10 Ways to Stop Food Cravings and Overeating
By Elizabeth Carruthers, RN MSN CNOR CBN CHHC
One minute you’re following your healthy food plan to a tee. The next minute you’re craving anything with chocolate. Why is that? What’s really behind your all-consuming desire for sweets?
If you’ve ever had to fight the urge to snack on unhealthy foods, this has probably happened to you: You’ve worked hard all day. You went to work prepared with a lunch bag filled with protein-rich, nutrient dense foods. You’ve filled up and drank from your trusty water bottle several times throughout the day. You tracked every morsel that went in your mouth, as well as the time spent at the gym. You scheduled your next follow-up appointment at your doctor’s office. As far as you know, you’ve done everything right.
So why, at 8 pm, do you sit on your sofa having to fight the urge to dive head-first into the refrigerator?
As human beings, we are not perfect. The old habits will rear their heads from time to time, the little voices telling you that there is cake in the kitchen and that you deserve a piece for being so good. These urges are fueled by feel-good brain chemicals such as dopamine that are released when you eat these kinds of foods. Your brain seeks this rush of pleasure over and over again, which can cause you to overeat.
But the next time you’re hit with an insatiable craving for sweets or other unhealthy foods, here are 10 things you can do to distract yourself from those urges and muffle the little voices that tempt you to overeat:
1. Get up and jog in place (or dance, or stretch) for 10 minutes and keep going if it feels good!
2. Plan something exciting like a vacation, a party, a home remodel and really get into imagining what it will be like.
3. Give yourself a manicure, pedicure, or massage to pamper yourself.
4. Chop up some vegetables to have on hand for healthy snacking.
5. Light candles with scents that give you that 'feel good' feeling.
6. Start a project you’ve been putting off (i.e. cleaning out the junk drawer, sorting through clothes to give to charity, rearranging the closet with the holiday decorations).
7. Light some candles and meditate on your goals/desires and how to achieve them.
8. Start a new hobby that you’ve always wanted to try (i.e. knitting, scrapbooking, ballroom dancing, cross country biking, volunteering).
9. Call up friends or family that you haven’t spoken to in a long time to reconnect.
10. Go to bed early and give your body some much needed rest.
Remember that you can always try to wait it out until a craving subsides. The desire to overeat presents in peaks and valleys. By giving it a little time, the urge will calm down and you may be able to satisfy yourself with something healthier. What you’re really craving is to feel better. So any activity that you enjoy can take the place of food. Channel your energy into activities that will yield a healthier result.
You’re a creature of habit. You may not realize that many of the seemingly harmless routines that are a part of your day create powerful associations for your brain. Instead of watching TV with a sweet snack, try eating a healthy food or nothing at all. Divert your attention to something that isn’t related to food and you’ll shut down your brain from triggering a food craving response. Now is the time to take advantage of your new body to get out and live! By filling your life with non-edible things to do, the voices won’t have the chance to surface.
After all, which would you rather experience? The guilt of eating a piece of cake or the satisfaction of a clean organized garage, pleasure of helping and elderly neighbor or the serenity of caring for your body and mapping out the road to living your best life!