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Help! I’m craving….

We all have cravings. When you’re trying to watch what you’re eating, whether you’re counting calories or just cutting back on things like sugar, preservatives, whatever, it’s still hard to curb those cravings. But there are ways to indulge or to divert those cravings with healthier choices. The hardest part is those first few weeks of trying to NOT eat something or eat a lot less of it. For instance, in December of 2010, I decided I was going to eat healthier, watch my calories, and I started running. Now, all went pretty well because I was motivated. However, I have always had a sweet tooth. Not many people don’t, I know. But when you’re trying to cut back on sweets, you feel like you’re the only one who could possibly know what that feels like to NEED your dessert. That’s it, you need it. It IS like an addiction. So you have to treat it like one. First, recognize that it’s going to be difficult. Now, accept that you may have moments of weakness. That does not make it a failure. Any time you have a bad day of eating or a few days of no workout, don’t fall of the wagon. Just jump right back in. A few moments of weakness doesn’t mean that your journey is over.

Once your mind is in the right place, it’s time to start working on cutting back or eliminating those things you crave. Now, if you’re craving broccoli…then please, keep on eating it! But for those of us that crave junk food, read on.

First, recognize when your cravings set in. To do this, keep a food journal. Write down everything you eat, and at what time. You may also write down things that were going on or what you were feeling when you ate certain things. This can be helpful if you’re an emotional eater. You can identify those triggers this way and start to divert the attention to another habit. After keeping a journal for a few days you will likely start seeing where your weaknesses are. Perhaps you already know yours. You may not need a journal to identify it. But for some people, those weaknesses are hidden, you can convince yourself they don’t exist or they aren’t that bad. For me, I was eating dessert after every dinner. But I was failing to realize that the random sweets I ate throughout the day amounted to as much as they did. So, maybe I had a cookie after lunch. Maybe I had a piece of dark chocolate after that. And then I may even have another cookie when I get home. I mean, one cookie can’t hurt, right? And then my usual dessert after dinner because, well, that’s usual. Writing all of it down and seeing it stare me in the face was enlightening.

But how can I overcome these cravings, you may ask? Well, for some people, cold turkey is the best way. Sounds simple. It’s not, really. First, you have to get rid of all temptations, get it all out of your pantry and freezer and your desk at work. You also have to have a powerful motivation to succeed here. A good motivator is to know that after a few weeks of cold turkey, your habit WILL be broken. It’s sort of a detoxing process. Your body craves something, like I mentioned earlier, like an addiction. Stopping that indulgence can be difficult in the beginning. You may experience mood swings, headaches, or other symptoms of that nature. If you can get through that part and get past it, you will get over those cravings.

Some folks can’t go cold turkey. Understandable. For those people, I recommend a replacement and weaning technique. Get rid of the REALLY bad indulgences from your kitchen and replace with LESS bad things. Start paying attention to serving sizes and you’ll have cut your intake already. So if brownies and cookies are your thing, get rid of them. Go out and get some replacements such as reduced sugar ice cream & light chocolate syrup. And actually measure out the serving sizes. This will start to help you teach yourself control over portions. Go get chocolate graham crackers (or regular ones), get sugar free chocolate pudding, Bear Naked chocolate chip cookies, and so on. As long as you’re actually replacing what you’d normally eat with one of these types of *better* things, you’re reducing your intake and also slowing weaning yourself from expecting the really awful things. This technique can be tricky. You still have to pay very good attention to how much of these replacements you’re eating. You may subconsciously eat more since you know it’s *better* for you. Keep writing everything in your food journal so you can watch it. And really, measure out those serving sizes and stick to it, it will help you control it.

Finally, when it comes to weaning yourself off of the *better* options, you can start with eating only one of your indulgences per day. A lot of this is mental, so if you’re trying to stop eating, say dessert after lunch and just want to keep it to eating it after dinner, you may need to find something else to DO after lunch. Replacing that time with something else, if you will. So maybe after lunch you go walk the dog now. Or you read a book for 10 minutes. Anything to keep your mind off of it for a few minutes and start a new habit in it’s place.

Eventually, if you want to cut it ALL out, you’d just repeat that weaning step again for any remaining servings you have been eating. For me, I eventually quit eating dessert after dinner. That was hard since I’d done it for so many years. I ended up replacing dessert with a workout. May sound crazy to you, but trust me, it’s not. Once you get ‘hooked’ on a workout and you really love it, you will WANT to do it. It’s a perfect opportunity to use that workout to replace another bad habit! That feeling you get after a great workout, one that was fun and taxing, it’s actually a type of high. It produces a new addiction. A good one. So go for it!

So tell me, have you had any experiences in trying to break a craving or a habit? How did it work out? Are you trying to break one now?

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