The fourth of July is synonymous with fun, friends, gatherings, fireworks, and food. Year after year, people disclose to me their bartering plan with their healthy lifestyle and how binging on the season’s most tastiest picnic fare moves to the forefront of their brain. This is not to mention the pre-plan for how they will handle the physical discomfort that is associated with the binge- the bloating, gas, fullness, fatigue, and brain fog. Splurging is all fine and dandy, but how the body and brain acclimate when these events become triggers for splurging and how the brain has difficulty dissociating social gatherings with stuffing our faces becomes a larger problem. This causes eating disorders, body image distortions, physical and nutritional deficits, and weight gain. I spent a long time working to overcome the seeds that were planted in my head. In my family, eating and social functions went hand in hand. It was what you did. And let me tell you, most of it was NOT healthy choices. I still have connections that I consciously work through and, like Pavlov’s dog, I salivate just when entering my trigger situations. This is when I realized that food cravings tied to outside forces are stronger than willpower alone. Because some of my triggers are embedded deeply, I have developed a few tactics that work wonders and help to retrain my brain in the moment for success rather than failure. I still treat myself, but I also have more control over my actions and am much better able to step away from the dessert table! Here are the 4 main tactics that bring me success:
- Chew cinnamon gum. There are numerous causes of sugar cravings including a yeast or fungal infection, irritability and hormonal changes. Cinnamon helps to regulate blood sugar, fight yeast infections, is a powerful anti-microbial and anti-bacterial agent, alleviates irritability, improves digestion, and can serve as a sugar substitute. Not only does it kick sugar cravings to the curb, but chewing gum satisfies the oral fixation that so many fall victim to and often use food to soothe it.
- Eat your sweets first. You heard it right here and I am giving you permission to eat your dessert first, BUT, that means you have to save room for your dinner too. Most people eat their dinner, are super full, and then stuff more high-calorie unhealthy foods into their stomachs because the cravings hit and willpower flies out the window. If you satisfy the craving with a small helping of dessert first and then eat your dinner, you will be more likely to forego a second helping of treats. If you have the option and your cravings are calling for foods that are high-volume and filling, opt for them. What are some examples? Try fruit for the sweetness and the high water content, angel food cake, whipped mousse, or pudding desserts. Remember, if your cravings are calling you elsewhere, then satisfy accordingly. Otherwise, you will be more likely to grab that second helping after all!
- Keep your hands busy. Tactile cues are super stimulating and can trigger the brain to respond accordingly. People often fall prey to being triggered by tactile cues through use of their hands (i.e., smoking, drinking, shopping, gambling) and when the hands are unoccupied, mentally, the cravings begin. If we know how to soothe our cravings through tactile cues, it is easier to change our triggers to support that. That means breaking the “chain of events.” Change your patterns, change your ways to soothe yourself, and improve the (will)power that you have when faced with cravings.
- Get active. Sitting around increases your fatigue and boredom. Period. It also makes you lethargic and flabby. Fatigue, boredom, and lack of self-confidence ultimately increase cravings. Get up and get active! Not only will this increase your energy, stimulate your brain, and turn your internal appetite sensor to low, but it also burns calories and builds strength and endurance- even if it is just dodging fireworks.
What does this mean for you and turning your holiday into a party, rather than a pig out? Remember, when we regularly deny ourselves of what we crave and we never indulge in the treats of life, we begin to crave that food more often and more strongly. It may even feel like the food is controlling us. This is exactly where most fall prey- by blaming and shaming and giving in to what we think is inevitable. But, with the above tips, you can finally take back your holiday and show food who is boss!
“Food cravings tied to outside forces are stronger than willpower alone. Be kind to yourself!”
~Tansy N. Rodgers
Take action now! Write these tips down on a piece of paper and keep them close to you- maybe in your pocket. Pack your gum. Survey the dessert table and see what looks appetizing and delectable. It is better to be prepared with a plan of action than frozen with fear and uncertainty when faced with the obstacle.
Go to the comment section. Make a comment and let me know what you have struggled with, what you have tried, and what your action plan is. The best discussions start between like-minded friends! Share this with your friends and get more people in on the action.
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