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Anne M. Rensberger, LICSW
Ten Ways To Fight Unhealthy Cravings

Ten Ways To Fight Unhealthy Cravings

Cravings are a normal part of life; everyone has them, but you don't have to act on unhealthy ones. They can be tamed.

1. Pinpoint your cravings. Are you physically hungry or is it an emotional, social or environmental response?

2. Don't get too hungry. Skipping a meal or not having a healthy snack sets you up for trouble. Find three healthy snacks you like but won't overdo on one for the refrigerator, one for the car, and one that can be kept in your desk.

3. Nourish yourself regularly. You are usually within a few hours of either a meal or a healthy snack so learn to wait it out rather than give in to a craving.

4. Learn to crave healthier foods. Research has demonstrated that you crave what you eat. If you switch what you are eating you can weaken old cravings and develop new ones. At first your healthier food or snacks may not be as appealing but over time you will look forward to them the way you once did your bad choices.

5. Meet your emotional needs directly. Your brain tells you that eating this food at this time will make you feel better. That feeling and need is valid, the behavior is not. Identify what it is that you do get in the short term that you believe you can't get without indulging; is it comfort, energy, relaxation, stress relief, or being part of the group? Then devise a plan to get that need met in other ways.

6. Workout regularly. Going more than 48 hours between workouts is associated with a drop in endorphins, and therefore a drop in mood. Even as little as 10-15 minutes of exercise can boost your mood and help curb cravings.

7. Develop a system for managing positive and negative stress. If you are stressed and want to eat, immediately substitute whatever stress buster works for you relaxation tapes, deep breathing, a walk, or a talk with a friend.

8. Check for iron deficiency. Sometimes that produces cravings. Get enough sleep. We can be more vulnerable when tired and more likely to use food for energy and for comfort.

9. Finally, but most importantly, ignore the cravings most go away by themselves in 15-20 minutes if ignored. Distract yourself. Some believe the following craving busters work brush your teeth, eat a spoonful of mustard, or eat a pickle.

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