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Seven Simple Strategies to Kill Cravings

By Dr. Leslie Van Romer and Dr. Narinder Duggal

Americans are well-aware of common addictions: smoking, caffeine, alcohol, prescription pain medications, sleeping pills, and of course, illegal drugs such as cocaine and heroine. However, most of us are blind to this country’s biggest addiction of all: Food. The shocking truth is that too much weight now, kills more people than cigarette smoking.

Yes, food is addictive – as we all can attest. Whether it’s a physical, mental, emotional, conditional, cultural, or all-of-the-above, addiction makes no difference. We’re all hooked, and that’s why it’s tough to beat those cravings that lure us in, no matter how much we try to think or talk ourselves out of them.

For some of us, it’s sweets; for others, it’s salt. It can be greasy chips, or the diet soda we gulp. Bread soothes, meat rules, cheese pleads. Countless combinations connive to command and control us. And let’s not forget the dark devil himself, a seductive master who leaves us weak in the knees – chocolate. No matter what kind of cravings hold you hostage, these seven strategies can help you escape – freeing you to lose weight, sidestep diseases, and build up your health.

1. Satisfy your hunger drive: You must control your hunger drive to lose and maintain the ideal weight – a mythical cultural mantra you may believe. When you fail to control your hunger and give in once more to your cravings, you feel inherently weak, lacking will power and self-control. Delete that myth from your brain. Your hunger drive cannot be controlled. It is a natural instinct, and like all human instincts, it keeps you alive.

When you’re thirsty, you drink. When you’re sleepy, you sleep. When you’re hungry, guess what? You should eat. The key is to fill up on the right foods that satisfy your hunger drive (see Strategy #2). Yippee! You are now free to eat until you’re full.

Remember to listen to your brain and stop eating before your stomach begs for mercy. And when you’re hungry again, truly hungry and not just needy for emotional comfort or relief from boredom, eat! Cravings, triggered by hunger, can be crushed, if you stop waging war with your hunger drive and start satisfying it by filling up on the best-for-you foods.

2. Fill up on good-guy carbs: For all the carbohydrate confusion, there is one glaring fact. All carbs are not created equally. The good-guy carbohydrates, sourced by whole fresh fruits, vegetables, unrefined grains (brown rice, not breads) and legumes, satisfy your hunger drive, thereby calming cravings. When one of your bad cravings starts to scream at you, whether mid-afternoon or during the evening, eat. Just remember to fill up on nature’s best-for-you foods first, and you’ll be amazed by the fading of the craving.

Hint: For cravings to disappear, you must eat enough of the best-for-you foods to really fill you up.  

3. Ditch the bad-boy carbs: On the other hand, the bad boys incite cravings. Steer clear of them. Scout them out and ban them from your house, workplace and car. As experience teaches, the more refined sugar, desserts, baked goods, breads, salty snacks, and chocolate you eat, the more hooked you get. So take away the temptation. If they are out of sight, they are much easier to avoid.

The natural sugars and sodium (nature’s salt), wrapped up in nature’s perfect, nutrient-dense package of fruits, vegetables, unrefined grains, and legumes, are your biggest allies to successfully fight and conquer cravings. When cravings call, be sure to first load up on these foods, especially whole fruits and vegetables, to render those sabotaging urges powerless.

4. Graze on fruit for breakfast: Fresh fruit expedites your freedom from cravings. The challenge is – eating enough fruit in a day. Rather than breakfasting on the typical bad-boy carbs which trigger cravings (think of the bad-for-you dried-up box cereal, quick oats, brown-colored white toast, pancakes, pop tarts, pastries, fat-laden bacon and eggs, and cups of coffee), why not jump out of the breakfast box and fill your stomach with nature’s best craving crushers – fresh fruits?

Pay attention to your hunger drive and eat enough whole fruits, approximately four to ten, to fill you up and satisfy you. Grazing on whole, fresh fruits until noon helps shut the gate before the cravings get out of the barn, gain momentum and sneak attack later in the day. Try it. See how many whole fresh fruits fill you up and behold your incredible shrinking cravings.

5. Keep healthy snacks handy: Whether at home, work, or on the go, think ahead and keep healthy snacks with you at all times. It’s easy – just stock up on cut-up veggies, fruit, and raw unsalted nuts and seeds. That way, when cravings start crooning, your fortifications will stop them dead in their tracks.

6. Stop the diet-go-round – forever: Sure diets work, for a while – until they don’t. But they are excellent at one thing – adding red-hot fuel to your cravings. First, diets deprive you of your food favorites - until you can’t stand it, give in and sneak them back into your life. Second, diets restrict calories and portions, leaving you hungry, making you crave more and building that food frenzy to a height that consumes your thoughts and your life until…you give in. Third, diets often limit the major nutrient, carbohydrates. With a shortage of good-guy carbs, cravings take control, and you grab the first bad-guy carb in sight. The result: you feel hopeless. So the next time you’re tempted to diet, just remember one thing: Diets Don’t Work!

7. Add and wiggle! Let’s face it right now – you’re not perfect. No one’s perfect! Nor do you have to be perfect to be free from food cravings. So give yourself some wiggle room. Instead of proclaiming that you’re never ever going to be seduced by one of your favorite food fiends again, try a new strategy.

Think addition, not subtraction. In other words, instead of trapping yourself in a restrictive food-box of “can’t haves” and depriving yourself from the get-go, think about which foods you “get to” add to your day that will give you the most nutrition for your calorie buck. These are the very same foods – fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes – that will short-stop those cravings that have enslaved you.

Then follow the 80/20 Rule. Eighty percent of the time when meals and snacks are routine without holidays, birthdays, or get-togethers, fill up first on those best-for-you foods. The other 20 percent of the time, don’t worry about it – wiggle! Just don’t wiggle too much.

No matter how diligent you are at incorporating these strategies into specific action steps in your daily life, if you are a mere mortal, there will be times when temptation gets the best of you, when you least expect it. No worries, though! With persistent mindfulness, time and patience, you can unlock that trap door, free yourself from cravings, and build your body-dream-come-true.

Read other articles and learn more about Dr. Leslie Van Romer and Narinder Duggal, M.D.

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