Weighty Matters

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Curbing Cravings

on July 6, 2013

I ran across an article online today at ABC News entitled 9 Ways to Curb Food Cravings.  It has some useful tips, I think, and I particularly like these two:  Plan on Giving In and Go Gourmet.

According to fitness trainer Jillian Michaels (Best known for Biggest Loser), if you completely deprive your sweet tooth, you set yourself up for a binge later.  She suggests allotting up to a fifth of your daily calorie allowance to your chosen sweet.  Her choice is Paul Newman’s Organic Peanut Butter Cups at 180 calories a pack.

That means that on my 1000 calories a day food plan I could have 200 calories a day in chocolate.

Under Go Gourmet, Janis Jibrin, MS, RD, the lead nutritionist at TheBestLife.com suggests that ordinary, run of the mill treats leave us unsatisfied so we should opt instead for really good stuff — a terrific cookie, high quality chocolate, a premium potato chip.  I honestly believe there’s a lot to this particular idea.  A few years ago, friends sent me a package of Bissinger’s Chocolates from St. Louis.  Hand to God, this is the best chocolate I have ever eaten.  There were 30 pieces of dark chocolate with either 60% or 70% cacao.  They were so good that I actually savored each one and limited myself to a single piece a day for the next month.

If you’d ever seen how I previously plowed through a bag of M&Ms, which I love, you would scoff at the thought that I had any chance of stretching out those Bissinger’s treats for 30 hours, let alone 30 days, but I did.  I think I’ll order myself some and revisit that success.

I know my mindset.  There have been many days when I’ve been on my way home from work and started to crave some sort of sweet treat.  If getting the treat would require me stopping in at a store, I often can successfully divert myself if I remember that I have some sort of thing that I like at home, whether it’s fat free pudding, no sugar added Italian ice, or even really good fresh fruit.

I have never dealt well with the thought of eternal deprivation.  In my years in OA, I knew without a doubt that I would never make as one of the people who completely abstained from sugar and/or white flour.  The mere thought of saying, “Never” makes me want something more.  The trick is to find my balance.  I think if I know that I have really excellent chocolate waiting for me at home, I can withstand any other carb, sugar or chocolate temptation.  Remembering that first Bissinger’s experience gives me hope that I can actually adjust my relationship with chocolate into something that doesn’t damage my recovery but actually helps strengthen it long term.  We shall see!

There were several other suggestions on that list from saving our candy wrappers to faux frying to picturing ourselves at our goal.  Excellent suggestions on all counts and ones that I want to keep front of mind as I go through the days.  I really, really want to hit my goal weight before my two year surgiversary.  I’m rallying my internal forces and techniques and reminding myself every day that I want my recovery more than I want to eat off plan.   That said, I’m human.  I get cravings.  Anything that I can do to curb them and set myself up for success will be a very good thing indeed.

If you’d like to read the entire article, click here for the ABC News site.  It also originally appeared on Health.com.

What foods do you crave?  Are you into chocolate and sugar?  Carbs?  Salty snacks?  Fats?   When you get a craving, do you have any great suggestions for constructively dealing with it?  Please share!

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3 responses to “Curbing Cravings

  1. pinkpelican says:

    Catching up on old posts. 🙂

    Sweets are generally a downfall for me. Sometimes I want something salty – chips, what have you. Some days I’m better about derailing the craving than other days.

