3 ways to control food cravings and stop sabotaging your weight loss

3 ways to control food cravings and stop sabotaging your weight loss

Recently I started asking new members of my Group what they really need to know when it comes to losing weight and getting healthy. The most common response is “how to control food cravings.” Whether for sweets or salty, the desire is to crave those foods less, and eat more of the healthy stuff.

And it’s the issue that most of my coaching clients wrestle with when they first hire me.

And it’s the issue that will continue to challenge you without an intentional plan of action.

Let’s start with a basic truth about cravings. The more you give into them, the stronger they become. And the more you resist them, the stronger they become.

“Well great” I can hear you saying.

But knowing this gives you power to control food cravings and I’ll share three ways to do that:

1. Be prepared: Food is designed to be uber palatable. Manufacturers use sugar, fat, salt and chemicals to create foods that previously didn’t exist. The better it tastes, the more you eat (and the more profit they make).

Our ancient ancestors didn’t crave foods like we do. They needed to eat to stay alive. So when they had a taste of something they liked, a little dopamine was released into the brain to motivate them to seek more of it.

But today these super palatable foods use your physiology against you by releasing more dopamine, which drives you to want more. Notice how a few strawberries are sufficient, but one chip/cookie never is?

3 ways to control food cravings and stop sabotaging your weight loss
Photo by Conor Brown on Unsplash

2. Be the observer: Notice the craving when it comes, like you’re watching a movie. You can say something to yourself like, “Oh, I see my brain really wants something sweet (salty) while watching a movie.”

Then normalize it, like “Of course I want that…Nabisco has spent a lot of money to make sure I do. And, it’s something I’ve been eating for a long time.” In this way you logically poke a bit of fun at the craving and don’t make it such a big deal.

3. Be honest, kind and firm: Acknowledge there is part of you that wants to eat the thing and part of you that doesn’t. And that’s okay. You’re figuring it out.

Pay close attention to what you make it mean when you have a craving. If you start to blame yourself for being weak, for having no willpower, notice how those thoughts feel. Hint, like $h!t. So, not helpful.

At this point you let your brain know, “Hey, I see you craving chocolate and I get it. But we’re not doing that right now.” Each time you do this, you not only control food cravings…you reduce future cravings.

Each time you go through this process, ask yourself what you really want. What you’re really craving. Yes, the dopamine in your brain wants the food, but the you underneath it all wants something else. Something better.

Learn to crave that.

Do your decisions feel like a chore or a choice?

A blog popped into my inbox last month from my colleague Conni Medina titled Choose Your Words Wisely. I recently wrote about elevating the conversations we have with ourselves so I eagerly read her piece. Spot on.

Her focus was on a particular set of words, those that hint at obligation rather than choice, like “should” and “have to.”  These are words I hear in every coaching call. In every prospect call. In almost every conversation I have with myself and others. We say them without question.

Many years ago, I trained with a Registered Dietician to learn nutrition and intuitive eating concepts. She told a story of finishing with her last patient of the day and as they left together, she casually said “I have to go to the gym.” Her patient, wheelchair-bound, said “you don’t have to go to the gym; you get to go to the gym.”

Consider the times you say those words:

  • I have to cook dinner for my family
  • I shouldn’t eat any more
  • I should exercise

Can we say drudgery? Deprivation?

But what if we change those around:

  • I choose to cook dinner for my family
  • I’ve decided to stop eating when I’m satiated
  • I’ve committed to regular exercise

When we use the language of choice, we use the language of freedom. And our brains like that much better than feeling forced to do something. But as Conni wrote, sometimes feeling obligated may indicate that you’re over-committed or doing things you don’t enjoy. How do you know the difference?

Photo by Javier Allegue Barros on Unsplash

Ask yourself and trust the answer. For example, would you commit to the project/position/task all over again? Would you bow out if given the opportunity? Would you make a difference choice today?

You don’t “have to” do anything. Sure, there are consequences to not doing the thing (like paying taxes), but be honest with yourself that it’s a choice.

Once you identify what you genuinely don’t want to do anymore, consider how you can remove yourself from those duties.

For the others, be purposeful with your words. Use the language of choice. You’ll notice an entirely different relationship to the tasks. Doing the things becomes easier. In some cases, effortless.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if losing weight and keeping it off, felt more effortless? It can be. Let’s talk!

Time travel…the helpful trade secret of women who know how to lose weight

I was bored. It was a Wednesday night. I could work more. Do laundry. Read a book. Clean the bathroom. Cook dinner. But none of that felt satisfying.

My brain thought a glass of Chardonnay and a slice of six grain bread with locally pressed olive oil from the farmers market would solve my boredom.

I could even imagine it. I could taste it. It tasted good. It felt good. So not boring.

Nice try, brain.

But I have both in my house. They’re not “off limits.” You might wonder, “what’s the big deal, Heather?”

The big deal is trusting myself in the small things. Like not eating food I don’t need an hour before dinner. And not drinking on a Wednesday night.

So, I travel in time to Thursday morning and I imagine having not given into the urge and how that would feel. Pleased and well rested came to mind. Empowered that I can keep my word to myself in ways that seem insignificant but add up to big results.

I also imagine how I would feel if I drank the wine and ate the bread, an hour before dinner. Thursday morning Heather felt foggy and a little off. She felt disappointed.

In that moment on a Wednesday night with the urge to drink wine and eat bread, I simply allowed myself to feel bored. I knew it would pass. It wasn’t a problem to solve. I went about the task of making dinner, occasionally noticing boredom and being okay with it.

The helpful trade secret of women who know how to lose weight. I was bored. It was a Wednesday night. I wanted wine & bread. Nice try, brain.
Photo by Anna Kumpan on Unsplash

Giving in to a momentary urge only makes it easier for us to give in the next time. And the next time.

You probably have goals and a picture of your future self having achieved them. Spend time imagining what it feels like to be her and how she would counsel you today, in a moment when you feel less than motivated. When you don’t feel like it. When you think “eff it.”

And here’s another thing – celebrate the small win. Later that Wednesday night after dinner, and the urge had long passed, I gave myself kudos for sticking to my plan and taking care of myself. That makes it more likely I’ll keep my word to myself next time, too.

What time travel allows you to do is to become the watcher of the present moment. You don’t get hooked into the primitive brain’s desire for instant gratification but can observe it as your future self. From a place of love and care, wanting the best for you, she gives you just the advice you need.

Losing weight in the moment often doesn’t feel good. Peeling away layers of unhelpful habits, sitting with urges and feeling crappy, making new decisions and trying new things…it can feel really hard. That’s why things like celebrating the daily wins and imagining “Tomorrow You” are so important. Each time your honor your commitment to yourself it gets easier the next time. And the next time.

And then you are the future you. And she gives you a big high five.

8 Quick & Easy Ways to Kickstart Feeling Better and Getting Fit.

Grab it for FREE now!