How to Beat Food Cravings

The HealthGal Health Guide
  • Part of the work that has to be done during a lifestyle change is behavioral modification.  One of the crucial elements in conquering unhealthy eating habits is to be able to decide if you are hungry and then to have a plan to deal with a hunger state or a non-hunger state that still wants food.


    Let's start with assessing hunger.  Using a scale of 1 (totally full and satisfied) to 10 (ravenously hungry - will "die" from hunger) is the first step.  It's important to note that letting your hunger go beyond an "8" can put you at risk of binging and eating way too much because you have let yourself go for too long a period of time without eating even a small snack.  So at around a level 7, which should feel like you are beginning to feel empty and in need of  a food boost, have a balanced snack that includes a whole grain carbohydrate serving, a protein serving and a bit of healthy fat.  If you feel you are a level 5-7, you might try to hydrate first to make sure you are not thirsty, and then you might choose to either wait a bit longer and have the snack, wait a bit longer and already have your next balanced meal (if it's mealtime) or have a piece of fruit as a bridge to the next mealtime (if it is soon).  If you are under a "5" then you may be having emotional eating issues and you do need behavioral techniques to handle that.  Here's what you can do:

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    If you're at work and you can take a break, do so.  Go talk to someone for a few minutes to conquer those feelings of "I want something to eat now," since what you are probably feeling is stress, anxiety, boredom, frustration or even mild transitory depression.  Pop into the bathroom, wash your face, freshen your makeup - doing a physical action can recharge you and calm you down so you don't turn to food when you're NOT hungry.  If you can't take an actual break, then just close your eyes for 30-60 seconds, breathe deeply several times, clear your mind and actually tell yourself to identify what you are feeling that IS making you want to grab food.  See if you can then find a non-food solution to quell the feeling.  If you're home, you might want to step outside, go get in the car and do an errand and simply remove yourself from the tempting kitchen.  If you're stuck at home, maybe you can grab a cup of tea and read for a few minutes, pick up and continue a craft or ongoing hobby project, vacuum or do some activity that dissuades you from grabbing food.  Sometimes boredom at home can inspire eating when not hungry, so that might be a good time to clean out a closet, do laundry, call a friend, again simply engage with something other than food. 


    Now let's say you are indeed honestly hungry.  It helps to identify what you are craving so that you have a bit of it(unless it's an actual mealtime) because if you don't, you may keep trying to quench that craving, which can mean multiple eating experiences without satisfaction.


    Crave salty with a crunch? Celery and peanut butter, a pepper filled with low fat cottage cheese, salted edamame, some whole grain pretzels, popcorn with a bit of sea salt can work.

  • Crave sweet and crunchy? A whole grain waffle and a banana, popcorn sprinkled with cinnamon and an apple, baked banana chips, strawberries and some dark chocolate chips can work.

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    Crave sweet/creamy? Crunchy cereal and yogurt, apples and yogurt, a fat free hot chocolate (made with evaporated skim milk) along with a pear can work.

    Crave salty/creamy?  Cut up veggies and some low fat ranch dip, rice cakes and some hummus, a small whole grain tortilla and melted low fat cheese can work.


    The bottom line is to be aware, have a dialogue with yourself which buys you some time and an ability to really assess your hunger needs (or not) and a plan to deal with it.


    Are you able to identify true hunger??



Published On: December 29, 2010