Getting Started With Your Weight Loss Journey

The biggest step in calming your cravings is the first one: learning a technique that works for you. Different techniques for calming cravings are effective for different people. For the best results, try all of the techniques outlined in this chapter a few times to see which ones are most helpful.

How to Keep a Slip from Becoming a Binge

It’s important not only to mindfully accept your cravings but also your occasional failures to resist them. If you give in to a craving and then feel guilty or hopeless, you may end up eating more junk food just to help yourself feel better or because you have given up trying.

Remind yourself that nobody is perfect, making mistakes is normal, and your slip was not the end of the world. Instead of beating yourself up over it, change direction. Every second that passes is a chance to begin to recover from your mistake. It’s never too late to do the right thing.

First, limit the damage – stop eating the craved food. Giving in to a craving doesn’t have to turn into a binge. It’s never easy to stop eating something you’ve been craving. It can be as though you’re on a highway going fast in the wrong direction. What you need to do is slow down and look for an exit.

Here’s a trick that may help you stop eating after you have given in to a craving. As soon as possible, curl the toes of one foot and repeat to yourself, “I am exiting now,” or, “I don’t really want to eat this.” The discomfort of your curled toes and the irony of your self-talk will help anchor you to reality. Keep repeating the phrase and keep your toes curled until you have the presence of mind to stop eating. Then immediately use one of the tools from the previous section to calm your craving.

Second, evaluate what went wrong and make a plan for next time so you won’t make the same mistake again. Rehearse your plan a time or two before you are tempted again.

Self-Therapy for Cravings

Does chocolate sing to you? Do you hear a symphony whenever you walk past the candy aisle of a grocery store? Do cookies scream your name? You will probably always be tempted by the foods you crave most, but there is a way to turn down the volume of those temptations. The basic approach is to calm your emotional reaction to thoughts of the foods you most often crave. You want to make those foods less exciting, or even boring, to think about, so your thoughts are less likely to trigger cravings. Here’s how you would use self-therapy to treat an addiction to chocolate chip cookies. You can use the same steps for any food you find particularly tempting:

1. Visualize chocolate chip cookies in a situation that you frequently find tempting. This might be, for example, a plate of cookies that a coworker has brought to the office to share.
2. To this mental image, add one thing that would make the cookies less desirable. This might be a hair sticking out of one of the cookies, or a bit of mold. Keep your visualization realistic and don’t be overly dramatic. Your objective is to make the cookies boring, not disturbing; less emotionally arousing, not more. Also, imagine only one negative thing at a time. It’s important to keep the mental image simple.
3. Hold this mental image in your mind for a minute or two.
4. Repeat steps one through three at least twice each day for a week.
5. Whenever you are in a real-life tempting situation with chocolate chip cookies, immediately imagine the hair or mold to make the real cookies less desirable.

Go through this entire process as often as you need to for any food that you find particularly tempting. Each time you do, you are training yourself to think about those foods without getting excited about them. It’s the excitement that gets in the way of rational thinking and causes you to give in to temptation.

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