The most common question I receive is how to resist food cravings and temptations? I believe just about everyone who’s embarked on a healthier lifestyle has at times been faced with strong temptations and cravings. Some people though, are able to handle the cravings, it doesn’t really take over their every thought, whereas others get overwhelmed by the cravings, and once they start eating their treat food, sometimes they can’t stop.
The one thing that I always recommend is to understand where the cravings are coming from. Be honest with yourself about your diet – is there enough variety in your diet? Are you too restrictive? Have you cut out too many food groups or macronutrients? Are you eating the same things all the time? Many times cravings can actually be a sign that there is something missing in one’s diet. Is it really because you are dying to eat that cake and that’s all you can think about, or is it because you’re diet is so super restrictive that everything appears appetizing?!! I remember years ago when I was on a raw vegan diet, I went through a phase where I was experimenting with a low fat raw vegan diet, and over time I started having crazy strong cravings for ice cream and pizza. Me, I’ve never been much of a big pizza eater, in fact it was only in my twenties that I even tried pizza, and I can go years or decades without eating it, and have no problem at all. But when I was doing the low fat raw vegan diet, that’s all I would think about – hot, greasy pizza! I would have dreams about it! And luckily I was able to put two and two together quite quickly to see that I wasn’t quite needing the pizza, but my body was calling out for more healthy fat. The moment I added more healthy fat back into my diet and got off the low-fat experiment, the pizza and ice cream cravings just vanished!!
So sometimes cravings can come from a lack of something, and it’s the body’s way of saying it needs something. Other times cravings can come from missing a favourite food, or seeing someone eat the very food you gave up! It’s not always easy to resist the temptation and I find the best way of resisting the cravings is to constantly remind yourself why you gave it up in the first place. Many people give up their favourite foods because the reward and benefits far outweigh the fleeting and momentary pleasure of eating the actual food. For example, many people give up junk food and fast food to lose weight, or they give up dairy products to clear up acne, or they give up alcohol because the hangovers are making them severely depressed. Whatever the reason you gave up the food you are tempted to eat, remind yourself why you decided to give it up in the first place, and all the benefits you’ve since experienced from not eating it. Sometimes too, reminding yourself how hard it was to get through the initial withdrawal or letting go of that food can scare you enough from going back to eating it (I know plenty of ex-smokers who went through such agony from initially quitting smoking, they are terrified of ever picking up a cigarette again). Whatever works for you, seize it!
Now, what to do if everyone around you is constantly eating these foods? Well, you can’t always control what others are eating, and you can’t shelter yourself from the outer world just to avoid these foods. I do recommend trying to find a way to not have all those tempting foods stocked in your home where you have to be constantly resisting them. One thing I do when I’m doing the grocery shopping and my husband wants me to buy him some treats, I always buy him things he likes, that I don’t! I find this makes my life much easier. He can still have his treats but I am in no way tempted to eat them! So if your family or roommates want the home to be stocked up with foods or treats that you find tempting, get the flavours, brands, or types of food you just don’t like, that you can easily pass up. You’d be amazed at how such a simple thing like that can make your life much easier!
Lastly, and most importantly, I do want to mention that I believe cravings and temptations are not always about the food. In fact many times I see cravings as a red flag that something else in someone’s life is off balance or not being tended to. For example, when things are going really well in someone’s life, when they feel happy and confident, they are less likely to be phased by cravings and having to resist tempting foods. The cravings and temptations always feel more overwhelming when we are run down, perhaps upset about something, feeling frustrated, lonely, dissatisfied, let-down, or trapped. So the next time you are feeling overwhelmed by a craving, ask yourself what else is currently going on in your life? Are you happy with your personal relationships, with your job, and family? Are you stressed or overwhelmed? Are you lonely or feeling isolated, unheard? Many times food cravings have absolutely nothing to do with food at all, but something else that is missing or lacking in one’s life.
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