Have you ever eaten certain foods, even when you didn't want to?
That's an interesting question and one that I guess, almost all of us would say YES to. So what gives? Why do we give in? Well, first off it's important to understand the vast chasm between "want to" and "easy to". But, that is a discussion for a different day. It's also important to note, that I'm all for living lean, enjoying ourselves and indulging in the delectable delights that "treat meals" have to offer. This however, is about those times when we over-indulge, even when everything inside of us is telling us not to.
One of the biggest problems for most of us, is that we don't have any real tangible strategies and instead, rely exclusively on will power. I will tell you right now, will power (at least the way most individuals view it) will always fail. ALWAYS. That's the bad news.
The good news is, the more we build strategies that turn into habits, the less we need to rely on will power alone. We can begin to develop a framework of thoughtful deliberate choices, that will eventually turn to subconsciously driven and auto-pilot steered actions (think making your bed, brushing your teeth, driving your car, etc.). Once this switch happens, it'll be one less leak we have draining our ever depleting limited pool of will power reserves.
So,if you're craving control over your eating habits and struggling to find your footing, grab a chair and carve out a few minutes to remedy that situation. Here are seven tips, that will stop you from tumbling down goal mountain and splashing face first into the deep-end of lake regret.
Pantry Patrol: Out of sight, out of mind as they say. One of the best tools for controlling cravings and in turn accelerating the progress toward our goals, is to limit snacking and doing our best to avoid trigger foods. Remember, you control what comes into your home. Keep the foods that you have a hard time resisting out of your house, or (if you have kids) at least out of sight.
You "Hangry" Bro?: You feel that hunger building, your temper shortening and your "craving monster" lurking up from the shadows. You are on the verge of losing control and angrily inhaling the first Big Mac or pile of doughnuts you come across. What do you do?
This is a perfect example of not planning ahead. For most individuals the longer they go in-between meals, the less discipline they have making nutritious food choices in accordance to their goals. One solution to this issue, is smaller more frequent meals. Although smaller more frequent meals won't directly help us to lose weight, they can help to control our cravings, which in the long run can indirectly lead to better choices and eventual weight-loss.
A good idea when you know you'll be going long stretches without access to quality nutritious snacks from home, is to pack some healthy snacks for the go. It's also a good idea to scout out some restaurants (in the area you'll be in), where you can find something yummy and good for your tummy.
Don't Be Thirsty: Believe it or not, individuals quite often confuse thirst for hunger. From my experience, very few people drink enough water. I highly recommend starting your day with 16-24 ounces of water and continually drinking water throughout your day. I venture to guess, you'll be amazed at how much better you feel when properly hydrated.
How much water should you drink? This is somewhat individual in response. However, a good starting point is to aim for around .75 ounces per pound of body weight (or per pound of lean mass, if heavily overweight).
Can't vs. Choose: In order to succeed in life, we all need the proper perspective. Although action is king, thoughts and words are the king's trusted right hand.
Unfortunately, when most individuals think about losing weight they automatically start thinking about what they "can't have". We are adults. We can have whatever we want...whenever we want (that's how we got out of balance in the first place). To shift our thinking from restriction to control, we need to change our verbiage from "can't have" to "choose not to".
Example: "I can have that moist decadent chocolate cake that's calling my name so sweetly. But, I choose not to because it currently goes against what I'm trying to achieve."
It's time we take back control of our words and our lives.
Intermittent Eating: One of the best strategies for learning how to control your cravings, managing your "hangry" episodes and understanding true hunger, is to implement Intermittent Eating (notice how I didn't say intermittent fasting? Words and perspective matter).
At PFT, we use the 16:8 window of intermittent eating. This just means, you'll go 16 hours without eating (always combine this with sleeping for ease), followed by consuming all of your calories in an 8 hour window. The benefits of this approach is two-fold. One, you'll get much better at understanding what true hunger feels like and gain more control of managing your cravings. Two, you'll be able to eat bigger meals in a shorter window, allowing you to feel more full and less deprived.
I highly recommend giving intermittent eating an honest effort. It's not something you need to do every single day, but play around with it to see how it fits best into your busy routine. Personally, I love it...it fits my schedule perfectly and I'll use it in some shape or form, for the rest of my life.
Protein, Veggies & Fat...Oh my: One of the best ways we can control our cravings, is to pick foods that are satiating (filling) and have high volume per calorie. The superstars of this approach are protein, vegetables and healthy fats. Both protein and fats are more satiating than carbohydrates. As a bonus, protein will help build/maintain lean muscle tissue and fats are essential for hormonal function and regulation. Vegetables not only provide massive amounts of micronutrients, fiber, phytonutrients and antioxidants; they also help to hydrate us. An additional bonus with vegetables, is we can eat a high volume (due to their low calorie content) which takes up real-estate in our stomachs. This allows us to feel more full, which is a key component of fighting off those pesky stomach growling craving cues.
Protein, Vegetables and Healthy Fats = WIN, WIN, WIN!!
Be Flexible: Things that are rigid tend to break, when met with extreme force. Things that are flexible (think palm tree) can give to extreme force, in a way that still allows them to maintain who they are.
Think of your favorite treat. Now imagine if I told you, you can never taste that treat again for the rest of your life. How bad do you want it? Now imagine if I told you, you have an unlimited supply of your favorite treat and can have it any time you like. How bad do you want it now?
I'm a big believer in a flexible dieting approach. This consists of tracking calories, protein, fats and carbohydrates in accordance to your goals. The beauty of this approach, is that NO foods are off limits. Although, It should still be based mainly around good quality whole foods for optimal health. A flexible dietary approach gives you freedom to enjoy your favorite treats, while simultaneously improving your health and progressing you further down the path toward your ultimate physique aspirations.
Flexible Dieting eases stress, creates a healthier relationship with food and gives you the best of both worlds.
Well, there you have it my friends. These seven strategies will finally help give you control over those voracious cravings and in turn your health.
Let's once-and-for-all drown out those insidious whispering lies of our trigger foods, by shouting them down with our Bite-Sized Breakdown megaphone.
Change will happen. Whether positive or negative, change is inevitable. Some of these changes we have absolutely no control over. We just have to adopt a positive perspective; adapt and move on. However, the vast majority of what ends up comprising the entirety of our lives, we have a heavy handed amount of control over.
Do you believe this to be true?
I have some cold-hard truth for you. Whether you believe it or not, it is unequivocally true. That can be scary, I know. With control comes responsibility. The good news is, that it also comes with a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction.
If you aren't where you want to be with your health and fitness, make a decision right now. You'll no longer leave it up to chance and wait for the moment your circumstances are "just right" (it'll never happen). Start implementing sound tangible strategies (like the ones above) today. Each one, will get you one step closer each and every day to the optimal health that "your body" (you only get ONE) deserves.
Realize that motivation doesn't matter, will power doesn't matter (once you raise your standards), the season we're in doesn't matter, how you feel emotional doesn't matter.
All that matters, is finding out who you are, what you are made of, challenging yourself and complete honesty when you look in the mirror every morning. Once you make up your mind that you have complete control over your health and the life you ultimately live, there is a certain ease that comes over your mind.
So if you are "craving control" over any area of your life, decide right now that you will no longer leave things up to chance and your whim. Instead, begin today on developing your resolve, your mind and your discipline.
It won't be easy, but it'll absolutely be worth it.