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Weight Loss & Diet Plans

Cravings: Why They Strike, How to Curb Them

Why you’ve just gotta have certain foods -- and how to regain control
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Taming Your Desires continued...

Use Portion Control. "Allow yourself to have a food, but do it in a portion-controlled way," Pelchat says. For example, don't keep tempting foods at home, because it's too easy to wolf down excessive amounts. Instead, go out for one scoop of ice cream or one slice of pizza.

Trick Yourself. Portion control doesn't work for everyone, especially if tempting foods are on hand. Hide the food in the back of a cupboard; don't keep it on a kitchen counter or in plain sight. “If you resist, you weaken the link between [environmental] cues and mindless eating,” Pelchat says.

Substitute a Healthier Food. "You may be dying for that chocolate sundae, but eating something that's healthier will eliminate that craving almost as effectively," Wansink says. For instance, eating apple slices with peanut butter might satisfy you as much as if you did splurge on ice cream, he says.

The sense of satisfaction might not happen immediately or even in 5 minutes, but it will kick in 15 to 20 minutes later, he says. Just make sure to eat an amount equal to the volume of the desired food. Otherwise, you’ll still be hungry, and your craving will still be there -- waiting for you to give in.

Do Something Else. Distract yourself with a non-food-related activity until the craving goes away. “It could be taking a walk or doing pushups or calling a friend," Wansink says. Cravings are fleeting, so they'll diminish or go away within an hour, if not sooner. But don't wait it out passively. An activity that’s "somewhat absorbing" will help you resist, Pelchat says. "Even counting to 10 helps," she says.

Make a Plan. "The most dangerous cravings are the ones that are chronic. Those are going to be the most difficult ones to deal with," Wansink says. Let's say that on most days, around 3 p.m., you crave a jelly doughnut or a big bag of cheese puffs. "In those cases, it can't be a piecemeal, day-by-day strategy," he says. It's better to have a steadfast plan. Make sure to have sugarless gum on hand, ready to pop into your mouth when the craving strikes. Or make it routine to take a walk at that time. You’ll eventually learn to replace that craving, Wansink says.

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Reviewed on December 21, 2011

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