How to manage your cravings, Part II

Part I of this article can be seen here.

In addition to making a list of cues that trigger our cravings, as Anne talked about in Part I of her lecture, she says keeping glucose levels in balance is also important. When blood sugars drop, we need to do something to level them out. If we reach for caffeine or sugar, we create a cycle of needing more caffeine and more sugar. Maintain a healthy blood sugar level by eating complex carbohydrates, lean protein, and healthy fat throughout the day.

Anne suggested several alternatives to help interrupt patterns of craving. “Exercise boosts those chemicals that help us to feel good. We then have more control over what we are going to eat. Stress reduction techniques can really help. Distraction works. Choose an activity that changes how you feel. Change your view of yourself by doing something new. Make a list of the things that really energize you. If you only do things that drain your energy, you set yourself up for cravings, because you think, ‘doggone it I deserve it!’ If you do what challenges, excites, and is meaningful to you, you’re less likely to indulge in cravings. Rather than serving the craving, serve that part of you which needs your care.”

The prefrontal cortex—what Anne calls ‘your local PFC’—is involved in planning and forethought, and thrives on clear direction. Create S.M.A.R.T. goals: specific, measurable, action-based, realistic, and with time references. Practicing your goals actively engages the PFC and increases its ability to control choices.

Do you want to lose weight? Write down how many pounds you’d like to lose in a realistic amount of time. Exercise more? Write down how many times per week you’d like to work-out and for how long. Do you need to sleep more? Write down what time you’d like to go to bed and what you can do to help yourself do that. Maybe you need to tape your favorite late-night comedy show instead of staying up to watch it.

“Think in terms of small steps: where can I be in three months? If I want to get there, and I’m here, what is the first step I need to take? The more small steps you set and achieve, the easier you make the next step. Accept small accomplishments as important and worthwhile, which allow you to keep moving toward a bigger goal.”

“You also want to connect with emotions—what you tell yourself about yourself really matters, because the brain really listens. Be careful how you talk to yourself. Thinking differently means using new ideas. Maybe you want to ‘hit the delete button’ on a particular thought, and put in another thought that triggers you in the direction where you want to go. Be careful not to self-sabotage, and try to be realistic. What matters right now is this moment, not the big picture.”

You Can Do It: Tips

The good news is that cravings don’t last. The natural pattern of a craving is like a cresting wave: it gets stronger, then it recedes, whether or not we give into it. When the brain knows that a craving will not be appeased it shifts its attention elsewhere.

“Sometimes we can’t give in to a craving, because what we want is not available. We might even say to ourselves ‘I can’t stand it!’ But we’re still alive, so we must be standing it. You can use mindfulness to deal with your craving. Just by watching it, you are no longer the subject; you are the observer. Being an observer puts you in another place, allows you to be objective, and gives you control. Meditation is a documented way to deal with addictions, as well as with the discomfort of stress, which is a trigger for craving.”

Class members also suggested ways to eat less and deal with cravings:

  • “Use a smaller plate.”
  • “When you go out to eat, ask for a doggie bag when you order, and put half of your meal in it before you start to eat.”
  • “Keep nuts and dried fruit in your car and snack on those, instead of pulling into Dunkin’ Donuts.”
  • “If you don’t want it in the house, don’t buy it!”

Anne stressed the importance of finding support to help you manage cravings, whether from a friend, an organization, or a coach. “And don’t forget to celebrate when you succeed in ‘surfing your urges.’ Acknowledge your success, however small. It will give you power to succeed the next time too.”

Anne Mellor is a certified Personal Trainer and Wellness Coach who is available to help with weight loss, cravings, and exercise. She can be reached at anne.mellor@mchmail.org. For more information about Wellness Coaching and to reach additional certified Coaches, please visit www.mchwellnesscoaching.com.

 

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