Kicking cravings can be as tough as any other bad habit. They can be so constant and in some cases nearly impossible to resist. Some people have likened it to quitting smoking cold turkey. It takes time, but if you can strategize and plan for these cravings, the likelihood of success is greater than using a step-down plan. Eliminating most cravings is a matter of situational awareness. How do you get through a craving without waking up face down in an empty jar of Nutella?
1. Wait it out. Take ten minutes and find a distraction. Take a walk. Sweep the floor. Meditate. Stretch. Drink water. Junk food cravings are not real. It will pass, so stay busy until it does.
2. Do not keep trigger foods in the house, not even the single-serving packs. It is harder to give into a craving if it means a trip to the grocery store to get it. Besides, who only eats eight tiny, cardboard-tasting chocolate wafers at a time? Save your money and your waistline.
3. Avoid situations that bring on cravings. If you can manage to go grocery shopping after a meal (I personally cannot lest I come home with only two bananas and a bag of carrots), do that. Pack a healthy snack for work and do not keep change for vending machines available. It is possible to politely turn down offerings from co-workers; tell them it looks wonderful and move away without taking any. Order Chinese take-out and box up half instead of having a meal at the buffet.
4. Find healthier choices. When the mid-afternoon slump hits, eat a healthy snack with a mixture of protein, carbohydrates and fat. Fresh fruit paired with low-fat dairy like yogurt, string cheese or cottage cheese will balance out blood sugar levels and increase alertness through the end of the day.
5. Focus on short and long-term goals. While a couple of Oreos or a handful of Doritos will not blow a meal plan, mindlessly reaching for snack food to take the edge off of fatigue, stress or boredom can add up to hundreds of extra calories each day. Since no one wants to think about working out 30 more minutes a day to counteract a couple of cookies, return to #1 and wait it out.
As always, with any new habit, it will take time and energy for it to become second nature to recognize and hold cravings in check. Anger and guilt are two huge barriers to permanent weight loss so do not give up or feel bad about occasional dietary slip-ups. Resolve and refocus on being as aware and as health-minded as possible.