It’s 9pm. You’ve had dinner and told yourself you would skip the dessert to shed a few pounds. But now, it’s just you and that box of chocolate mint cookies in the kitchen cabinet. Temptation is making it hard to concentrate on anything else except *not eating* anything high-calorie (which is probably all your favorite sweets).
If your diet willpower – or perhaps won’t power is more accurate – is wavering, here are several different tricks and techniques to help you firm your resolve instead of padding your waistline.
By far the easiest way to plug the hole in your stomach is to do just that. Fill up with good old H2O – water. Drink a large glass and wait 15 minutes. If that cures the munchies, perhaps you were dehydrated instead of hungry? Plus, almost everyone needs to drink more water to enjoy better general health.
As an alternative to plain water, sip on a soothing infusion with mint or cucumber. Ginger tea (ginger and lemon slices in hot water) can ward off unruly food cravings.
Add more protein to your diet, and not necessarily from meat. Start your day with less cereal starch and sugar and more eggs. Healthline explains why eating a high-protein breakfast can not only diminish food cravings throughout the day, but reduce abdominal fat:
“Dietary protein is inversely related to belly fat, meaning the more high-quality protein you eat, the less belly fat you have.”
A scientific study in overweight men showed that increasing protein intake to 25% of calories reduced cravings by 60%. Additionally, the desire to snack at night was reduced by 50%.
Your odds of successfully outwitting the gravitational pull of those cookies lies in getting your mind off of them. But sitting around thinking about *not thinking* about something is really hard. The good news is that nobody said you have to sit, battling your inner appetite demons – get up and move around. Take a walk or a shower. Play a video game.
Get involved in a physical project that breaks your mental association with having sweets after dinner or whenever you feel that familiar pang of longing.
If moving around is a challenge, try these three 30-second intervention techniques you can do anywhere, even driving:
• First, imagine eating, smelling and tasting foods you crave the most.
• Rate the strength of your cravings on a scale of zero (low) to 100 (high)
• Tap your forehead with a finger, tap your toe on the floor, or simply stare at a blank wall.
Figure out which technique works best to reduce your food pangs and use it when you feel weak in the knees about yummy in your tummy.
Chew sugar-free gum. This can sometimes reduce appetite between meals. Test subjects who chewed gum in the three-hour period after lunch said they felt less hungry and had fewer cravings. As a bonus, they also reported having higher energy levels.
Change your mental attitude to convince yourself that caving to a craving is self-sabotage of the highest order. This works better on some people than others, but see what happens if you focus on one of the following for about a minute:
Think about something other than food. Anything. (Plan your next vacation. Why not?)
Accept and allow your self-indulgent thoughts as something abstract, something you do not need to act on. (For example, it’s nice to daydream about visiting on a tropical island, but that doesn’t mean you have to go out and make reservations. Same with food. Let your brain feed rather than your stomach.)
Focus on the negative long-term consequences of eating those forbidden fruits. Or cupcakes. (How will you feel when your clothes get tight? What about facing the scale or mirror?)
Stress has been linked to triggering food cravings. Lower stress by meditating or going the opposite route, by working out. Better yet, include both practices in your normal routine. Slow down and smell the flowers. Literally.
Take a nap. Not only will lying down increase your resistance to cravings, you probably need more sleep anyway. Even a 15-minute cat nap helps combat exhaustion which, like thirst, can be mistaken for hunger. At work, sit back and close your eyes for a few minutes and relax a bit.
Plan meals ahead of time for the next day or week. That way you know what you intend to eat and eliminate the guess-work. No more standing in front of an open fridge door choosing between the lean protein and gooey cake.
If you live alone, stop buying the binge foods you crave and know will tempt you in moments of weakness. This is tough love, for sure, but after surviving not eating your usual treats is a great way to stop craving them.
If you stock the “won’tpower” foods you crave for other householders who eat them, decide how you will deal with that. It’s much easier to physically leave an area while someone else finishes off the potato chips – but if you involved in a group activity (like a picnic or party) you may have to watch others partake of the foods you promised yourself you would not have. Have a strategy in advance and stick to it.
Get in the habit of eating before you get really, really hungry. Studies find that people who graze on healthy foods throughout the day tend not to overeat at meals.
Spinach extract, made from the plant leaves, has been shown to reduce appetite and cravings for several hours. Mix it with water or blend it into a smoothie. Capsules and snack bars that contain a concentrated powder with thylakoids (microscopic structures that use photosynthesis to produce energy as carbohydrates) are also available.
Foods high in fiber will fill you up and reduce cravings. Although high in calories, nuts like almonds and pistachios, eaten in moderation, are full of both fiber and protein, the best of both worlds.
If all else fails and you simply must indulge yourself in that irresistible treat or go stark raving mad, have some. But don’t feel guilty later. Eat a very small portion slowly, savoring the taste and sensation. Have a glass of water on the side.
One final tip is quite nice: slip a little bottle of jasmine essential oil in your pocket, purse, or desk drawer. Sniffing this floral scent can neutralize yearning for sweets.
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With all these great tips and techniques, you can succeed against those infernal food cravings. Bon appétit!