10 Tips for Managing Food Cravings

How many times has this happened to you? After a great start at eating
healthy in an attempt to take charge of your weight, you hear the cookies
begin to call you from the cupboard. Pretty soon, half the box is gone
and, with it, your latest attempts at weight management.

Many people think that only by avoiding high-fat, high-calorie foods entirely will
they ever be able to lose weight and keep it off. Many weight control
programs today even call these foods "addictive" and recommend we give
them up forever. While you think giving up such foods may help you gain
better control over your eating, the truth is you're actually giving up control. Your cravings for the foods you love will remain and may even become stronger. To adopt a healthy eating plan that includes the foods you crave, try these tips:

1. Eat at least three well-balanced meals a day. Even if you're trying
to lose weight, don't skip meals. You'll only be hungrier for the next one,
and cravings between meals can become overwhelming.

2. Give up guilt. Believing you have cheated on your diet and completely
ruined your chances of succeeding produces guilt and feelings of
failure.  Give yourself permission to eat favorite foods in moderation and without

3. Accept food cravings as a normal part of living in a food-oriented
society.  Almost everyone experiences food cravings, regardless of
whether they struggle with their weight. The more you understand your
cravings, the better you will be able to manage them. While you cannot
control the fact that cravings occur, you can control you reaction.

4. Think "management" instead of "control." "Control" implies an
adversarial relationship with food; it's generally a constant struggle
to maintain control. "Management" is much easier. When we manage something,
we work with it to achieve our desired results.

5. Look at cravings as suggestions to eat, not commands to overindulge.
Overeating does not have to be an automatic response to a craving. When
a craving begins, determine how you want to deal with it. It is truly up to you.

6. Believe that cravings will pass. A craving is similar to a wave in
the ocean. It grows in intensity, peaks, and then subsides if you do not
give in.  Picture yourself as a surfer who is trying to "ride the wave,"
instead of being wiped out by it. The more you practice riding the wave,
the easier it will become.

7. Disarm your cravings with the 5 D's. Delay at least 10 minutes before
you eat so that your action is conscious, not impulsive. Distract
yourself by engaging in an activity that requires concentration.
Distance yourself from the food. Determine how important it really is for you to
eat the craved food and how much you really want it. Decide what amount
is reasonable and appropriate, eat it slowly and enjoy!

8. Stop labeling foods as "bad," "illegal," or "forbidden." It's not the
food itself that's the problem, but the quantities you consume and how
often you consume them. You can eat some of anything you want-even if it
is high in fat, calories, or sugar-but to reach your goals, you may not
be able to eat all of everything you want.

9. Aim for moderation instead of abstinence. Avoiding things you fear
only reinforces the fear. Occasionally practice enjoying reasonable
amounts of favorite high-fat or high-calorie foods. You may be happier
and better able to stay with a well-balanced plan for healthy living.

10. Exercise regularly. Just as it is vital to successfully managing
your weight, exercise is key to managing food cravings. In addition to
burning calories, regular exercise may be relief from tension due to anxieties
about food cravings. It's also one way to delay, distance, and distract
yourself from food.