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Understanding Cravings

Cravings -- we all have them. The strong desire to eat that seems impossible to ignore. Whether the trigger is frustration at work or a slew of desserts at a birthday party, it’s easy to feel powerless against them.

Don’t fret. Understanding cravings is the first step in having control over them. Knowing the following information can help set you free from the derailing effect cravings can have on your weight loss efforts.

1. Hunger versus craving -- do you know the difference? If you’re hungry, your growling or aching stomach will let you know. If you ate recently and/or have a quiet stomach, you’re likely having a craving. Cravings stem from feelings or emotions and are often called “head hunger”.

2. Cravings tend to happen -- again and again -- under the same circumstances. Triggers can come from what we are feeling or by our environment. The urge to eat may come when you’re upset about something or bored in the evening, or you may get cravings at the movies or birthday parties. Cravings are personal, what affects you may be completely different from what triggers your best friend.

3. Hunger tends to increase overtime, while cravings usually decrease. This key difference can help you identify which is which and give you confidence that you can ride out the urge to eat. The intensity of a craving typically subsides after 10 minutes.

Manage Cravings

Now that you know cravings tend to surface in specific situations, keep track of when your cravings occur. Is it during your afternoon energy slump? Does the dessert table call your name at parties? Do ice cream and stress go hand-in-hand? Keep track in your journal or note it on your paper menu. The more you can identify your pattern of cravings, the better you’ll be able to plan for them.

There are two additional strategies that can be effective in managing cravings. Take a look to learn how to “Surf the urge” and “Delay and distract”.

Prevent Cravings

Learning to manage your cravings in the moment is critical. However, working to prevent them can also be important to provide an additional layer of support. One of the best ways to prevent cravings is to eat regular meals and snacks. Following your meal plan and fueling your body with satisfying, healthy foods can reduce the frequency and intensity of your cravings.

Another prevention strategy is to be prepared for your high-risk situations by having a plan in advance. After you have figured out your own craving triggers, pick out a strategy to manage the craving that will work in each high-risk situation. Mentally rehearse the steps, and you will be prepared to nip those cravings before they happen.