"Just Give Me a Mountain Dew please!" - Overcoming Cravings
By now, you've probably heard me talk about how it's not just about the physical things (meal plans and exercises) when it comes to losing weight and keeping it off. It's more about the mental and emotional challenges. One of these psychological challenges is cravings. I now understand what a "craving" is, having been through my journey from Fit 2 Fat 2 Fit. Before, I looked at something like cravings as an excuse. However, now I realize how powerful cravings can be and how hard they are to overcome. I'd like to tackle this issue and really focus on how we can all work through cravings, because by "overcome" I don't mean cravings will completely or ever go away. It would be a lie to say that I don't have cravings anymore. I think they'll always be there, but I do know they can be controlled and conquered. Here are some tips that have helped me, along with some words from my wife who feels some of our "techniques" are different because in her words, "You're just a man that doesn't understand that certain times of the month I don't just WANT a cookie, I NEED one!"
Tip # 1: Have Scheduled Breaks- Is it just me or does it seem like if I tell myself "I'm not having a Mountain Drew" I suddenly am dreaming of Mountain Dew?! This to me is the biggest problem with all diets. A diet is restrictive. A diet (for most people) is a temporary conquest that we dive into in hopes to get the quickest results, with the least amount of work. Then ultimately once we hit some goal we immediately feel worn out, restricted, and immediately quit. For most, this means gaining back the pounds lost (and then some). That is why I don't consider my program a diet. It's a lifestyle. Within my healthy lifestyle I schedule breaks. Some of you may call this a "cheat/treat meal". What your cheat meal is and how often will be different from person to person. I can tell you now that during my losing stage I limited these cheat meals, while my beautifully fit wife was having a couple a week. No, I wasn't bitter... well maybe a little when she was eating cinnamon toast crunch to openly taunt me. So make sure to schedule breaks. It may be easier for some of you to know if you push aside your cravings all week that your reward at the end of the week will be piece of dessert you love (I said piece here, not a whole plate!).
Tip # 2: Have a Support System- I've briefly said this before, but I never realized how crucial a support system was before I had all my followers helping me push through my challenges coming back 2 Fit. Cravings are hard. Finding motivation can be hard. Hitting plateaus is discouraging. However, with the right support you'll find you're stronger than you think and definitely stronger than your cravings. A support system, too, can look different from person to person. You may have a spouse, work associates, friends, or an online forum that can give you encouragement or a swift kick in the pants when needed! However it looks, find a support system because that encouragement really will push you through cravings (which for me were the worst the first month I started to live a healthier lifestyle again).
Tip # 3: Constantly Set New Goals (and stay focused!)- Goals help us have vision. They move us forward and keep us focused on our priorities. In addition, goals keep you accountable. I talk in my book how I found accountability a key factor in my weight loss, so I won't bore you and get sidetracked. When I set a goal and achieve it, I then set a new one. I've noticed that some people set a goal to hit a certain weight and then once they reach the goal it's as though they're wondering aimlessly not sure where to go. Without a goal I feel you're perfect prey for cravings to take over and before you know it you've lost the battle. A lot of what we accomplish in life depends upon our focus. The story is told of the golfer, Arnold Palmer, who, in the 1961 Master's finals was approached by a friend and congratulated on his victory a few shots prior to his finish. Palmer is on record as saying that in that moment he lost his focus and he ended up losing by one stroke. It happens time and time again; there is the football player who looks toward the goal line and drops the ball right before; the hurdler who has the lead, but trips over the last hurdle. Events and situations in our lives (stress, holidays, discouragement, lack of time, etc.) can cause us to lose focus; but it is up to us to also exercise mentally and keep a laser-like focus (eye on the prize) and stay committed and steadfast and the results will come!
Tip # 4 (Told from my wife's perspective): Healthy Substitutes that Help Curb the Cravings- I don't care what anyone says. When I have a craving, and I mean a REAL craving for something (especially during a...ahem...certain time of the month) I will walk over hot coals to have it. I feel drawn to it. I can eat an entire bag of carrots in hopes that being "full" will curb my cravings but the truth is it doesn't! For me, becoming healthier and making healthier decisions had less to do with motivation, goals, or determination and a lot more to do with figuring out how to curb my cravings. For me, the only thing that has worked was finding healthier substitutes for when I really want a candy bar, cookie, or other less than healthy option. I'm just going to share two things that have worked for me because really it's about finding healthier options that your taste buds love. As a general rule of thumb Drew said try to stick to 3 grams of sugar or less for a craving snack substitute. I'd say about half the nights out of the month I have a diet hot cocoa. Diet hot cocoa has only 25 calories and 2 grams of sugar. For me, a cup of yummy hot cocoa at night after a long hard day with my two demanding children tricks my body into thinking I'm having a cheat meal almost every night. My other "go to" when I'm having an intense craving is Quest Protein Bar. I have a stash of several flavors like Strawberry Cheesecake, Chocolate Peanut Butter, and Cinnamon Roll. I pop one in the microwave for 8 seconds and (with only 1 gram of sugar) I feel like I'm having a warm, gooey dessert. Along with having a couple healthier snacks that actually curb the cravings (because lets be honest, carrots really don't taste like the snicker bar I want) I also schedule a break as mentioned above and treat myself to a craving every now and then.
Please remember, that we're all different and some tips will work for some and some will work for others and maybe none of these will work for you. My hope is that some of these tips will work for you so that you control your cravings instead of your cravings controlling you. Remember, "It's a Lifestyle, NOT a Diet!"