Tip: Learning to be truly aware and mindful around problem foods or stress eating triggers can help you feel in control of cravings – liberation from feeling like food is controlling you. In Phase One of The De-Stress Diet, cutting out sugars and junk foods can help reset your responses to food and these methods can help you stick to that.
How: Here are some tips to help you cope if cravings strike:
- Distract yourself: Calling a friend, reading the paper, even brushing your teeth can take your mind off a craving. ‘Like nicotine cravings, food cravings come and go quickly, and in the short-term distraction can help,’ asserts Professor Julia Buckroyd, a leading psychologist and author of Understanding Your Eating (Open University Press 2011).
- Stop a binge: Feeling guilty about that piece of cake? ‘Instead of thinking ‘Oh I might as well continue being naughty’, try the ‘Traffic Light System’, suggests hypnotherapist Ursula James, author of You Can Think Yourself Thin (Century 2008). ‘Savour your cake mindfully, then imagine a red light to help you stop there. Take a few deep breaths, tell yourself a single piece of cake is harmless – but how will you feel tomorrow if you continue to overeat today?’
- Have a plan: Planning your food intake each week and sticking to it helps stress eaters become re-acquainted with what true hunger feels like, research has found. Remember though, to eat enough protein and healthy fats at each meal as depriving yourself can make stress eating worse.
- Wait half an hour: ‘Nine times out of ten, you’ll forget the craving within 30 minutes,’ says dietician Sian Porter. If you’re still hungry, ask yourself ‘Is this what I really want to eat?’.
- Log it: Use the De-Stress Progress Chart – Energy, Mood and Appetite or keep a daily diary to help you identify your stress eating triggers. Jot down everything you eat and how you felt before, while and after you ate it. It needn’t be elaborate – were you hungry, emotional, stressed? How did you feel after you ate it immediately and after an hour? Satisfied? Calm? Cranky? Tired? After a couple of weeks identify the situations, people and emotions that make you want to overeat, and try and work out ways of dealing with them.
Why: Cutting out sugar and junk foods is a key principle in The De-Stress Diet and at this time you could be hankering after your favourite treats, even feeling a little hard-done-by. Remembering this is a short three week phase and not a total ban can help you through this time, but avoiding these foods will also help you to feel and remember how good you can feel without them and establish them firmly as treats only in the future.
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