You can lose weight by overcoming your cravings now. Here are the latest tricks of the trade from researchers and experts:
Avoid your triggers.
“You crave what you eat, so if you switch what you’re eating, you can weaken your old cravings and strengthen new ones,” says Marcia Pelchat, PhD, of the Monell Center. This can happen pretty fast. For five days, her study volunteers drank bland dietary-supplement beverages. During that time, they craved fewer of their trigger foods. By the end of the study, the volunteers actually wanted the supplements instead. The first few days are always the hardest, and you probably can’t completely eliminate your old cravings. But the longer you avoid your trigger foods, the less likely you may be to want them. In fact, you’ll probably begin to crave the foods you eat, a real bonus if you’ve switched to fresh fruit.
If you’ve succumbed to a craving and bought a box of cookies or some other trigger food and start to feel bad while eating it, destroy it. “Don’t just throw it away; run water over it, ruin it. You’ll feel a sense of accomplishment that you’ve licked your binge,” says Caroline Apovian, MD, director, Nutrition and Weight Management Center at Boston Medical Center. Don’t think about the money you’re wasting. If the cookies don’t go into the garbage, they’re going straight to your hips.
Drink two glasses of water and eat an ounce of nuts (6 walnuts, 12 almonds or 20 peanuts). Within 20 minutes, this can extinguish your craving and dampen your appetite by changing your body chemistry, says Michael F. Roizen, MD.
Jolt yourself with java.
Try sipping a skim latte instead of reaching for a candy bar. The caffeine it contains won’t necessarily satisfy your cravings, but it can save you the calories by quenching your appetite, says Dr. Roizen. And the warm richness and ritual can distract you.
Let it go.
Since stress is a huge trigger for cravings, learning to deal with it could potentially save you hundreds of calories a day. This will take some practice. You can try deep breathing or visualizing a serene scene on your own, or you can speed things up by buying one of the many CDs that teach progressive muscle relaxation. A good one is Relaxation/Affirmation Techniques, by Nancy Hopps.
Take a power nap.
Cravings sneak up when we’re tired. Focus on the fatigue: Shut the door, close your eyes, re-energize.
Get minty fresh.
Brush your teeth; gargle with mouthwash. “When you have a fresh, clean mouth, you don’t want to mess it up,” says Molly Gee, RD, of Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.
If only ice cream will do, it’s a craving, not hunger. “Cravings typically last ten minutes,” says John Foreyt, PhD, of Baylor College of Medicine. Recognize that and divert your mind: Call someone, listen to music, run an errand, meditate or exercise.
Indulge yourself -- within limits.
Once in a while, it’s OK to go ahead and have that ice cream. But buy a small cone, not a pint. Try 100-calorie CocoaVia chocolate bars and 100-calorie snack packs of cookies, peanuts or pretzel sticks. The trick is to buy only one pack at a time so you won’t be tempted to reach for more. And since even 100 extra calories can sabotage weight loss if you indulge daily, strike a bargain with yourself to work off the excess calories. A brisk 15-minute walk will burn 100 calories or so.
Plan or avoid.
Vary your usual routine to avoid passing the bakery or pizzeria. If you know you’ll be face-to-face with irresistible birthday cake, allocate enough calories to fit it into your diet.