The battle against cravings

29 03 2011
Sean Fitzpatrick

Sean Fitzpatrick

Individuals who have just started the weight management program often report that they have taken steps to help improve their chances of eating a healthy diet. Getting rid of certain foods like potato chips, cookies, chocolate bars, and avoiding temptations such as fast food restaurants and the office break room are common behaviors that participants practice. These are great steps to take! However, to steal a question from Amy: “Is this something you could see yourself doing in five years, in ten years, for the rest of your life?” My guess is most people who enjoy desserts, snacks, or eating out won’t be able to go the rest of their life without these things. Plus, as most of us have learned: “when we tell ourselves we’ll NEVER have something, we find ourselves ALWAYS wanting it!”

The key is figuring out how to allow indulgences from time to time. For many people the above behaviors of ridding the house of tempting foods is a great and often needed strategy. This may be true for you if you’ve just started the program and learning how to make the various lifestyle changes that are needed for success. However, if you’ve been in the program for a while you may have become better at controlling your portions and realizing that EVERYONE slips up from time to time. This transition from avoidance to moderation is a critical moment that most people, unfortunately, don’t prepare for. This is why many of the “trend” diets do not work. Individuals reach their goals, then stop their diet and go back to their previous eating habits and gain weight back. With some insight, practice, and some useful strategies it is possible to break this weight loss-weight regain cycle.

One great strategy is to avoid all or nothing thinking. Many people think that they either have to have NO ice cream or A LOT of ice cream. They neglect the notion that there are amounts in-between. It is possible to just have a little. This level of self-control can be hard at first. So take steps to increase the likelihood that you can eat smaller portions: use smaller plates, bowls, or glasses; instead of buying a gallon of ice cream or a family size portion of chips, buy a pint or individual servings; avoid eating where you know you may not pay attention to how much you’re eating, in front of the TV for example. Don’t believe the advertisements that say “you can’t just have one.” Sometimes, one or two bites will satisfy the worst cravings.

Lastly, if you’re going to treat yourself to something you enjoy, really enjoy it! All too often when we’re craving something sweet or salty we reach for whatever is available and then end up feeling bad that we just ate a day old doughnut in the office or mediocre popcorn at the movies. This feeling of regret can often leads people to view the whole day as a loss and that one moment of weakness quickly spirals into a few hundred calories. Instead, plan ahead. Plan to share a bowl of your favorite ice cream with your kids or share an order of favorite French fries with your friends. If you plan these occasions ahead of time you’ll not only enjoy them more, you may also find that you will have fewer cravings beforehand. You are in control. Give it a shot!

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