When you have an intense craving for a specific kind of food, it’s not too hard to imagine yourself as being addicted to that product or food group. People talk about being “addicted to sugar,” “addicted to potato chips” and, probably most commonly, “addicted to chocolate.” If thinking about food rules your life, seek help from a professional. But if you’re someone dealing with occasional cravings, restructuring your day and planning ahead can help you resist temptation. Here are some tricks:
1. Plan meals and snacks. Grazing all day may keep you from getting so hungry that you’ll overeat the next time food is in front of you, but eating on the fly without a plan can also add up to too many calories and too many carbs. Better to plan meals and snacks ahead: decide what you’ll have for breakfast, lunch and dinner, plus a mid-afternoon snack. Each time, include a little protein for additional staying power.
2. Budget in treats. Studies suggest that feeling deprived—even if you are consuming plenty of calories—can trigger overeating. Banning a food often just makes you think about it more. If chocolate is your downfall, maybe keep it out of the house, so that it’s not around tempting you all the time. Consider making a batch of treats to give to a friend and sampling just one. Or buy a bag of dark chocolates and keep it at a friend’s work desk; after lunch, allow her to give you one.
3. Keep a food diary. Recording everything—the ice-cream binge as well as the carrots and celery—“makes everything you eat part of the plan,” says Elena Ramirez, Ph.D., co-founder of the Vermont Center for Cognitive Behavior. “It’s no longer a sneaky, bad thing.” Writing what you bite may also help you keep track of calories and carbs.
4. Stay cool. Being stressed often leads to overindulging. Squelch your stress with exercise: Go for a short walk. A change of scenery is often all you need to think more clearly.
5. Get some sleep. Sleep deprivation may increase the risk of overeating and weight gain. Try to get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep a night to help you wake up feeling refreshed.