    Some of the tricks I’ve used to help control the cravings include:
    — drink some flavored water, instead. Often, what I want is flavor itself, not actually food. So sometimes, low/no calorie flavor additions to water will help me.
    — set a time goal. By that, I mean I’ll tell myself to wait for 15 minutes, 30 minutes, an hour … I rather think my doctor & nutritionist frown on snacks, but I’ve learned that I’m going to want snacks between meals, so if I can set certain times for those snacks and make myself adhere to them, I control how I react to cravings.
    — monitor calories. If I’m doing well with my calories for that day, then I can sometimes make a mindful choice to indulge, knowing it’s not going to throw me too far out of balance. If I also re-evaluate my main meal choices (say, if I was originally going to have corn for dinner with chicken, I can decide to substitute brussels sprouts or green beans – veggies I enjoy but with fewer carbs, to help balance out the carbs I choose to indulge in).
    — monitor my choices about snacks. I like sweets. I’ve found that making my own trail mix helps me choose somewhat healthier sweets. I like the Publix deluxe mixed nuts (cashews, almonds, macadamias, pecans, & hazelnuts) or a Fresh Market blend (cashews, pistachios, hazelnuts, almonds) mixed with ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate chips & (if I’m in a fruity mood) chopped dates. This way, I get protein from the nuts as well as the carbs from the chips & fruits; I get some fiber from the fruits if I use them. I use a good quality chocolate. This will often satisfy my sweet tooth. (Of course, then I have to remember not to go face first into the trail mix & eat all of it in one sitting.)
    — make sure I have good alternatives. I try to keep fresh strawberries in the fridge at work. I will add some sugar to them, because I like the extra little bit of sweetness, but in the quantities I eat, it doesn’t add much to the calorie/carb count. So I still get something sweet, but there’s still nutritional value and overall the calories are a lot lower than some other sweets.
    — I try to get enough exercise in to balance indulgences. I’ve reached a point where I’m generally maintaining my weight. Even if I can’t get a lot of exercise in on the day I indulge, I try to find a balance throughout the week. Some days I get busy enough that I don’t eat snacks at all; some days I do a huge amount of exercise; some days I’m a noshing machine & a lazy slug. The trick there is to balance out exercise & eating over a reasonable time frame. Since I “officially” weigh in once a week, I have a daily and a weekly balance that I work on.
    — For some treats, I know I simply can’t indulge them regularly. Say, cinnamon crunch bagels from Panera. So those are things I keep back for extra special occasions or days when I know I’m doing huge amounts of exercising (the day I walked 13.25 miles to see if I *could* – I knew I could have the bagel that day).
    — Staying busy. I have cravings especially at night. I want dessert after dinner, even if I’ve had sweets during the day. If I can keep myself busy (playing with the baby, doing an art project, running around doing chores, going out for a walk, etc.), I can distract myself from the cravings.
    — Timing, again. In light of the evening cravings — I’ve also found if I eat after about 8:30, I get a little heartburn, so I’m trying very hard to teach myself that food after 8:30 = pain, and that the pain is worse than the little rush from the sugar. In light of that, if I can push dinner back a little later in the evening, say 7:30 or so, I should be full enough that when the initial craving starts, I can make myself wait until I’m comfortable enough to eat, and then hopefully it’ll be getting into that time frame where if I eat it will hurt.
    — Knowing my weaknesses. I love noshie appetizer food (savory & sweet), so if I’m going to a party or a wedding or such, where there will be lots of such food, it’s important that I know in advance. The problem with noshies is that they are small enough that you can graze mindlessly on them all day long without filling your stomach like you would with a full meal. I can suck down ungodly amounts of calories. Knowing this is an issue for me, I either need to eat enough prior to going to the party to make grazing uncomfortable, OR I need to give myself permission to graze that day and schedule extra exercise or make a plan for lower calories in the days before & after that day.
    — Forgiveness. I’m going to fail, I’m going to indulge, some days more than I should. If I do, I have to be willing to move past it without regrets or guilt. It’s a problem if I do it constantly. But, if I can let myself be human every now and again I can avoid the mindset of “I suck, therefore there’s no point, therefore I will eat more brownies so I don’t feel so awful, and suddenly there are no brownies left & I’m depressed and going to the store for more brownie mix …” I agree with Jillian Michaels there. Total deprivation doesn’t work, and hating yourself for failure is tied to total deprivation.

    How’s that for some long windedness? Didn’t you miss me? Snort. 🙂

  2. Skye says:

    For me it’s sugar. And only since I’ve been in my 30s. Before that, I liked food well enough but didn’t have any problems with it. In my 30s it became my comfort due to a lot of stuff.

    I do agree on the gourmet thing, especially for treats. If I have a really good truffle, for example, I can eat it very, very slowly and sensuously and feel completely satisfied afterward. The cheap stuff doesn’t do the same for me and I generally find myself wanting more. And I tend to eat the good stuff more mindfully, which also allows time and space for more satisfaction and less mindless consuming. I can get more enjoyment out of a small bowl of Haagen Dazs vanilla ice cream than I can out of a pint of a brand that doesn’t use such high-quality ingredients.

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