For those of us who think the only response to fattening food cravings is to deny them, registered dietitan and cravings counsellor Naomi Orzech has good news.
"We should indulge our cravings," says Orzech. "When we deny ourselves an entire food category, whether it's starch or sweets, we deny our bodies and our minds valuable enjoyment and possibly nutrients."
The key, says Orzech, is to indulge responsibly, use portion control, exercise and keep to a well-balanced diet. Good advice and, for the most part, nothing new to chronic dieters.
Here are Orzech's top 10 ways to beat your food cravings:
1. Put on your "skinny jeans."
It's a lot easier to overeat with a forgiving elastic waistband and stretchy pants. Better to remind yourself why your food cravings can be bad.
2. Distract yourself.
Orzech says even a five-minute distraction is enough to beat your food cravings. Take up a hobby that keeps your hands busy and away from the fridge and your mouth. Try crocheting or paint-by-numbering, anything that you enjoy and that might keep you distracted long enough to forget the last slice of gooey cheese pizza in the fridge.
Say what?!? That's right, indulge. Low-fat and low-calorie substitutes for our favourite sweets and savouries are becoming more popular. Check out your grocery store for healthier alternatives and stock your freezer and pantry with them.
4. Indulge and divert.
Okay, tip number 3 was a bit of dodge. What if, sitting in your pantry, is the best chocolate cake you've ever tasted? In your heart of hearts you know you probably won't stop at a few forkfuls. What to do? Set aside a portion for yourself and take the rest to work for your coworkers to enjoy.
Are you in a red-alert situation, where you know you'll eat the whole cake before you go to work? Desperate times require desperate measures. Have a bite or two and then render the cake inedible. Pour salt over it, or toss it into the garbage.
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5. Beat the binge.
Try eating a very small amount of your favourite food every day. You know you won't be denying yourself indefinitely and that you'll be having more the next day. Nothing brings on a craving harder and faster than an outright ban on a favourite food.
6. Forgive and forget.
The rack of warm chocolate chip cookies was too much for you and you washed a half dozen of them down with cold milk? Don't cry over cookie crumbs and milk. Forgive yourself and plan your way out of the next craving.
7. Variety is the spice of life.
It's also a good way to stave off cravings. A varied diet of carbohydrates, fat and increased fibre will keep you feeling full longer and help you ignore those pesky cravings.
8. Banish temptation.
You won't eat that rack of chocolate chip cookies if you don't bake them. Keep your kitchen free of high-fat, high-calorie foods and stock up on healthy alternatives. Go shopping when you're full and bypass the chips and pop aisle.
9. Freshen up.
That just-brushed feeling can help minimize cravings. If you feel a craving coming on, head to your bathroom and brush your teeth. It's a simple tool, but surprisingly effective.
10. Track your eating habits.
A food journal can be a good way for you to monitor your eating habits and recognize eating/craving/bingeing patterns. Write down everything you eat (and how much of it you eat) and the times you eat. If you notice you're prone to bingeing late at night, prepare a healthy snack and a diverting activity for that time.
Find the tips that work for you and use them!
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