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Managing Cravings

Cravings don’t last forever. Not only does the intensity of a craving decrease over time, but it typically only takes about 10 minutes. That’s it! Once you understand cravings, and how and when they affect you, you can take steps to manage them. Learning to manage your cravings can help you reach your healthy eating and weight loss goals.

Delay and distract

Get busy with something else to distract you from your craving. Think of distractions that will work to occupy your mind and maybe your hands. Create a list ahead of time. This way when a craving strikes you’ll have a plan in place. Here are some ideas to get you started:

○ Listen to music.

○ Walk around the block.

○ Vacuum.

○ Shop online.

○ Make a to-do list.

○ Do a puzzle or play a game on your phone.

○ Watch a favorite movie.

○ Give yourself a manicure.

○ Go for a drive.

○ Play cards.

○ Organize your photographs.

○ Doodle pictures.

○ Call a friend.

○ Play a video game.

○ Shoot hoops.

○ Take a shower.

Remember, it typically doesn’t take too long for the craving to pass. Check your watch or set a timer, and commit to distracting yourself for 10-15 minutes. This is usually enough time for it to subside. If not, try another for 10-15 minutes.

Surf the urge

Imagine a food craving is like a wave -- it builds slowly, comes to a crest and subsides. Instead of being “knocked down” by this wave, “surf it” and ride the urge from start to finish. Next time you find yourself being swept away by this desire to eat, try this technique to regain your balance:

1. State clearly to yourself, “This is just a craving”.

2. Observe your emotions. Do you feel anxious, disappointed, lonely, joyful?

3. Use your breath to ride out the feelings of the urge. Focus on the physical and emotional sensations, take calming breaths, and notice the intensity of the craving decreasing. (Notice how the urge grows, slowly builds to a peak, and then slowly turns downward and drifts away. Keep following this pattern with your breath until the urge has passed.)

Keep practicing; it might not work perfectly the first time, but you will get better at it. Over time, you’ll prove to yourself that a craving is truly temporary and that you have the skills to deal with it in an empowering, mindful way.

Choose to eat -- mindfully

Sometimes after surfing the urge or distracting yourself, you may decide you truly want to eat the tempting food. This is okay. Remember, your weight loss journey is about moderation and progress. Keep the following tips in mind when acting on your craving:

● Whenever a strong craving hits, get in the habit of delaying your choice (surf the urge or distract) to give time for the intensity of the craving to go down.

● Some dieters find they can satisfy a craving by substituting another. If this works for you, be prepared for high-risk places. Take your Jenny popcorn to the movies or mall. Enjoy your Jenny breakfast bar at work to keep you from grabbing a donut in the breakroom.

● Substituting does not work for everyone. Some people find they eat other foods plus the food they wanted in the first place. If that’s you, save yourself the calories -- have a small portion of the tempting food and enjoy it.

● Slow down and savor the flavor. You may find you eat less and enjoy it more. Try these steps:

a. Take a deep breath to calm your mind.

b. Appreciate the beauty of the food.

c. Take a single bite.

d. Chew slowly, noticing the flavor, smell and texture.

e. Pause before your next bite.

f. Continue to eat the remainder of the food slowly, savoring each bite.

Now that you know ways to manage your cravings, mentally rehearse the steps you’ll take the next time a craving hits. Your diet plan and waistline will thank you.