Sometimes we crave a certain food because of a nutritional deficiency. But more often than not, cravings are a trained response to filling an emotional need or for stress relief.
Most of us were rewarded with food as kids – a lollipop after a painful vaccine, a cookie if we “were good,” dessert that only comes at the end of a meal, and will only be served if we “finish everything off our plate.”
We have learned to associate “sweet” with “feeling good,” and so often when we feel sad or stressed, we crave something sweet. Although we must admit – salty cravings are just as powerful – can you eat just one potato chip and be content?
The good news: knowing that many cravings are simply responses to stimuli or stress can help us be aware and retrain our responses. Here are 5 suggestions to hopefully help you strengthen your resolve:
1. Substitutions or Replacements: Why not try baked sweet potato fries instead of fried potatoes, trade out creamy, Greek Yogurt topped with a little honey for ice cream, or enjoy fabulous, delicious frozen grapes instead of candy?
2. Are you even hungry? When the cravings hit, take a few moments to understand if you really are hungry by doing something different. Redirect your thinking by taking a walk and looking for colors, or giving yourself a manicure; even pulling weeds will take your mind off food! If you’re truly hungry, you should definitely eat, and the need will not go away. But if it was just a craving, the impulse might go sway after 20 minutes or so of doing something else.
3. Are you thirsty? Often, when we think we are hungry, we are actually thirsty. Try a glass of water; truly hungry or just needing hydration will be the instant reply.
4. Time out: Ask yourself to wait an hour before relieving a craving. This will give you a time out from the food request. Did you know that 15 minutes of reading a book or magazine can relieve stress by 68% and increase your sense of contentment by 50%? It redirects your thinking and is very satisfying fuel for the brain and eyes.
5. The Tiny Taste Solution: There are several tricks to making this work but it does offer some very good relief from a craving. Measure out a tiny taste of what you are thinking about and then try to chew it 35 times. Chewing is very stress relieving and connected to the sensation of pleasure. Another trick is to put the bite on your tongue and see how long it takes to melt or dissolve. So, instead of scarfing down the entire bar of chocolate, try slowly savoring 2 squares.