Anyone who knows me well knows that I’m an all or nothing kind of a person. When it comes to my health I look after myself 80% of the time, however this can sometimes get boring and no matter how well I may feel on my new healthy eating plan, sometimes I want to grab that glass of wine or two, chocolate, biscuits, ice creams, chocolate brownies, chips, loaves of bread etc! Who cares about the consequences, enjoy life, it doesn’t matter once in a while – these are some of the thoughts that go around in my head. I recently had an epic binge on everything I should not consume, this affected me big time physically and emotionally and I’m still feeling it. It proved what I have come to realise lately that if your gut isn’t healthy then your mind suffers big time. I’ve been in this cycle for a long time now and I’m keen to explore what the triggers are, so I’ve been reading up on it and below are a few things I would like to share. It’s quite a long read but hopefully some of the advice may be of use to some of you. Meanwhile I’m back on my healthy regime as of yesterday! I am only human after all :0)
Everyone gets cravings from time to time. Sometimes you kid yourself that it is your body telling you that you need to have something. Most of the time, however, it is a habit… Cravings usually lead to low energy & tiredness.
There are some simple steps you can take to manage cravings and avoid binges. Combining some of these will be most effective and some will work better for you than others, so again experiment and give it a good go for a meaningful period of time.
“But I need it…’
Your body needs a steady flow of energy throughout the day. When you eat too many things that turn quickly into sugar (whether it’s sugar or starchy carbs), this creates a blood sugar spike and the body produces “insulin” to take the excess sugar out of your blood and store it as fat…
Sometimes too much of this sugar is packed away, which leads to blood sugar levels becoming too low, resulting in tiredness, low mood, drop in focus/concentration and cravings.
The cravings are nearly always for sugary foods or starchy carbs (including savoury ones); anything the body can quickly convert to sugar to get blood sugar levels up again.
Continually eating this way causes a blood sugar rollercoaster and a vicious circle.
Switching to a low GL (glycaemic load) diet based on whole foods like poultry/meat, fish, plant/vegan protein sources, nuts, seeds, legumes (beans, peas, lentils etc), tons of vegetables (like half your plate!) and “some” fruit, with smaller amounts of complex carbs like brown rice, sourdough bread/ seeded bread, quinoa, buckwheat, sweet potatoes and other roasted veg will help enormously.
However, you also need to deal with your triggers and the emotional aspect of eating …
How to manage your cravings
Willpower in itself is not enough, instead learn to be in control. The first step is to make sure you don’t get hungry, so eat solid regular meals for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and if needed a mid-afternoon snack.
2. Identify and write down your triggers
Are they emotional triggers? Food triggers? Habits? Triggers at certain times (eg feeling lonely at night after dinner), in certain situations? Identifying your triggers helps you take control back and change the outcome. What feeling does this compensate for? What strategies can you put in place now to support yourself?
3. Get rid of your trigger foods
If you don’t have control of a food/drink then it is controlling you!
If it triggered a binge in the past, it will do so again so get rid of it and don’t buy it – for you or your family.
It’s OK to give away/throw away food that is bad for you. A smoker wouldn’t keep packets of cigarettes around the house if they were trying to break the habit – so the same apply with trigger foods.
4. Plan what you are going to eat in advance
Fail to plan, Plan to fail… If you do this, you’ll overcome 80% of your “trigger situations” including eating out and travelling. Eventually, your healthy eating will become second nature like brushing your teeth.
5. Identify your craving / binge thoughts
To take control, you need to be ready to respond to these with a more positive alternative. Here are some examples:
“I’m so stressed I can’t control the cravings” – great to be aware I’m very stressed so what are the things I can do to reduce stress / what does make me relaxed?
“I had far too many biscuits, I may as well just keep going” – that’s in the past now, let’s rescue the rest of the day. Every little effort count
“I’ve been really good. I deserve a reward” – feeling better, lighter and empowered is my best reward.
“I’ve got PMS. I need chocolate” – Instead I take magnesium and avoid sugar as it will make me feel worse.
“One slice is not too bad” – but I know it’ll end up being 4 slices! Set boundaries.
6. Choose to eat or not
“A biscuit would be nice but I choose not to have one right now”.
Don’t take orders from a packet of biscuits!
Making a choice is empowering. Remember, the responsibility is yours. You are the one who puts food in your mouth, even if it sometimes feels as though it is out of your control, it never is sorry…
7. Create Positive Affirmations to make better choices
The more you repeat a mantra / positive affirmation, the more you visualise it, the more you believe it and guess what, the more it becomes a reality
Eg “I am sugar free”; “I have the choice, I find a different reward”, “I’m actually not hungry, so I will not eat for the moment” – whatever resonates with you.
Creating a mental picture can be very powerful e.g. visualising yourself slamming a cupboard door on the unhealthy foods you are now choosing to avoid or similar.
Fine-tune and practise this until it becomes A HABIT.
8. Use displacement activities
If you get a crave/ binge thought, do something else eg paint your nails, go for a walk, give a call, put on some music, drink water/herbal tea …
Simply giving yourself a few moments may relieve the pressure and stop the chain reaction. Find something that works for you, write these down to reinforce them and commit to doing them.
9. Accept your slips (this is a biggie)
Unless you are superhuman, there will be the odd time you slip. Is the world gonna end? Of course not, so have that cookie, enjoy and move on to avoid turning into a binge, sabotaging your health! Just rescue the rest of the day going back to healthy eating 🙂
Say: “It’s done, it’s in the past and now I choose to move on”. Reaffirm your resolve to make a different choice next time.
The occasional slip is not going to make you put on a few kilos or pounds, but a huge binge will. Plus, binges on sugary or salty food will make you retain water – making you look and feel heavier than you really are. It’s just not worth it!
10. Practise, practise, practise
…until it becomes a GOOD HABIT, which it will! It takes at least 21 times of doing something to create a new habit, so basically weeks. It feels weird at first and takes a lot of conscious effort. But eventually, you will teach your brain and you will do it automatically!