7 Science-Backed Tips to Stop Your Strongest Food Cravings

How your smartphone can quiet your stomach.

Play a game on your smartphone

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Playing a game for as little as three minutes could get your mind off food. In a study in Addictive Behaviors, volunteers reported when they had cravings for food, coffee, alcohol, sleep, and more. They were also randomly sent texts throughout the week telling them to play Tetris on an iPod. After playing the game, participants’ craving levels dropped by about 20 percent. “Playing a visually interesting game like Tetris occupies the mental processes that support that imagery,” study author Jackie Andrade, a psychology professor at Plymouth University has said. “It is hard to imagine something vividly and play Tetris at the same time.” This is what your food cravings can reveal about your health.

Take a walk

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A University of Exeter study found that walking briskly for 15 minutes reduced cravings for chocolate—the most commonly reported food craving—during the walk and for at least 10 minutes afterward. The researchers say exercise could alter brain chemicals that help regulate cravings. Here are more ways to lose weight walking.

Consider the consequences

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One study had participants use four different thinking strategies to overcome the urge to eat: thinking about something else, recognizing they don’t need to act on their thoughts, considering the negative long-term effects, or considering the immediate reward of the food. Remembering the long-term consequences of eating the food reduced the craving the most, the study found.

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Imagine yourself eating

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If you do give in to the urge to eat, a bit of imagination before digging in can help satisfy your craving sooner. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University had participants imagine putting quarters in a laundry machine or eating M&Ms before eating the candies in real life. Those who imagined eating 30 M&Ms and inserting quarters three times ate significantly fewer chocolates than those who imagined adding 30 quarters and eating three M&Ms, or just putting 33 quarters in the machine. The researchers guess that imagining yourself chowing down makes you feel like you’ve already eaten, so you’ll be able to stop eating sooner. Here's how you can train your brain to not crave junk food.

Relax

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When you’re stressed, the hormone cortisol floods your system, triggering the urge to eat foods high in fat or sugar. If you find yourself reaching for food to deal with stress, try taking a few moments for meditation. Studies have shown mindfulness meditation can decrease stress and make it easier to resist binge eating. Here are 7 strategies to stop emotional eating in its tracks.

Make a fist

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Tightening your muscles could give your willpower a boost. In a Journal of Consumer Research study, participants who clenched their fists, tightened their biceps or calf muscles, or stretched their fingers while making food choices picked healthier foods than those who didn’t. The researchers say firming your muscles while trying to exert self-control could strengthen your resolve. Here are more fascinating ways to use body language to get what you want.

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Cut yourself a break

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Going cold turkey on guilty pleasure foods could end up backfiring. Women who were told not to eat a favorite snack for a day ate more of that food the next day than those who weren’t told to avoid the food, found a study in Appetite. Treat yourself to a square of dark chocolate every day and you might be better able to resist devouring three pieces of cake at your next office party.


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