We've all been there... Our day is going along just fine; we have stuck to our dietary strategy and are feeling pretty good about ourselves. Hey, maybe we've finally gotten the hang of this whole "eating thing".
Then it happens! We ease around the corner into the office break room and without warning, we are smacked right in the face with the vision of a box of doughnuts softly nestled on the table. Not only that, our eyes quickly lock in on our favorite doughnut in the whole wide world. Our mouths begin to involuntarily water, with anticipation of that sweet sugary bliss...that is only a fingertips distance away.
What do we do?
In this week's "Bite-Sized Breakdown", we are talking bout' CRAVINGS!!!!
What are they? Why are they so hard to resist? Is it possible to overcome them?
We will help pull back the curtain on what food cravings are, common ways they can be triggered and the "Top 5: Craving Control Hacks" to help better arm you in this perpetual sweet and salty war.
Let's do this!!
What are food cravings?
Imagine being so drawn to something, that you're willing to compromise your goals, jeopardize your long-term health, elicit an inevitable negative emotional response and revert back to our child-like behavior of lack of impulse control.
All of this...just for a cookie!! Cravings in a nutshell, my friend. Don't feel bad though; our brains, hormones and emotions may all be conspiring against us. Let me explain...
Food cravings are caused by regions of the brain that are responsible for memory, pleasure and reward. An imbalance of hormones (leptin, serotonin, ghrelin) can lead to seemingly uncontrollable food desires. Even if we get this all in check, our emotions may still get the best of us, leading to a constant reward and regret cycle.
Now that we have a better understanding of what cravings are, let's take a look at some common ways they can be initiated.
Some common ways cravings are triggered:
- A highly restrictive diet (both in calorie and food choices)
- Habit Cycle... Cue----->Routine----->Reward----->Repeat
- Long periods between meals
- Hormonal Imbalance
- Senses by which we perceive stimuli (sight, smell, etc. which are constantly bombarded on a daily basis)
Now that we have some of the common trigger points for cravings identified, let's take a look at some of the best ways to stop these craving inducing scenarios right in their tracks.
Drum roll please...
Top 5 Craving Control Hacks:
- Alternative "hacks": A big key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle (while not feeling deprived), is to find alternative food choices that satisfy those cravings but don't blow out your waistline. We need to find ways to reduce calories, sugar content, "bad" fats, etc. while still satisfying that food desire. For example, I used to love Big Macs (I know, don't judge) and honestly wasn't sure if I could ever give them up. Then, I found a recipe consisting of bison, roasted garlic hummus, shredded kale salad mix and Mrs. Dash Garlic & Herb Seasoning that absolutely mirrored that same Big Mac goodness; with far better calorie and macronutrient makeup. There are countless such hacks, to upgrade the nutritional content of your favorite foods and in the process drastically improve your health.
- Break the chain: The typical habit cycle goes as follows...Cue----->Routine----->Reward----->Repeat. This can be great if it's a wanted habit, but down right diabolical if it's an unwanted habit. So what do we do? We have to find a way to break this chain before it's completed. A good way to do this, is to start a food journal. You'll begin noticing patterns, both good and bad. Once you see the patterns, you'll have a much better chance at breaking the chain of events, that eventually lead to a pile of cookie crumbs and regret. Another great way to break the chain of habit, is to pause for a moment. Next time you are faced with an uncontrollable craving, take a moment to ask yourself a question. Will this decision get me closer or further away from my goals?
- Eat more often: Although, more recent studies have shown there is not much metabolic benefit to eating more frequently as was once thought (it won't boost your metabolism), craving control can still be one of the upsides. The longer we go between meals, the weaker our will power becomes and the more our bodies begin to strongly crave energy. This means fats and carbs!! Both fats and carbs provide the most efficient energy supply. Think about the last time you were truly hungry. What were the types of foods that came to mind? I bet the first thing that came to mind wasn't a big plate of chicken and broccoli (If it did, you're weird and we can't be friends).
- Take your time: This hack is all about figuring out "who" you are and "what" you want. Spend some time thinking about your goals in life. Why are they important? What will it mean to you to achieve them? It's important to remember, that we don't get our wants. However, we will always meet our standards. So raise the standards you have set for your health and eventually your habits and choices will follow. As important as this is, we must also take time to relax and reduce our stress. I highly recommend carving out some time (it doesn't have to be a lot) just for you. Use this time to breathe, visualize, count your blessings and do anything (not illegal) to help recenter yourself and calm your mind.
- Common does not mean "normal": Unfortunately, in today's society you can take one quick glance around and see how collectively unhealthy we have become. Along with this, perception starts to become realty for most of us. Having giant over-sized meals, consuming fast food on a regular basis, excessive drinking, copious amounts of sugar and general disregard for our bodies become far too common. This is just what we do, right? Absolutely, NOT! Just because something is common does not mean it's normal. We are not meant to be overweight, disease ridden and lacking of energy and vitality. One thing you will find though, is as you change your life you will feel pressure from your friends and family to be more common. You'll be faced with the, "You don't need to lose weight" "Too bad you can't have this" or one of my personal favorites (because it's so ironic) "Come on, live a little". Next time you are put in this situation, just tell them, "I've never felt better in my entire life! My energy is off the charts and life has become more exciting, filled with passion and magnificently vibrant again!" Any true friend or caring family member won't argue with that logic and sentiment.
There you have it! You are now armed with some excellent strategies, to help you battle the constant cravings war that we are deeply mired in on a daily basis. All that's left now, is to break this baby down "Bite-Sized" style.
You are what you eat! NOPE. You are what you eat on a consistent basis. You are a culmination of your choices and habits. You are the standards you have set for yourself. Changing your health is a process and there is no "quick fix". Controlling your cravings is not as simple as just having more will power. It goes much deeper than that. With the proper mindset and strategies though, you can absolutely overcome even your most tempting cravings and finally achieve the health and body you desire.
You are capable! You are worth it!
#BetterEveryDay #PFTfamily #PFTlifestyle