How do I handle cravings?

Cravings for unhealthy foods are common and normal. They are to be expected and are not a sign of failure. Often times cravings are triggered by cues within ourselves or our environment. Cravings can be sparked by physical issues like tiredness, headaches, and hunger; by negative emotional states like stress, boredom, worry, and frustration; or by social or positive situations like being at a holiday party or a restaurant. 

When we experience a craving, instead of trying to suppress it or get it out of our head, invite it in and try to understand it. Ask yourself, "Why now? How am I feeling? Am I hungry? Am I stressed? Am I tired? Once you understand the reason behind your cravings, you can try and avoid them by avoiding or eliminating the cues that trigger them.

Here are a few additional strategies to help you handle cravings:


Breathe Deep

One of the easiest and most powerful ways to handle an unhealthy eating urge is to stop and take a few deep, cleansing breaths. Close your eyes and concentrate on slowly filling and emptying your lungs as your mind quiets down and you reboot your awareness. Open your eyes and continue enjoying yourself.


Distract Yourself

If you’re thinking obsessively about the food, switch gears. Find an activity to distract yourself with, such as calling a friend, taking a warm shower, or taking a walk.


“Urge Surf”

A food craving is like an ocean wave. It builds, crests, crashes gently onto shore, and fades away into the sand. As compelling as the urge is, it’s temporary: If you don’t give in, you’ll find the feeling passes in a few minutes.


Walk it Out 


Avoidance and physical activity give food cravings a practical one-two punch. Remove yourself from the temptation and take a walk then return feeling refreshed and re-energized.


Talk it Out 

Talking about the urge to eat with someone who understands can provide relief as you recognize it’s not a sign of weakness or failure to have these feelings from time to time. Plus, that person can give you valuable support as you stick to healthy choices.


Create a healthy environment 

Remove any and all temptations. Clean out the refrigerator and cupboards of any trigger foods, and stock them with healthy choices instead. 


Counter-think 

Our inner dialogue can get us into trouble when we worry that refusing food or drinks will hurt or offend someone, or call attention to ourselves in a negative way. Likewise, we may tell ourselves that if we have a bite of cake, it’s all over and we’ve failed in our attempt to get healthy once again. This negative self-talk can be counterbalanced by more constructive thoughts, such as, “It’s going to be tough to avoid having dessert at this party, but I’ll be okay. I have techniques I can use, and my health goals are definitely worth it.”