29 April 2008

I Can't Stop Craving Food!

Have you ever had the overwhelming desire to reach for your favourite meals, snacks or drinks. Have you ever felt that you’d kill for a coffee or knock old ladies out of the way to get to your favourite fast food?

Many of the people I know believe their cravings are signs that their body is crying out for some missing vitamins or nutrients contained in whatever it is that they suddenly feel they can’t live without. Safe in this knowledge they can feel less guilty about giving in to the cravings.

Sadly for many of us, scientists have yet to find any evidence that this theory holds up.

So if cravings are indeed more to do with our mental attitude than biological needs, how do we handle them?

1. Distract yourself. Whenever you feel a craving coming on, get up and do something, preferably something that immediately removes you from the part of the office where the donuts are. If you are at your desk, get up and visit the water cooler. If you’re at home, step away from the cookie jar! In both cases, when you return your craving will have passed.

2. Keep substitutes handy. If you know what you regularly crave, keep a healthier option close to hand and reach for this when the cravings begin. If cravings are due to your brain seeking pleasure, you need to train your mind to find pleasure from different sources. Try swapping chocolates for grapes & nuts.

3. Everything in moderation. No food is totally bad, most problems associated with diet these days are caused by quantity more than quality so decide in advance how much you should really have and stick to that. 2 cookies and not 6. And then allow yourself this quantity, and only this quantity, when the cravings strike.

4. Retrain your brain. Most people are on the lookout for instant pleasure and gratification. Satisfying your cravings provides this but is then often followed by guilt. If you can, train your brain to focus on the pleasure and (smug) gratification you’ll experience by being strong and resisting. You’ll be unbearable to be around but think of the good you've done!

Photograph by lamusa (Flickr)

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