Okay so now that we know you're only human and get cravings, let's talk about the culprit:
- It's that time of the month
- You're stressed at work
- The kids are driving you mad
- You're having a body woe
- Dieting is proving too difficult
- You're emotional
- You have an injury
... So you just feel defeated, and like most, you want to turn to the one thing that can make or break your emotions... FOOD!
Did you know this is why most people go backwards when it comes to their health and fitness goals? While food should most definitely be enjoyed and isn't just fuel, when it's abused in a context of emotional grief, instability and situations lacking control that's when a lot of people go balls to the wall and overeat, therefore consuming excessive calories progressively leading to fat gain.
It's like a vicious cycle and usually rolls in the same motions for most - you're doing so well kicking goals, feeling good and making progress and BAM emotion creeps up, cravings kick in and all willpower and sense of being in control goes out the window. One minute you're feeling like the future slimmer you, owning the treadmill next minute you're arms deep in a bag of Doritos.
Let's talk about the solution. So you've got a craving, you're dealing with heavy emotions, stress or things just aren't plain easy and breezy. What do you do?
1. Remove your triggers
Food will be a temptation if it's convenient. If it requires an abundance of effort to access, consume and dispose of its likely not going to be something that you grab and consume to only release you've had the whole thing. For example, if you have to walk 15 minutes to the nearest bakery to get baked goods this quest will be less appealing than eating 5 Woolworths cookies in a row that are sitting in the pantry.
Consider easy access foods and risk zone temptations when buying your groceries. Even if you have to buy your treats individually every day rather than doing a big weekly grocery shop, so be it! You might also like to consider periodically removing all trigger foods e.g blocks of chocolate, boxes of cereal etc until your self-control is strong enough to not be tempted by them. Instead, you don’t need to ‘cut’ those things from your diet but rather purchase pre-packaged or portioned variations to minimise the temptation to reach for an opened packet.
2. Grocery shop with precaution
Followed from above, don't mindlessly grocery shop. Keep an eye on the things you place into your trolley so you're not tempted to gorge on these when you're in the heat of a vulnerable moment.
3. Call on an SOS support ally
Professional coaching is an all-round method of success that can have you set with a plan, predetermined relationship with food management strategies and also be your go-to in times of vulnerability. Don't underestimate the value of not going through a journey alone. If you're someone that is let down by emotional or situational eating/overeating, what a professional like the Equalution team can do in this context is:
- Strategise your intake requirements for optimum results so you have direction in your nutrition and goals to meet and aren’t susceptible to eating for the sake of it.
- Give you the tools to integrate lifestyle in with your goals. You might naturally be a ‘snacker’ and under strategised guidance you can learn how to eat for both convenience, preference and your body’s needs.
- Help you build a better relationship with food by educating you on what your body needs and how it recognises food.
- Support you on your journey with positive encouragement. This means when you’re feeling shaky or like deviating you can reach out for assistance. Our team has often been the saving grace in many vulnerable situations.
- Keep you you accountable for your actions and nutrition.
This is closely followed by a friend or transformation buddy, someone who you can lean on when temptation arises but your goals are more important.
4. Control your surroundings
Don't put yourself in situations where you're going to make it harder to avoid being tempted. This may be as simple as opting to cook for the kids rather than get take out and or watching cooking shows where you spend a lengthy amount of time eyeballing delicious food. If you're easily tempted, vulnerable or easily susceptible to deviations then avoid opportunities of testing yourself. If you find yourself always on edge always consider addressing the crux of the issue which will likely be 1) your restrictive or ineffective method and 2) your relationship with food.
5. Don't feed your temptations:
Control and moderation can often take people with a lifetime of bad habits under their belt years to conquer. So be wary of how you feed your temptations and if you don't think you're able to exercise moderation then refrain from doing so in a vulnerable moment altogether. Some people when emotional or using food as a coping mechanism in that moment can not just have two pieces of chocolate for instance and instead have to have the entire block. Be cautious of feeding your temptations.
6. Drink water
Drinking more water generally has a 'feel-good' effect as well as its many other health benefits. Often dehydration can be mistaken for hunger so it can prevent overeating or eating unnecessarily as well as filling you up, aiding in reducing water retention, bloating and cramping. Especially during 'that-time-of-the-month' when you're feeling large and in charge, it can definitely help with flushing that out and also with bowel movements. The rule of thumb is 1L per 23kgs of bodyweight so drink up!
