice cream in the freezer and we don’t want it to get freezer burnt! Don’t buy the sweets you can’t resist, thus forcing yourself to drive to Dairy Queen. Figuring out what triggers a craving, be it circumstance, time of day, habit, emotions, or hormones, is key to empowering yourself to resist it. Next time you find yourself with your hand in the cookie jar, slow down and analyze how you got there.
Prevent Cravings with Healthy Habits
Another great way to prevent a hankering for Honey Buns is by eating nutritious food regularly throughout the day. Snacking on nutrient-dense food every three-four hours leaves you satisfied and less likely to grab some sugar-laden convenience food. Meals and snacks should include a source of lean protein, heart-healthy fat and fiber to keep you energized and prevent post-prandial crashes. Avoid sugar substitutes, which perpetuate sugar urges.
Taking Sugar Head On
A recent study has found that merely focusing on the negative long-term consequences of giving in to cravings can significantly reduce their intensity. Researchers used an MRI to study subjects’ brains response to pictures of junk food. Thinking about future implications reduced the urge to eat and increased brain activity associated with inhibitory control. Remind yourself that you are in charge of your actions, even if you may not always feel in control of your body.
Remember: Cravings Only Last For a Short Time
The typical duration of a craving is 15 minutes. Keep this in mind and distract yourself for a quarter of an hour. Phone a friend, take a walk, pray, meditate, clean your bathtub, check your emails…the list of things you can accomplish in 15 minutes is practically endless. Researchers recently found that subjects could resist cravings by tapping on their heads with their finger for 30 seconds. Thirty seconds of repetitive movement may save you thousands of calories.
Forgiving Yourself After an Indulgence
Studies have shown that everyone has cravings, regardless of their weight. No one is perfect. It’s unrealistic for anyone to expect that they will never, ever eat another piece of birthday cake. If we’re honest, having a small portion of sweet goodness every once in a while can actually help you stay on track. You are not a failure so don’t treat yourself like one by sabotaging yourself and your health goals. Instead of giving up and devouring the rest of the turtle cheesecake in a fit of self-loathing, forgive yourself and move on.
The Good News
The more often you can resist cravings, the less likely you are to have them. Start crushing cravings today and feel better than ever.