Most of us human beings are not perfect. If you're one of those rare specimens of utter perfection, feel free to stop reading this blog and spend the next five minutes patting yourself on the back. The rest of you, please read on...
Although we prefer to stick to our diets--and rarely stumble along the way--once in a while, a craving comes along.
Who knows why? It could be our hormones are raging. Perhaps we didn't get enough sleep, or did an extra-strenuous workout, or watched too much Food Network. Cravings can also be the result of dietary insufficiency--you might be low in a particular vitamin or mineral. (I used to crave chocolate all the time, which is high in magnesium. Now that I take magnesium consistently, I never crave chocolate! Go figure!)
When those dastardly cravings hit, what choices do you have?
Here are a few options:
1) Go for it! If you've been sticking to your diet like glue for weeks, or even months, and you've been losing weight, it might be time for treat. As long as this treat will not derail your diet, throw you off your game, cause a major binge, or make you lose all control, taking a break now and then could be the best choice for you. (If you've been following a strict low-calorie plan, an occasional high-calorie treat might even jumpstart your weight loss.) You have to know yourself well in order to make this decision. If one bite of pizza or chocolate cake will cause you to consume an entire pie or layer cake, opt for a different solution.
2) Fight fire with water. In fact, water is a great place to start. Many times, when we think we're hungry, it is actually thirst. Drink a large glass of water, wait 20 minutes, and reassess. Are you still craving something? Then consume a large but healthy meal that will fill you up and keep you satisfied for a good long while. Long enough to outlast this craving! Try something with lots of fiber, like a big salad, as well as protein (maybe a steak?) and plenty of good fats (salad dressing made from extra virgin olive oil, for example). Make sure you include lots of yummy stuff on your salad, like toasted nuts, crumbled cheese, dried or fresh berries, whatever floats your boat. Eat slowly so your brain has plenty of time to register fullness.
3) Transform your craving. Let's say you want a burger and fries, but you can't afford to eat a thousand (or more!) calories in one sitting. Take the burger off the bun, pair it with a side salad, and skip the fries. Maybe add a few oven-roasted potato wedges. (Or ask your partner to order the fries and give you one or two. Only!) You get the essence of the burger, minus the refined flour in the bun, and no excess carbs.
4) Go tiny. If you're craving chocolate chip cookies, purchase only one. Or google a recipe for how to bake a single cookie. (This is a real thing, I swear. Or make a single mug cake. I have several recipes for microwave mug cakes on this blog.) Pair it with a cold glass of milk (for added protein, calcium, and vitamins) to help fill you up. Avoid buying (or baking) entire cakes, pies, dozens of cookies, or Costco-sized megaton packages of chips. Figure that you are probably going to eat anything you purchase or make, so keep it small and under control.
5) Try distraction. Go for a walk, play a game, watch a movie, read a book, take a nap, paint a picture, darn your socks, do anything that removes you from the vicinity of the item you crave. If you constantly crave naughty treats when you sit in front of the TV, try a different activity until your craving passes.
I believe eating a well-balanced and varied diet which includes all the nutrients your body needs will, over time, help to lessen cravings. If you are facing a difficult stretch, including intense cravings, do not hesitate to reach out for support. A mentor or a weight loss coach can help guide you through those tough times without sacrificing all the hard work you've already put in. Please get in touch if you're looking for such support!