I often think that I'd be so much better off if I had better willpower (wouldn't we all?). I realized that I organize and plan many areas of my life, but I never put together an action plan to deal with cravings and temptations. That's why I've put together a checklist of 7 ways to beat a sugar craving to help me beat those cravings!
Many times, when I'm tempted to eat something unhealthy (usually sugar), I feel totally out of control. I often don't identify that feeling until much later, but when I'm in the middle of temptation it can feel like there's no way to stop those tempting thoughts. Maybe one little slip here and there wouldn't be so terrible, but the last time I cheated it started with an Andes mint and quickly devolved into a whole pint of Ben and Jerry's and ended with a piece of white bread.
Once I give in and have a little sugar, it's like my brain gets the memo that we “might as well” pack it in because this is the LAST TIME EVER and I've had a hard day and don't I deserve something and won't I be starting over soon, anyway?
Yeah. My mind can be a scary place.
Fortunately, after that…er, incident with the massive quantities of junk food I got sick. I'm actually thankful that I suffered with pretty bad stomach pain because it reminded me that sugar is not my friend! The migraine that followed shortly after was overkill, but still helped hammer the point home. When I was in the middle of the worst part of the migraine I remembered this article I'd read from Dr. Josh Axe and all of the risks associated with sugar consumption. Basically, every time I ingest sugar I'm harming myself. Intentionally. I don't want to do that anymore.
I don't want that inflammation in my body, I don't want the migraines, and I just feel like I should treat myself better. Especially considering that since I've now followed the Trim Healthy Mama way of eating for over 4 years now, I don't want to undo the work I've done to get to my goal weight and get healthy.
So what did I do? I made an action plan for preventing cheats. First, I had to use my Cheat Recovery One Day Meal Plan to get rid of the sugar cravings and feel more like myself again (the healthy self…not the Cookie Monster self that was shouting, “Give me ALL the sugar!”). THEN I started following a procedure every time I wanted to eat something that was bad for me. I know, I'm such a weirdo and I LOVE planning things out, but having a system in place has helped me skip the bad food choices over a dozen times. Following a checklist of things to try BEFORE I allow myself to cheat ends up convincing me not to cheat at all. It's been a big help to me and I thought you might benefit from it, too! Your printable checklist of 7 ways to beat a sugar craving can be downloaded at the bottom of the post, but here are the details:
When I want to eat unhealthy foods (sugar, simple carbs, etc.), I will:
- Remember that I have value and I have control over my desires for sugar. Why is this important? I am worth more than a few moments of sugary bliss – especially considering that I can get nearly the SAME delicious taste from healthy recipes that use stevia or sugar alcohols. That aside, my health is worth it to me. My body is worth it to me. And I know I CAN have the self-control and willpower not to cheat if I CHOOSE to. It really is 100% up to me.
- Have a glass of water. Sometimes I find that I'm extra tempted to make bad food choices when I'm hungry or thirsty. A simple glass of water not only helps to make sure that my body's water needs are met, but it also gives me time to slow down and re-think my options. This is especially helpful at a restaurant, or when I'm out running errands.
- Weigh myself. I know the camp is split on this one – some say not to weigh yourself often, and others say to weigh yourself daily. I say that if you're about to cheat, it's code red. Weighing myself doesn't have anything to do with shame. It just reminds me that I have a goal. If I cheat, I'll be putting myself farther away from my goal. And once I reached my goal weight, I realized that weighing myself reminds me that I don't want to undo the hard work I've done. Weighing myself in the moments of temptation (especially in the middle of the day, fully dressed) can strengthen my resolve. As long as I don't feel shame or guilt or stress myself out, weighing myself is a good reminder that I'm not yet where I want to be.
- Treat myself. Make an on-plan dessert or go out of my way to find a special treat for myself (like a few pieces of a Lily's chocolate bar). A few days ago I was running errands and realized I'd be passing by Whole Foods. And I like Whole Foods. I can't shop there too often, but from time to time I like to take the kids there and get fruits that we can't find at our local grocery store. Unfortunately, from time to time I also like to get my favorite chocolate pretzel bar, too. A smart move would have been to avoid Whole Foods completely. Since I've developed the habit of going there when I have a sugar craving, it really would have been smarter to avoid it altogether until I was past it. But since I don't always do the smartest thing, I decided to go in anyway.
Once I was there, I think I could smell my favorite chocolate right when I walked in the door. I'm sure I couldn't really, but it felt that way!I went straight to the chocolate section, touched my favorite chocolate, picked it up (now that I'm typing this, I realize I sound like a total creeper. Don't be like me! Be normal and skip the places of temptation, instead!), thought about discreetly smelling it but then realized I'd have to buy it and it would be all over from there. Instead, I PUT IT BACK (if you were here, I'd ask you to say, “Good job, Jen!” because I'm needy like that), and grabbed a Lily's Salted Almond Milk chocolate bar instead. Now, I know there are cheaper places to buy Lily's than Whole Foods. But for me, I felt victorious as I checked out, because I knew I'd beaten my sugar addiction (for that day, at least!). I only ate a few squares of the Lily's bar because they are rich and delicious and that's all I need to satisfy a craving. I drank a big bottle of water, ate the teeny overpriced salad with boiled eggs I'd gotten for protein, and called it a win. After that experience I started carrying a chocolate bar in my purse for emergencies. Well, what I consider an emergency. A chocolate emergency? Either way, it helps.
- Eat a THM Crossover or S Helper. This is probably one of my favorite tips for sticking to THM (or avoiding cravings in general). When it's that time of the month, or when I know my cravings are feeling extra difficult, I eat a crossover meal. If you're not familiar with the “Crossover” meal type for THM, you can get the specifics in the THM book. It's basically a meal that includes healthy fats and healthy carbs. It helps me out with cravings for a few reasons: a) I don't normally eat crossovers, so it feels like a special treat, b) sometimes I think my cravings are carb-related, and filling up on healthy AND satisfying carbs make a big difference for me. I actually just did this the other day – I'd run through steps 1-4 and still felt the stirrings of cravings. They were better, but still there. So I made brown rice, added a big pat of grass-fed butter, stirred in some salt, and I had a yummy ON-PLAN THM Crossover snack (I drank a cup of tea with collagen for protein). MUCH better than cheating!
- Listen to a THM Podcast. I listen to these all the time, not just when I feel like cheating. But listening to the podcast when I feel like making bad food choices helps because I learn so much, and get so many tips. It's a strong motivator! Listening to Pearl and Serene reminds me that there are so many reasons to eat well and encourages me to stick to it, even when it's hard.
- Call a friend. Sometimes all you need is a little personal encouragement. At any point in the process it may be helpful to call a friend and ask them to remind you why you shouldn't make bad food choices.
Those are the steps I follow to help me avoid cheats. What do you do? I'd love to hear how you resist temptation in the comments!
P.S. – I've written about my Top Tips for THM if you need a little extra help!