OK, we all have it…that uncontrollable craving for a salty chip, a sweet piece of chocolate, or a creamy piece of cheesecake. We all have what I call the “wicked hours,” those hours when it becomes VERY difficult to say no to the unhealthy food craving. For many this happens after dinner, the “late night snack,” for me, the 3pm hour is when I have my “snack attack.” I eat a significant and healthy breakfast every day, usually a salad for lunch (with some form of protein), but after school pick up we come home and I’m making snacks for the kids and I just can’t contain myself! I usually go for the crunchy, salty stuff, and I try to keep it “healthy;” a handful of nuts, small piece of cheese, then an apple, some “healthy” chips, literally whatever I can get my hands on. Ugh! I hate it because I feel like I can’t control it, and the only way to avoid it is to bypass the kitchen completely (but then my 8 year old is always STARVING after school and I’m usually making him snacks to take to hockey). Maybe I’ll pay my 13 year old to do this little chore for me! Ha!
In an attempt to understand it all, I discovered there are 2 kinds of hunger: physical hunger and emotional hunger. When you are physically hungry, your body sends a signal to the brain, saying it’s time to eat. This signal comes with physical symptoms, like the feeling of an empty stomach, stomach rumblings and even the feeling of light-headedness. Emotional hunger, however, does not come with physical cues. We eat when we are sad, angry, depressed, happy, anxious, or stressed. Not surprisingly, some of the foods that comforted you as a child still do to this day. This is where the notion of “comfort foods” comes from.
I found these helpful strategies, the 4 D’s.
Delay giving in to your craving for 15 minutes, it will often subside.
Distract yourself from thinking about food by engaging in an activity that requires concentration; phone a friend, read a book, write a blog (haha, that one is for me!), even watch TV in another room or go on your office computer.
Distance yourself from the kitchen and from the food you crave. Go for a walk, take the dog out. This one works well for me at nighttime; after dinner I clean the kitchen and turn the lights off and go to my bedroom and immediately brush my teeth (yes, at 7pm, it works!)
Decide what amount of food is reasonable and appropriate. Savor every bite and don’t feel guilty.
Other helpful tips:
- don’t demonize foods or consider them “forbidden,” but do watch portion size.
- don’t starve yourself, and don’t skip meals
- drink plenty of water
- have healthy snacks around and keep unhealthy foods you crave out of the house
- exercise regularly
- indulge once in a while!
- When you crave salty foods- try pickles! You can munch on a few of these and satisfy your salty craving.
- When you crave creamy- go for Low Fat Greek Yogurt. Add fresh fruit and a drizzle of honey.
- When you crave sweets- munch on some Grapes! Frozen grapes are nature’s candy!
- When you crave chocolate- there’s nothing wrong with a small square of dark chocolate (even every day!) but if what you crave is a big piece of chocolate cake or a movie-sized candy bar, try a glass of 1% chocolate milk. You will cut out significant fat and add some calcium to your diet!
- When you crave something crunchy- try Whole grain dry cereal or rice cakes. Definitely better than chips, although I haven’t found a “taste” for rice cakes myself.
What is your typical craving? Have you found a strategy that helped crush it?