Cravings for foods can seem to come out of nowhere. One minute you feel satisfied and the next you feel like your whole body is begging for a few chips, cookies or cake. Don’t let your emotions hijack your logic; try following these five steps to conquer your cravings.
Step 1. When you have a craving, delay eating for 10 minutes.
Rather than telling yourself no, tell yourself to wait. Grab your phone and set a timer!
Step 2. Reflect on and identify what's truly behind your craving.
Over the following 10 minutes, take a few moments to reflect. Be honest with yourself and dig deep! Ask yourself:
- Why do I want to eat this?
- How am I feeling? Is something bothering me or is there something I need to do or face that I’m avoiding? What’s triggering my desire to eat? Are there emotions behind my craving?
- Am I truly hungry? Think about the cues of emotional eating versus physical hunger. Emotional hunger comes on suddenly, is overwhelming and craves a specific food. Physical hunger comes on gradually, doesn't demand instant satisfaction and craves any type of food. The more aware you are of your hunger cues, the more in tune you become with what your body is telling you.
If you’re truly hungry, eat. Aim for something healthy. If you recognize that you're not actually hungry, and you're driven to eat in response to emotion, keep reading!
Step 3. Write down when the urge came on, the specific food you were craving, your mood and what you were doing when the craving struck.
Logging helps track your patterns, holds you accountable and can prevent emotional excuses from taking control. You can do this in an existing diary or journal, keep track on your computer, or if you’re looking for a method already organized and tailored to you, try our FfL food log that is designed specifically for emotional eating.
Step 4. Try an alternative to eating that fulfills you emotionally.
Now that you've jotted down your patterns, try shifting your mindset away from food by doing something that fulfills you emotionally. Consider keeping a list so when a craving really kicks in you can make a different choice without hesitation. Consider different environments, such as home versus work, and different emotions, such as sadness versus stress.
If you’re bored, anxious or stressed:
- Chew some minty gum. (This may sound silly, but it can have a similar effect on your psyche as eating and can alleviate stress.)
- Pamper yourself! Treat yourself to some hot tea, a face mask, a manicure or meditation to let some feel-good vibes flow.
- If you’re bored, do something to keep your mind busy, such as a project, hobby or even cleaning!
If you’re sad or lonely:
- Call someone who uplifts you.
- Read a few pages of an uplifting or funny book.
- Write an encouraging card to someone special. It’s not just a saying, gratitude truly does encourage a positive attitude.
- Journal about it.
If you’re tired:
- Brush your teeth. (Again, this may sound silly, but it may just do the trick.)
- Get up, take a walk, work out, just get moving! Fitness releases feel-good endorphins.
- Listen to some of your favorite feel-good music.
If you struggle at work:
- Avoid trigger areas as much as possible, such as vending machines, the break room or cafeteria.
- Keep a healthy alternative around that you can eat instead.
If you absolutely can't control the urge to eat, these genius swaps will satisfy your cravings with more nutritious, real-food options.
Step 5. If you still struggle with control, get rid of your favorite comfort foods.
Think about it. Do you have a go-to comfort food that you crave when you eat emotionally? If the answer is yes, you may want to consider removing it from your pantry, at least until you get a handle on the emotional aspect of things. Rather than blacklisting the food, enjoy it in a controlled environment, such as at a restaurant. If you struggle with foods that are accessible at work, keep healthy snacks around that you can grab instead. Even though you may still eat emotionally, at least you’ll choose a healthier option.
It may sound rough, but when your comfort foods aren’t readily available, you have a better chance of saying no to emotional eating.
In a nutshell...
- When you have a craving, delay eating for 10 minutes.
- Reflect on and identify why you want to eat and if you're truly hungry.
- Write down when the urge came on, the specific food you were craving, your mood and what you were doing when the craving struck. If you’re looking for a method already organized and tailored to you, try our FfL food log that is designed specifically for emotional eating.
- Try an alternative to eating that fulfills you emotionally.
- Remove your favorite comfort foods from your home and enjoy them in a controlled environment.
If emotional eating is something you've struggled with, our proven system Break Free from Emotional Eating will help you get to the root of the unhealthy eating patterns so you can reclaim your life from the trap of chronic dieting and deprivation for good.