Fight Your Cravings

The first 12 weeks of any new training program are your ‘resistance phase’, your mind and body are to not on the same team, your mind wants a healthier lifestyle and your body just wants to be left alone!

It’s normal to have visions of your guilty pleasure floating through your head, what you might not realize though, is that many of your daily habits, like skimping on breakfast or browsing the internet can strengthen your hankerings and weaken your willpower.

“Cravings”—such a dirty word when you’re trying to lose weight or keep it off. No matter what your “I-want-it-now” food is, magwinya, burgers or cupcakes, you probably wrestle with what you want to do (eat it now!) with what you “should” do (go eat veggies).

Maybe you’re not hungry in the morning, but having a nibble now can keep cravings at bay later. You nourish your body with important nutrients, such as amino acids, vitamins and minerals when you eat protein in the morning, protein helps the body build and repair tissues. It also assists the body in fighting infection, generating hormones and forming enzymes.

Researchers aren’t exactly sure why, but protein may help stimulate the release of dopamine, a neurochemical involved in the brain’s reward centres that can help manage cravings. A half-cup of cottage cheese, 2 hard-boiled eggs, or a cup of cooked oatmeal with two tablespoons of peanut butter will do the trick.

Craving sugar? Try eating a bowl of super-sweet sliced strawberries. What about chips? Crunch on salted, in-shell pistachios. Substituting what you’re jonesing for with a similar-tasting healthy equivalent should be enough to satisfy you.

Can’t get your hand out of the bag of cheesy chips? If you don’t understand why and can’t do anything about it, keep a cravings journal. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, just jot down a few notes on your phone. When some craving hits, log your emotions: you’re tired, anxious, stressed, bored. Eventually, you’ll pick out common patterns, and you can deal with the causes head on, rather than trying to eat as a solution.

Satisfy your yearning and still eating healthy by pairing a larger portion of healthy foods with a small amount of what you think you want, it makes meals more fun and tasty, but still gives your body the nutrition it needs to function at its best, a “vice-virtue bundle.” Order the salad with grilled salmon with a side of chips or get a piece of grilled chicken and veggies and share dessert. Fill up on the good stuff, and eat a quarter to half a portion of the splurge.

It’s your friend’s birthday and there is cake. If you eat a slice, will you feel joyous or wracked with guilt? Delighting in delicious food rather than feeling shame about eating it may be key. Control your eating habits by enjoying the celebration and having a small piece. One reason? Feeling guilty may make you try to ignore your thoughts, a strategy that backfires, causing you to obsess over the cake even more.

Straight-up willpower doesn’t always work. It leads people to feeling like failures when they give in. Winning strategy? Distraction! One study found that three minutes spent playing the game Tetris reduced the strength of food cravings better than a control condition where people spent the same amount of time waiting around. A 15-minute walk can also help reduce chocolate cravings, reports a 2013 UK study. Since cravings usually don’t stick around long, you just need to stick it out momentarily.

The mental battle between you and the box of cookies in the pantry does not have to be fought every day. Out of sight, out of mind. If it’s 9 p.m. and you want a cookie, you’re probably not going to go out and get some, however, if they’re staring you in the face every time you open the pantry, it’s all too easy to grab one.

You’ve got good intentions: to eat well, you tell yourself that the doughnut is off limits or the burger is sinful or a “bad” food. But your perception matters. Dieters have more intense and harder-to-resist cravings than non-dieters or people who are just trying to maintain their weight, particularly for their off-limits foods. When you deny yourself foods you love all the time, it will build up and explode,turning ‘cheat meal’ into ‘cheat day or weekend’! Allowing yourself a little something every day, whether you’re looking to lose weight or not, can help take the power away from your cravings.

Grilled cheese? Fudge-topped ice-cream? Pizza? Food porn is fun to look at, but don’t be shocked when suddenly you’re struck with a desire to run to the nearest fast food restaurant or ice cream parlour. Images of high-calorie foods spark more activity in the reward areas of the brain than photos of low-calorie fare. There are plenty of health bloggers out there who create delicious-looking-but-nutritious food, so if you can’t resist food porn, at least follow people who post pics of healthy eats.

Tiger Athletic Fitness & Conditioning motivates, assesses, trains and educates clients in a private, appointment only, personal trainer led facility providing an extraordinary simple, efficient and effective 50-minute workout in the heart of Sandton!

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