11 Ways to Get Control of Cravings and Eliminate Food Addiction
Do you find yourself craving sugary and starchy foods constantly? Most people believe this is normal and just something we have to live with day-to-day…but this is not normal! You don’t have to live with thoughts of food controlling you.
The main goal is decreasing exposure to these food and situations, stress and lack of sleep. Using these 11 strategies will help you decrease cravings and allow you to get control over your feelings to eat.
1. Make the decision to take control.
You first have to decide if you want to gradually decrease the bad sugars/carbohydrates or if you want to quit them cold turkey. If you cut them out quickly, just expect a very rough first week to allow your body to adjust to its new diet. You may not feel well and have headaches. After a month, your taste buds and memory of those foods will change and you will experience fewer cravings.
2. Stop riding the “sugar roller coaster.”
Stop riding the “sugar roller coaster.” When you eat or drink items with a lot of carbohydrates or sugar, your blood sugar rises and then falls fast. When your sugar falls, you will feel hungry and begin searching for your next unhealthy carbohydrate or sugar loaded fix. Get off of this rollercoaster by improving the quality of what you are eating to prevent fast sugar drops and cravings. Start eating high-protein meals and snacks to regulate your sugar level, reduce hunger and feel full longer.
3. Avoid sugary beverages.
Whether its soda, iced tea, lattes, sports drinks or many others culprits, sugary drinks are a sure way to get hooked on carbohydrates and sugar – leading to weight gain. Drinking empty sugary calories increases hunger, cravings for other sugar/carbohydrate laced items, snacking and doesn’t fill you up. Regular consumption of sugary beverages is linked to diabetes, heart disease and obesity. Diet drinks may seem like a healthier choice but studies are starting to show the opposite. Diet soda can actually increase overall sugar and carbohydrate cravings because artificial sweeteners are 600 times sweeter than table sugar. More research is needed on diet drinks.
If you’re craving something, choose a healthier alternative instead. If you’re craving candy, try a few bites of a protein bar. Grab a yogurt, fruit, dried fruit, gum, nuts or sugar-free tea that won’t leave you feeling guilty or further increase your cravings for carbohydrates and sugar.
If you’re feeling the munchies, want to stress eat or eat out of boredom, make a list of other activities you can do instead. Potential ideas include going for a walk, brushing your teeth, drinking water, playing with a pet, calling a friend, cleaning, organizing, finding a project, going to another room away from the kitchen, surfing the internet, exercising or finding something to do with your hands. Just get busy and preoccupy your mind.
6. Question yourself!
If you find yourself looking in the pantry or fridge, ask yourself, “Am I actually hungry?” or “why am I here?” Get to the root of your habit and/or emotions because you may actually be bored, stressed, anxious or simply needing to move. If you’re not actually hungry, pinpoint your actual need and find another solution or activity that will alleviate this need, instead of food. If you’re bored, find a hobby, read a book or take a nap. If you’re stressed, take a warm bath, watch a funny program or go for a walk. Do what works for you and makes you happy.
You will reach for what is at eye level, when you’re hungry. Organize your fridge and pantry so what you see first are healthy options. Ideally, don’t have junk in the house at all. If you do, hide it where you won’t continuously see it. Remember the old saying, “Out of sight, out of mind!”
8. Eat mindfully.
The average American eats very fast and often while in the middle of another task. This combination leads to eating bigger portions because you’re not listening to your body’s cues. Multitasking while eating leads to eating more since the mind is focused on the other task meaning that bag of chips may be gone before you realize it. When you begin to eat more mindfully and slower, you begin to sense food more through taste and smell making you appreciate each bite. Only focusing on eating, helps you realize when you feel/sense being full.
9. Dodge trigger foods.
We all have trigger foods – the “Once you pop you can’t stop” type of items. You feel out of control the minute you go near them. Not having any of your trigger foods at home and work is essential because it can take just one weak and hungry moment to relapse to your addiction. If those triggers have to be at work or home (for others), try moving them to a less noticeable place where you won’t be tempted.
10. Control your environment.
Many triggers in our day-to-day environment increase our cravings for bad foods. Think about your environment at work and at home. How you can control some of these triggers? For example, if a co-worker always has a bowl of candy out, walk a different way so you don’t pass it. If a co-worker brings doughnuts every Thursday morning, eat a high-protein filling breakfast so it will be easier to avoid the temptation. At home, TV is one of the most powerful sources of temptation because you’re bombarded with unhealthy, food related commercials. DVR shows, mute the TV or distract yourself by talking or getting on the internet during commercial breaks.
Improved quality of sleep helps regulate the hormone Cortisol. When you don’t get enough sleep, your Cortisol levels become abnormal and increase hunger. Work on improving your sleep environment by not allowing electronics in the bedroom, reading or taking a bath before bedtime.