What should you do when you have a fierce craving for something sweet?
My advice is:
You should feed your craving
I hope you didn’t think this blog would be a list of suggestions for substitutions to curb your cravings. I’m a firm believer in eating what you want because the more you resist and substitute, the more power you give to the food you crave. It’s the power you take away from yourself and give to food that upsets your weight and fitness goals. And let’s face it, if you crave it, you will eventually give into the craving.
Physical activity makes your muscles stronger and you get fitter. Eating your crave foods in balance and moderation is a kind of strength training too. The more you do it, the better able you will be to navigate a world full of tempting foods and maintaining your weight and fitness goals simultaneously.
The reality is that sweets and food are a major part of our environment. They’re in our houses, offices, and automobiles. Images of food are almost always in front of your eyes. TV, magazines, billboards, and on signs in front of fast food restaurants and convenience stores. It’s everywhere and we can’t hide. Learning how to manage it is your best defense. Have your cake and your healthy weight too!
You might be making your “molehill cravings” into “weight-gaining mountains”
The more you deny a craving, the larger it grows. Trying to assuage it by feeding it something else doesn’t work, it backfires. As you eat everything but what you crave you eat calories from foods you didn’t really even want. Then when you give into the craving, you don’t eat just a little, but too much! Your calorie deficit necessary for losing weight turns into a calorie surplus, which is what causes weight gain.
Generally a craving is for a food that makes you feel uncomfortable in some way.
You crave it because you think about eating it often and think you should not to eat it ever.
It could be guilt because you think you shouldn’t eat junk food. It might be fear because you think it’s a red-light food that will trigger an out-of-control eating episode that could last for a day, several days, or months or even years.
So there are two things that need to be addressed. (1) is feeling guilty about eating certain foods and (2) is fearing some foods have a supernatural power over you to make you do things you don’t want to do.
Let’s start with guilt associated with eating certain foods.
I really hate the food labels “junk food.” I discuss real junk foods in my blog, 5 Foods You Should Never Eat. If food isn’t spoiled, it’s not junk! Your food choices don’t reveal your moral character. Eating foods loaded with sugar and added fats isn’t wrong, bad, weak, and it’s not unhealthy when eaten as part of a healthful diet. But if you have been conditioned to think that it is, it’s hard to indulge without guilt.
It’s the guilt that’s wrong, not eating things you enjoy.
What about trigger foods?
Do you think eating some foods is a sure way to know you’re going to get in trouble with overeating?
You are a living being with thoughts that drive your actions. Food is an inanimate object (that tastes delicious but nonetheless is inanimate.) You can decide when and how much food to eat. The food can’t force you to do anything against your will. Overeating isn’t triggered by the food but rather by your expectation that you will overeat.
You may already have discovered that ignoring cravings often has an unwanted side effect – a huge binge. Eating a calorie-reduced version doesn’t work well either.
Your best bet could be a small amount of the real thing. If it was chocolate you crave try eating a small bit of your favorite chocolate.
Here are 4 steps that lead to managed cravings
1. Usually cravings aren’t about being hungry so much as identifying a certain food “have to have for no other reason than you really enjoy it.”
Take your time to identify exactly what you’re craving. If it’s vague, you may be craving something other that food such as a way to deal with an emotion. Emotional driven eating and cravings are not the same thing.
2. Eating a balanced diet of nutritiously dense foods that have a low energy density you are in a good position to indulge a craving without an adverse effect on your weight-related goals.
You might be aware of what happens when you go grocery shopping on an empty stomach. You’re more likely to be tempted to buy things that weren’t on your list. Food looks tastier and it’s harder to resist temptation on an empty stomach. The principle is similar with cravings. If you’re not hungry you can stop after a small serving, but when you’re very hungry you may eat fast and much more than you needed to satisfy the craving.
3. Planning to indulge your craving can make it even more satisfying because you’re eating what you want and feeling strong, powerful and capable of controlling the episode.
Decide what you want. Know how much you need to be satisfied. Figure out how it will fit into your food plan. Eat it in slowly, in control and with confidence.
4. Giving into a craving as an impulse is possible, especially if you aren’t very hungry or feeling deprived.
You’ll use the same strategies as a planned indulgence, but you do it on the fly. That means you need to review what you already ate so far and what you will be eating later. Then you make your plan to slip in the indulgence. Don’t forget that you can make more room for an unplanned indulgence by increasing your physical activity.
So next time you crave something sweet, figure out what that sweet thing is your craving and go for it as part of your overall healthy diet.