Part 2: Before the Craving
Over the next week, we’re going to run a three-part series explaining the cause of cravings, how to prevent them, and how to fight them when they strike. Here’s Part 2: Before the Craving. (Click here for Part 1.)
Plan it Out
Whenever you go into a difficult situation, the best way to approach it is with a plan. If you have a plan, you’ll be more likely to succeed when the craving strikes. Here’s an example you can use as a starting point for your own emergency craving plan:
- Take a deep breath and count to 10
- Listen to your body and mind in order to discover what the underlying cause of the craving is–are you actually hungry, or are you tired, stressed or bored?
- Find a different activity you can do to take your mind off the craving
- Call a friend or support and chat until the craving is gone
Even with a plan, it takes practice to get good at overcoming cravings. But don’t worry: if you make a conscious effort, you can do it!
Treat Yourself Like a Recovering Addict
One of the most important steps in substance addiction recovery for drugs or alcohol is to remove temptation at the source. You should try the same thing for your food cravings. When you start your diet, go through your home and remove anything you may be tempted to eat during a craving. Since high-fat and sugary foods tend to be what we crave most, focus on getting rid of these as much as possible.
This may be difficult if you’ve got kids or a spouse living with you who isn’t on the diet, but another step in addiction recovery is openly asking for help. Don’t hesitate to ask your family or roommates to avoid having those craving-inducing foods in the house while you’re on your diet.
Get Some Shut-Eye
The amount of sleep you have affects both your self-control and your cravings. By getting enough sleep, you’ll be giving your body time to rest as well as restoring your mental strength.
According to a 2011 study, being tired inhibits the ability of the prefrontal cortex to function (the prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain believed to control urges and make decisions). As reported in the LA times,
Twelve men and women age 19 to 45 underwent functional MRI tests while looking at pictures of high-calorie foods, low-calorie foods, as well as images of rocks and plants, which served as controls. They, too, had been surveyed about the intensity of their daytime sleepiness. Those who had higher levels of daytime sleepiness showed less activity in their brain’s prefrontal cortex while looking at the photos of high-calorie foods.
Willpower is Essential
If you want to overcome your cravings, you have to believe you have the power to do just that. Much of the battle will come from your commitment to your diet.
However, it’s not just a matter of willpower. Cravings are physiological, too. Come back on Monday for the final article in this series where we talk about how to fight back during some of the most difficult cravings.