Most of us, at some point, have an irresistible urge to eat a particularly fattening or unhealthy food. My weakness is a craving for sugar late in the afternoon when my energy and spirits sag.
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According to a study published in May 2010 in the Scientific American, women are more susceptible to these urges than are men. But whatever your sex, at some point you'll be tested and it helps to have a strategy for coping. Here are three FIT tips that I find helpful in controlling my unhealthy food cravings:
F: Focus on what triggered the craving and forgo responding immediately. Let me explain. Recently, I got off an airplane and walked into the middle of an airport food court. As soon as I smelled warm chocolate chip cookies, I desperately wanted one — even several. But I reminded myself that when I came off the plane I wasn't hungry. So I shut out the enticing aroma and the sight of all the people around me eating and kept walking. As soon as I left the food court, the craving disappeared.
I: Inventory your prior food intake. When deciding whether to indulge a craving, review what you have already eaten that day, particularly at the last meal. Researchers report that such a review triggers the "I'm satisfied" experience. When I had my airport cookie craving, I reviewed what I had eaten that day and realized I'd had enough. This research is consistent with the conclusion of Dr. Edward Abramson, author of Body Intelligence, that "only a small part of our eating is actually triggered by physical hunger."
T: Take time to plan and prepare your meals. When you are looking forward to creating and eating a meal, you are less inclined to snack. If you plan wisely — with fresh ingredients and healthy recipes — you will eat better and, probably, save money because good planning means less waste. In general, home-prepared meals tend to be more nutritious and generally lower in fat than restaurant food.
When you sit down to eat, don't eat until you are stuffed. Try to pause when you are about 75 percent full. Try not to take another bite for 10 minutes or so, at which point you should feel satisfied. Mindful eating will help you eat less while enjoying the food more.
Temptations to indulge never go away, and they will challenge you in your efforts to maintain the weight and fitness you desire. But by recognizing them for what they are — i.e., impulses, not genuine hunger — and responding with self-control, you can gain the upper hand over the munchies.