This article is an account of my personal experience on the road to dieting freedom and I’m sharing it in the hope of helping someone else. It does not mean to imply that you should give into a craving for something you are allergic to or something that is not permitted due to a medical condition. (In these situations, please always seek the advice of a medical professional.) It is simply written to impart the coping strategies I feel will help in dealing with every day challenges faced by anyone struggling to lose weight.
So, if you have ever been on a diet or wishing to control your weight you will immediately understand the desperation you feel when a craving strikes. I am not an advocate of dieting or restricting calorie intake but for years (and sometimes even now) I will experience a craving for something and the minute it strikes, I feel like I am unable to concentrate on anything else except the object of my desire!
Over the years, I have come to recognise that cravings are not straight forward and can be categorised into completely different groups. In addition to this, there are times when you may even have to deal with a combination of groups all at the same time! The ones I have personally suffered from are:
- The craving for a specific food – This could be for a chocolate cake, a fully laden pizza, an ice cream etc. The trigger for this is normally in situations where the said item happens to present itself. You could be passing a fast food outlet and smell the delicious aroma it’s omitting or you may hear the sound of an ice-cream van that makes your brain instantly imagine the cool, sweet ice-cream sliding onto your tongue and into your mouth!
- The craving to eat until you are stuffed – This is often the case when you have been restricting food intake. It doesn’t have to be for a prolonged period of time either, no it could just be that you have decided to start a diet one morning and by the evening you are so hungry you could eat a horse!
- The craving to fill an emotional void – You may have suffered an emotional set-back or loss, you may have been turned down for promotion, you may be faced with an unexpected financial liability or you may, quite simply, be having a bad day. The trigger here is that you are carrying some sort of emotional pain that you do not or cannot deal with immediately.
- The under the influence craving – Also known as ‘the munchies’! After a few drinks, your decision making is impaired and you find yourself drawn to quick fix food that tastes great and is instantly available.
- The craving of happiness – This one normally rears its head when you are in social occasions or on holiday. You may even have dieted for the event beforehand and decide to go mad when the time arrives.
- The craving of a social gathering – You are having a meal with friends and are very proud of the fact that you have ordered the healthy options. Then, without warning you find that your friend or friends have ordered hot chocolate fudge pudding or other similar food that you particularly love. This makes you mouth water instantly and a craving rears its ugly head!
With so many categories then, is it any wonder that we can be under attack from a craving almost on a daily basis! What then can we do to arm ourselves to be able to cope with these situations? Thankfully, from years of being under the spell of dieting, I have taught myself how to deal with all of them (not perfectly but adequately so that they do not have an adverse effect on my weight or health) and I really hope that they will help you too:
- Try and avoid the craving – for example, you are fully aware that there is a fast food outlet which is conveniently situated on your walk to work. Each morning, you are confronted with the sight and smell of it, making you instantly desire what it is selling. To turn this situation around, you could walk a different route to work and completely avoid the craving. Admittedly, this is one of the better pieces of advice out there as it is, most times, a viable solution.
- Fight the craving – Give yourself time to adjust and logically evaluate the desire. It’s a bit like when you are in a clothes shop and suddenly come upon an item that is expensive but that you immediately desire. You know you cannot afford it but you want it so badly you are willing to go into debt. You walk around, looking at other things and sometimes, just sometimes, you suddenly lose the desire to purchase it. This can also happen with a food craving, that is, if you decide that you’ll wait say an hour before giving in, you then find that you no longer wish to eat whatever it was that you were previously craving! This method does have a degree of success but, in my experience, it is a method that very rarely works. Nevertheless, consider it when you are vulnerable as different things work for different people.
- Eat something healthy to diffuse your hunger – This is another fairly good solution and I still use it today. The idea is that eating something healthy will alleviate your cravings by reducing hunger. By all means, give it a go. I find that even if I end up eating what I craved for, I can at least be content that I ate something healthy too!
- Change your focus – You can decide to take your mind off the craving by doing something that takes up your time and concentration. Good examples of these would be calling someone, watching a TV show, listening to music or going for a walk. Again, a pretty good solution which does work sometimes.
Last, but certainly not least!! . . .
You may be alarmed to hear this but the solution that has produced the highest success rate for me is this one:
- Give in to the craving!!
Yes, you heard right!! The first law of a craving is ‘Denial awakens Survival’! Put simply, this means that when we decide to deny ourselves the gratification of having the said item/items, all it will achieve is make the craving grow. If you find yourself in any of the above craving situations (or a craving situation unique to you), the worst thing, I believe that you can do is try to deny yourself. Believe me, I have tried. During years of struggle, I read about and experimented with numerous coping strategies but, if I was totally honest with you, I can confirm that the success rate of these was very low compared to this strategy. For me, any kind of denial or avoidance normally resulted in me eating twice as much as I was originally planning to.
You see by giving in, by having what you desire, you actually, over time, make the craving for it smaller and smaller. The entire problem with a craving is that your mind blows the desire for it out of all proportion and this makes it grow stronger and stronger! When you actually allow yourself to have it, the desire reduces. It really does work because I am living and breathing proof of it!
Written by Sherry Taylor
Author of The Anti-Diet Lifestyle