Are you a little nervous about holiday weight gain this year? Do you crave chocolate, pizza, chips or ice-cream? If you answered yes, then you are not alone. In fact, these are the top 95% of most craved foods.

One of the reasons for these cravings may be that, as children, these foods were often associated with love, fun and relaxation. The logical conclusion, then, is that when you are feeling unloved, bored or stressed, you think, consciously or unconsciously, that these foods will make you feel better.

Yet food cravings can also trigger binge eating, resulting in weight gain, guilt, or feelings of worthlessness.

Simple Strategies to Control Cravings

Worse yet, is the fact that not everyone satisfies cravings with binges. If cravings do not negatively affect you, accepting them as part of life is the first thing to do. For others, though, cravings can be mentally debilitating. These people cannot focus on what they are doing because they cannot keep their mind off the food they are craving.

When you have a craving, the desire for a specific food can be overwhelming.

A simple and common-sense look at strategies to control cravings tells us not to let ourselves get hungry. When you are hungry, any food will satisfy. You may be aware of the warnings of shopping while hungry (hence a shopping trolley full of sweets and snacks) as opposed to shopping on a full stomach.

Food Fixes

Although we eat food when we are not hungry, cravings for sweet food can be related to irregular sugar levels, which can upset a woman’s hormones. Too much processed carbohydrate, sugar and sugar substitutes can fuel sweet food cravings.

Craving comfort foods is very common. Eating warm food increases feelings of comfort and fullness, hence warming casseroles in winter as opposed to salads in summer. Eating cooked meals even in summer with plenty of vegetables is a great way to help curb cravings.

Snack cravings can be warded off by a cup of vegetable soup or sipping peppermint tea. Even the act of smelling peppermint can curb the most annoying craving.

Behaviour Fixes

If the solution to controlling cravings were as simple as taking comfort foods out of reach, then why are we still battling with our cravings and desires? Unfortunately, it is not as simple as it sounds. It appears that we only have a limited supply of willpower.

It has been proven that the more you restrict yourself, the more likely you are to get cravings for your favourite foods. Those who rely on willpower alone, do end up eating about 40% more calories when they do indulge than those who allow themselves occasional treats.

A good dieting plan should always include your favourite foods, even that means pizza one night a week. “Allowing” yourself a slice or two (and not the full size that you may have eaten) with a large green salad is a healthy option that will not leave you feeling deprived. Also, it will not give you the guilts for enjoying a treat every now and again.

When you are allowed certain foods, as opposed to strict restrictions for the rest of your life, you are less likely to binge and feel guilty when you do eat these foods.

Another favourite tip I give my clients is to put a barrier between you and your food. By having sweets farther away from your work desk or kitchen worktop and placed in a drawer for example, you are less likely to seek them out. The less convenient a treat is to attain, the less likely you will succumb to cravings.

If you have to go out of your way to eat your craved food, you will most likely not make the effort. If you do, buy an individual portion. Instead of buying a large block of chocolate, buy a smaller bite size bar.

But it’s cheaper and I will save it over a couple of days I hear you saying! You may have the best intentions of limiting yourself to just one line or two, until you get home and the large block is eaten before you know it and wonder how did that happen? By buying the smaller block, you will have your chocolate fix without the guilt!

Mind Fixes

Like willpower, we only have a limited amount of mind power. Cravings can be allayed with tasks that take up some of this mind power. It has been proven that food cravings are intensified when we are able to clearly visualise and smell certain foods. Next time you pass a bakery with the lovely aromas of freshly baked bread you will understand what I mean.

Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) uses a technique of getting people to use their mind capacity by imagining something non-food related, such as a rainbow or the smell of the sea, to reduce their desire to eat a specific food.

Another technique that astounded me with the success experienced by my clients was Emotional Freedom Tapping (EFT). Immediate improvements were experienced when participants tapped pressure points while looking at and smelling their most craved foods.

The suggested pressure points suggested are found at the side of the hand (between the wrist and little finger), the top of your head, on the temples, above the top lip and in the centre of your chest.

If a food craving makes you anxious, you will find your heart rate and breathing increasing. The healthy alternative to eating a craved food is to slow down your breathing. If you reduce your breathing from 8-12 breaths per minute to 4-6, you will notice your anxiety around food decreasing.

What tactics do you employ to overcome your food cravings? What have you found most effective? How are you going to avoid holiday weight gain this year? What questions do you have about NLP, EFT and other mind fixes? Please join in the conversation.

Jule-DarganJulie Dargan (RN, ND, BHSc) is the Menopause Whisperer. She assists women going through hormonal changes and want to live each day with confidence and enthusiasm. Her website was created to help women understand the menopause and how to halt the middle age spread.

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