During the holidays, many folks indulge in rich foods that aren't part of their normal eating plan. With the new year, come resolutions to return to a healthier pattern — but that can be complicated by food cravings that just won't quit.
Food cravings stem from a variety of physiological and psychological forces, so reducing them may require a multi-pronged approach. Here are a four approaches to consider:
1) Maintain a healthy, steady blood sugar - It's no secret that sugar and fat are addictive, and that they stimulate the same parts of our brains as addictive drugs. Rapid changes in blood sugar stimulate hormonal reactions which aggravate physical cravings. Based on this principle, Dr. Mark Hyman recommends several strategies to "rewire" your brain to reduce the strength of cravings including eating smaller, more frequent meals that include protein; avoiding sweetened beverages; and eating a high-quality protein at breakfast.
2) Adapt your environment - Our habits are intricately linked to cues in our environment. A recent story on NPR told about a fascinating study of heroin-addicted Vietnamese veterans. It found that only 5% of them relapsed after returning to the United States. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the usual relapse rate is between 40 and 60%! Scientists theorize that, in the case of the returning veterans, the radical change in their environment supported successful behavior change. So, while most of us can't move to a different country, we can pay attention to the environmental cues that are driving us, and work to remove some of the triggers.
3) Try Tapping - Emotional Freedom Technique (also called "tapping" or psychological acupuncture) is another strategy for addressing the psychological aspects of cravings. In one study, this technique successfully diminished cravings for six months. Dr. Joseph Mercola recommends this technique at his clinic. (For more information about Tapping, check out our recent Nudge call featuring Mary Charles Blakebrough).
4) Eat Mindfully - If you experience food cravings, it is also important to be compassionate with yourself. Mindful Eating Techniques can go a long way to assist you in becoming aware of different thoughts and feelings that trigger your cravings. Such awareness can also build your capacity to create a compassionate and healthy relationship with your food.
Have you tried other ways to deal with food cravings? I'd love to hear about them! Just post your feedback in the comments below!