Last week I shared a simple yet reliable tool for distinguishing a food craving from genuine hunger. All you need to do is honestly answer this question.“Would I eat baked salmon and steamed broccoli right now?”
If the answer is yes, then you’re probably legitimately hungry.
If the answer is no, then you’re probably under the influence of a food craving.
But as we all know, properly diagnosing a problem is only half the battle. Figuring out the best course of treatment is equally important. Distraction can be powerful when used for good.
Distraction gets a bad rap. There is virtually no shortage of modern distractions — from text messages, to social media, to petty gossip — that can lure us away from accomplishing our most noble goals.
As Mark Sisson points out in his book The Primal Connection, humans are hardwired to be distracted. Having our attention diverted to unusual noises and obstacles in our environment provides a distinct survival advantage. It’s just that we were never designed to be distracted as frequently as we are today.
The good news is we can capitalize on the fact that we are highly distractible creatures and use it to our advantage if we struggle with food cravings. Here’s how.
Most food cravings are triggered by our emotions (boredom, stress, happiness) but pass within fifteen minutes, especially if our attention is diverted. So it stands to reason that if we temporarily distract ourselves at the onset of a food craving, then we substantially decrease the odds of succumbing to it.
More good news
The exciting thing is that, even if we have fallen victim to food cravings all our lives, we can train ourselves to strengthen new (healthier) neural pathways in the brain to take over in those moments. If you’re anything like me, you’ll find it quite empowering to know there’s something you can do. Food cravings need not control you any longer!
Here are my top four go-to distractions for overcoming food cravings.
1. Get moving
Particularly if my craving arises after an extended period of intense focus, I like to get my body moving. It may be a 5-minute walk outdoors, a quick set of push-ups, chin ups or squats, or dancing with my kids while our favourite song blares. There is no doubt that physical activity does wonders to mitigate food cravings.
2. Chew gum
Sometimes I can reel in a food craving by simply chewing a piece of gum. How easy is that?
3. Drink up
Cravings can often be thirst in disguise, so downing a glass of water, herbal tea, or other approved beverage often does the trick.
4. Social stimulation
We are social beings, and we thrive by connecting with one another. Sometimes our cravings, especially after prolonged periods of work, are a sign that our social muscles need to be exercised. This may involve phoning a friend, catching up on social media (set your timer for 5 or 10 minutes so you don’t overdo it!), or sending a quick email to tell someone you care about that you’re thinking of them.
Use these four distractions, or better yet, come up with a list of your own that you can reference when your next food craving strikes. We really can train ourselves to forge healthy coping skills for our wide array of human emotions.
Please leave us a comment describing your number one go-to distraction for overcoming food cravings.