Got cravings?

Handle them with kid gloves or they can bring your diet tumbling down

When it comes to cravings, monitoring what, how and how much you eat will go a long way in helping you stick to your fitness goals.

My friend has found the perfect way to explain her cravings away [and give in to them too]. “If I am craving chips, it’s because I am salt-deficient. If I am craving sweets, it’s because my body is experiencing low sugar levels and needs energy. So where’s the harm in giving your body what it needs?” she asks indignantly. Of course, that she can satisfy her body’s deficiencies in healthier ways—eat cereal instead of pedas for instant energy, for example—doesn't occur to her!

Jokes aside, my friend may not be too far off the mark for there is one school of thought that believes that food cravings signal your body’s need for a particular nutrient. But while this may be true, these signals aren’t necessarily reliable and may not follow a particular nutritional pattern.

Does that mean you should deny all cravings? No, no human being should have to do without that occasional indulgence [notice the emphasis on occasional]. As long as you make up for it, indulging your craving won’t have you staring at the starting line of Mission Weight Loss yet again, especially having gotten so close to the finishing line. So if you indulge during lunch, cut back on dinner to balance your calorie intake. Of course, how you satisfy your craving too matters. Never do it on the run or while you are standing in front of the refrigerator. It will have you bingeing without knowing it. Instead sit down, serve yourself a measured portion and eat slowly to allow your body enough time to enjoy the treat and indicate when it’s had enough. The slower you eat the sooner you’ll be satisfied.

In my years of experience as wellness consultant I have stumbled upon some sure-fire ways to keep you from being overpowered by those irrational impulses. Raashee [33], mother of two, found one cheat code particularly useful especially because it allowed her to indulge in her second favourite pastime-phone chats [eating, of course, being her first love]. “My cravings were ruining my diet. I had worked hard to lose 4kg but let alone lose the next couple of kilos, my binges were constantly setting me back by half a kilo or more. I wasn’t convinced it would work,” she admits, “but Namita persuaded me to give it a try. Every time I felt a craving coming, I was advised to call up my best friend for a chat. Now chatting for hours on end comes quite easily to me, so I would end up talking with my friend about this, that and everything in between. Before I knew it, a lot of time had passed and the craving ... what craving?”

If you aren’t sure if it’s a craving you are experiencing, drink water. Sometimes that’s all your body needs. A craving may also result from a stressful situation. It is your body’s natural nurturing instinct kicking in. Address the cause of your stress instead of giving in to it.

Get into the practice of giving yourself a Crave-O-Check to know a real craving when it hits you. This scale lets you measure your craving on a count of one to 10. Scoring a 10 means you can easily give it a miss. Scoring a one, now you don’t dare mess with that! “I get a 10-point craving all the time,” says Neeti [32] “I love chocolates and every time I see a chocolate advertisement I feel like having one myself. There was this time when I was reading the book Chocolate by Joanne Harris; every page had me panting for chocolates. Just imagine what would happen if I were to give in to my desires each time,” she asks in a mock-serious tone. Such cravings are easy to say no to; just distract yourself with something else and the craving will have passed. But sometimes nothing works! ‘’You are at a meeting but you keep seeing chocolate everywhere. Try watching a mushy movie and all you can think of is helping yourself to a mushy pastry. Even reading won’t take your mind off it. This is a 1-point craving and you’ve got to take it seriously,” suggests Neeti, who promptly takes herself to the kitchen and sits herself down for a small helping.

If one looks at it, losing weight is like performing on a balancing beam; the slightest distraction can have you teetering either ways.

There will be moments when you will be disheartened by the lack of results and you may want to give it all up... for momentary satisfaction. Handle this distraction well and you will emerge out of this a winner.

Excerpted with permission from How to lose the last 5 kilosBy Namita Jain Published By Diamond Books, Price INR 150

CRAVE-O-CHECK

1-2 3 – 4 5 – 6 7 – 8 9 – 10
No contest. Must have it Tough call. How about just a bite Tricky, but willing to stay firm Strong enough to say no Why bother

My top mantras

There are healthy and satisfying substitutes for when a craving hits you in the gut. Try these:

  • Instead of ice cream try sherbet, ice golas or low-fat fruit yoghurt.
  • Longing for chocolate or mithai? Treat yourself to one piece and savour it slowly, allowing the experience to last a long while. Or have chocolate milk using skimmed milk.
  • If you are yearning for something sweet, try whole grain toast or a digestive biscuit topped with a little jam.
  • Ditch fried farsans and snacks for baked options such as kurmura and popcorn.
  • Aerated drinks are a no-no. Try herbal teas, coconut water or plain water.

This article was first published in the May 2013 issue of Complete Wellbeing.

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Namita Jain
Namita Jain is a Mumbai-based certified Clinical Exercise Specialist, Lifestyle and Weight management Consultant from the American Council on Exercise [ACE] and certified Health and Fitness Instructor from the American College of Sports Medicine [ACSM]. She is the Founder of LiveActive, a wellness company that delivers effective and holistically designed wellness programmes based on individual needs.

1 COMMENT

  1. Although constantly giving into junk food cravings is a sure-fire way to sabotage your healthy eating success, allowing yourself the odd treat will not only boost your happiness, it will also help you keep motivated to stay on track. Also, as many people crave the foods that they most attempt to resist, allowing yourself a little of what you fancy can actually help to reduce cravings. If you have imposed extreme restrictions on your diet and cut out entire food groups, cravings could also be a sign of a nutrient deficiency in your diet.

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