7. Time manage to avoid stress
Make a schedule, food prep, pre-plan your days, make time for exercise - getting familiar with managing your 24 hours in the day will avoid lack of preparation and additional stresses that may make you cave to emotional eating. Getting prepared and making some meals for instance will ensure you’re not without ‘food’ and instead resorting to boredom eating, feeding temptations and grazing. This will also help with regimented eating which can remove the need to continually snack which can bring on more temptation and need for overeating.
8. Get to know sweet VS savoury
Gage what certain meals do to you and for you. You might find for your mindset starting your day with either a sweet or savoury breakfast may avoid cravings throughout the day.
9. Don't restrict, be flexible
Flexible dieting or eating according to your macronutrients can be a blissful and enjoyable process and can really instil control with food in people who fall short of control in emotional or stressful situations. If you're from a clean eating or restrictive background it can educate you on meeting the essential requirements for your physical goals and maintaining good health while also training your muscle of self-control through incorporating balance and moderation without blowing your treats beyond a reasonable serve. This is one thing a lot of restrictive dieters lack and can often be the cause of going balls to the wall in unfamiliar situations.
If you think you'll never be able to 'just have one' or be around certain foods without gorging have faith in the power of a non-restrictive diet + consistency. Exercising this practice day in and day out gives you the tools to regain a sense of control and sensibility around food that you may never thought you had in you. We’ve had great success in Binge Eating Disorder clients through taking every day as it comes and incorporating foods within their macronutrient requirements without restricting based on a ‘type’ of food. By doing so, binge eating or giving in is often not on the individual's mind as they remove the barrier of restriction.
Meanwhile, science is on your side in that while there is no excess in calorie consumption through binges, picking, cheat meals as the ‘treat food’ can be fit within your requirements you don’t reach a calorie surplus. As a result weight gain doesn’t occur, you see results as well as not need the excuse of a binge day to eat your favourite foods. Day by day, having foods of choice and preference can better your relationship with food and divorce you from binge eating behaviours or abusing food given your awareness to being able to incorporate foods you love within your daily intake goals.
One thing that assists a lot of flexible dieters in moving past temptation is the notion that THERE IS ALWAYS TOMORROW! For that reason, there’s less throwing in the towel, a flexible dieter simply acknowledges that they can have it all in a reasonable and paced manner if not that day then, of course, the next. So your numbers probably won’t allow you to fit a pizza, donut, ice-cream and burger all in one day, but there’s 7 days in a week, and you’re able to then be smart and spread them out! While flexible dieting you learn so much control and moderation that having it all at once is far less appealing than once upon a time on a cheat day.
If you're caught in a 'crisis situation' where your food hasn't gone to plan, flexible dieting allows you to fit your diet into your lifestyle. If you lead a busy life there are plenty of wise choices that can be made without you having to spend hours in the kitchen, piling food into Tupperware containers that will make you feel restricted and lead to a binge later or stopping at a take out joint for a massive blowout.
10. Have a chat, wait it out
Those who experience binge-eating episodes, frequent emotional details or blowouts describe an initial 'voice of urge' prior to derailing. This may come in the form of what feels like a negative pressure that talks you into making the decision to take the first bite of food that you know will potentially send you down a rabbit hole. While this is a very real problem it is also very much mind over matter. It is in this moment of ‘negative voice take over’ that you need to switch on in terms of being alert enough to tame the urge and instead make a distraction through a more positive outlet.
Consider putting off acting on the voice for a good ten minutes or reaching out to a coach and/or friend. Your voice will only be fed if you feed it so put up a good fight before giving in. You can therapeutically deal with managing this issue by doing something leisurely like leaving the house for a walk, getting a massage or some pampering but all in all just focusing on leaving the environment facilitating these urges.
Straying whether only a small deviation or a very large binge gives a strong and real sense of regret and self-loathing. Not to mention harmful for results on the basis of calories in vs. calories out, but is also an extremely destructive practice both for your self-perception and progression towards your goals. Learn to be proactive as well as to get to the crux of the issue, finding a solution, risk management and managing ‘in the moment urges’ to reduce the severity and likeness of giving into temptation. Removing the mindset that food falls within a category of ‘good’ or ‘bad’, and instead flexible dieting focusing on using foods of choice to meet a daily intake requirement is the BEST practice for achieving not only results but a healthier relationship and sense of control with food.