Learning how to say no is one of the most useful skills you can develop, especially when it comes to living a healthy life. Saying no to unnecessary commitments can give you the time you need to recover and rejuvenate. Saying no to daily distractions can give you the space you need to focus on what is important to you. And saying no to frequent food temptations can help you stay on track and achieve your health goals.
- It happens to all of us: we’re cruising along on our weight loss programme, feeling great, staying on track - when suddenly a temptation is staring us right in the face. Maybe it’s a box of donuts or maybe it’s a freshly baked pizza. Diets are difficult. They’re made even more difficult when you’re tempted by delicious food. It’s made doubly challenging because we’re constantly surrounded by people, photos, and a culture that tells us to eat, eat, and eat. Yes, dieting takes a lot of dedication, desire, and preparation, but it also takes a huge amount of willpower to resist temptation. Learning how to deal with those temptations will make your dieting experience much easier and more positive. These clever tricks to resist unhealthy food temptations can help you reach your diet goals.
- Make sure you’re eating enough: Your body requires a certain amount of calories to function properly. These provide energy for basic processes such as digestion, muscle repair and cell regeneration. If you deprive your body of these calories, it’ll start sending starvation signals to your brain, causing hunger and cravings. Curb cravings by making sure you are eating enough calories throughout the day.
- Wait out your cravings: Unlike hunger, when you ignore a craving, it tends to go away or lessen in intensity. A craving will usually last for about fifteen minutes. Try engaging in a distracting activity. Choose something that takes fifteen minutes or longer and that demands your full attention. After you have spent fifteen minutes focusing on a different task, you might even forget about the plate of ‘pakoras’ in the kitchen.
Is this worth it? Is the enjoyment you would gain from eating one donut worth missing out on the accomplishment of reaching your weight loss goals? Granted, in the heat of the moment it might seem worth it. But if you take a mental step back from the craving and remember how badly you want to feel the joy of being slender and healthy - suddenly the benefits the donut offers seem shallow and fleeting in comparison.
- Clean out your cupboards: One sure-fire way to be certain you don’t eat unhealthy foods at home is to not have them in your home. If you have unhealthy food around the house, you are making it easy for yourself to eat it in a moment of weakness. When you are right in front of your favourite smelling/looking/tasting food your brain says, “But I want it!” When you’re away from it all you start to think, “It’s not worth it.” Get rid of the soda, get rid of the TV dinners, the sugary treats and candy, the refined foods that have 30 ingredients. Just get rid of them. If you have to hop in the car and go get a burger and fries, at least you’re adding some time for you to think about what you’re doing.
- Choose healthy snacks: If you are genuinely hungry, it’s okay to eat! Cravings can also be triggered by low energy levels. If it is not time for a meal but you are getting hungry, a light and healthy snack can help you stay away from chips. Instead of eating cookies or potato chips, make yourself a healthy snack. Have salad with the low cal dressing, or a grilled chicken sandwich. Also keep apples, oranges, carrots, and other single-serving snacks around.
- Cook your own 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. Restaurant meals, and especially fast food, are full of salt and other unhealthy ingredients. In general, home-prepared meals tend to be more nutritious and generally lower in fat than restaurant food. Pack a lunch when you go to work. If you have your own healthy food, you’ll be less tempted to grab a quick bite at a drive-thru, or to have pizza that your co-workers ordered.
- Mindful eating: Preparing your meals ahead of time takes out the guess work when it’s time for food and eliminates the option for something much less diet friendly. When you sit down to eat, don’t eat until you are stuffed. Try to pause when you are about 75 per cent 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.
- Get plenty of sleep: Sleep deprivation causes your body to need (and crave) more calories to keep going. It has been linked to cravings for junk food. Getting a good night’s sleep should reduce unhealthy food cravings. Likewise, sleep deprivation can weaken your willpower, making it harder to resist cravings.
- Celebrate in moderation: Tasty but unhealthy foods are part of many of our celebrations. Whether it’s a birthday cake or ‘shadi ki dawaat’, sweet and fatty foods go with good times. Try to moderate how much of these things you eat. Not many people are likely to turn down a slice of cake on their birthday or tempting ‘biryani’ in weddings. Go ahead and have a piece! But keep in mind, it doesn’t have to be a huge piece. Also don’t overindulge in ‘biryani’. Even half plate of ‘biryani’ can satisfy your craving. Eat it. Enjoy it. Savour it, slowly. And tell yourself, “As long as I’m consistent 90% of the time, I can splurge once in a while.”
- Don’t go shopping on an empty stomach: Research shows that when you go to the grocery store hungry, you are more likely to make impulsive buys. This often means unhealthy food.
Try eating a small, healthy snack just before a trip to the grocery store. This will reduce the temptation to make junk food impulsive purchases.
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.