The Secret to Controlling Cravings

November 17, 2014

The holiday season is looming, and Americans gain 1 to 10 pounds, on average, between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day. Between office parties and family gatherings, it may be impossible to avoid sugary, carb-heavy foods completely. But you can stay in control of your cravings and avoid going eating overboard.

Think about the future. The secret to controlling junk food cravings may be in your mind, according to a study reviewed by The Obesity Society. Researchers found changing your mindset significantly alters the way you respond to unhealthy temptations.  The best way to reduce the urge to eat a greasy slice of pizza: Think about the long-term consequences. A study conducted among 25 individuals found those who thought about how an unhealthy food affected their future health had increased brain activity in the areas of the brain that inhibit overeating.

Distract yourself. Researchers found 30 seconds may be all it takes to take your mind off a craving. Something as simple as staring at a blank wall, tapping your toe on the floor, or tapping your index finger on your forehead is all it takes. The study found the latter option is most effective, although not as discrete as the former two strategies. If you’re in a social setting, like a holiday party, discretely tapping your toe on the floor or staring at a wall can significantly reduce the intensity of a craving, especially when the buffet seems to be calling your name.

Chew gum. Chewing gum will not magically help you slim down, but it can distract you from filling your plate up with seconds and thirds, particularly in a social setting. Hit the buffet line once, then pop a piece of gum when you’re done eating. You’ll have to think twice and toss your gum before piling your plate with food again, which may be all it takes to walk away.

Have a healthy snack on hand. Between holiday shopping, social gatherings, and work, it can seem impossible to have a moment to yourself, let alone a well-balanced meal. Keep something healthy to munch on in your car or in your purse. Bananas, apples, or nuts travel well and are packed with nutrients. It’s important to have enough fuel in your body throughout the day to avoid overeating at night. It will keep you from falling victim to your eyes being bigger than your stomach.

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