Friday, June 17, 2011

How to curb food cravings: 6 things you can do right now.

If you’re a woman between the ages of 18 and 35, you’re a slave to your cravings.  Food psychologists at the University of Pennsylvania singled out that particular female demographic as having the biggest problem reining in their edible whims. They also found that 90 percent of the time, those whims are for chocolate.

In fact, the most popularly craved foods are 30 percent higher in fat than healthy grub and 50 percent lower in protein. But they feel so good going down. That’s because commonly craved foods, like chocolate, release dopamine, activating your brain’s pleasure center.

In simple terms, cravings are the saboteurs of your perfectly planned diet. They strike when you’re at your most relaxed and they can drive you crazy unless you know how to curb them.

The good news is that they can be conquered in six simple steps. And no, attaching an alarm to your fridge isn’t one of them.

Step 1: Spread your calories throughout the day. Cravings aren’t always born out of hunger but if your stomach is slightly growling, it can make for a convenient excuse to indulge. If you graze lightly throughout the day instead of heaping on the massive portions during mealtime, you’re less likely to rationalize that mid-day bag of chips.

Step 2: Stay distracted. Cravings come, on average, in 15-minute intervals, so if you’re hankering for a hunk of cheese, get busy. Send out that email you’ve been meaning to tackle or spend some time getting lost in a blog. Studies show visual distractions are highly effective in fighting thoughts of food, so use the time to cater to some eye-candy.

Step 3: Give your tongue a treat, not your stomach. Keep breath mints or dissolving strips handy in case of emergencies. They’ll activate your sense of taste and smell, without adding unneeded calories.

Step 4: Create a mantra. If a plate of cookies is beckoning, tell it who’s boss. State your intention: “I will not eat this plate of cookies.”  Repeat it at least three times until it becomes a fact. Research shows that declarations of intention increase will power. And that’s exactly what you need to call in for backup when cravings get the best of you.

Step 5: Go ahead and indulge, lightly. We never fully outgrow our inner child, and parents know the cardinal rule with kids is when you say they can’t have something, they want it more. Same goes for your own cravings. The more you deny yourself sweets, the more you’ll want them. Sweets shouldn’t be completely taboo, but they should be considered the occasional reward, enjoyed in bites not boxes.

Step 6: Keep it brief. So you’ve caved into that piece of cake. All is not lost. Try to limit your indulgence to a few bites, savoring the flavor and texture but avoiding the complete annihilation of the objet desir. The satisfaction of tasting your treat will be intense at first but researchers have found that pleasure decreases dramatically after the first few bites. So savor the first few bites slowly and then stop yourself before your start destroying the evidence through your stomach.  

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