Mind over matter
Using pure willpower to overcome cravings doesn’t always work. (If it did, dieting would be easy and we’d all be at our own healthy, feel-great weights.) Guess what? You don’t have to tough out an unrelenting yen to house a box of Cheez-Its, you just need to fool yourself into thinking you didn’t actually want to eat the junk food in the first place. It’s easier than you think; here are tips from experts and recent studies to help you stay on track.
Visualize an internal pause button
The next time you want to reach for a big bowl of Chunky Monkey, picture yourself hitting a pause button in your brain. “If someone were to ask to borrow a lot of money, most people can stop and say, ‘I’ll think about it,'” says Coral Arvon, PhD, director of behavioral health and wellness at Pritikin Longevity in Miami, FL. But when that chocolate cake or bottle of wine is in front of us at the end of day, the majority of us don’t hesitate to indulge. “Think ‘pause,’ and consider your decision for 10 minutes before making an actual decision,” Arvon suggests.
Substitute junk food with healthy foods that resemble junk food
Find a healthy alternative that shares some of the same qualities as the fatty food you’ve got a craving for, says Jonathan Alpert, a New York City-based psychotherapist and author of Be Fearless: Change Your Life in 28 Days. Craving the crunch and salt of potato chips? Make a batch of satisfyingly crispy kale chips. Eyeing the carton of ice cream in your freezer? Whip up a fruit-packed smoothie bowl instead. “Over time your taste buds and brain will adjust and learn to like these healthier options,” says Alpert.
Imagine yourself eating
Thinking about eating a bag of candy makes it more likely you’ll eat less of it when you actually start eating it, according to a 2010 study by Carnegie Mellon University researchers. Study participants who30 M&Ms before indulging in a bowl of the candies ate fewer M&Ms than two other groups who imagined eating only three candies or no treats at all. Researchers say the key lies in thinking about eating the food versus merely thinking about or visualizing it.