Make The Fall A Short One: Cravings and getting past the pitfalls
The good news is that you can beat cravings. After about 3 months of being on a diet and eating clean, the severe cravings for pizza, burgers and fries goes away. At least, that is what I experienced. I know this is hard to believe …especially when you are in the midst of your first month of a diet. At that point it is difficult just to get through every day without picking up the phone to order a pizza. Or …perhaps you are thinking about starting a diet – but are intimidated by having to deal with cravings and just don’t feel like you can do it? Well, there is a light at the end of that tunnel, and surprise! It’s NOT an oncoming train!
Taste buds actually change about every three months based on your diet. Give yourself a goal of making it 3 months through a diet. If you can stick with your plan, and minimize the number of times you fall down, then eventually, your taste buds will adapt to your new diet, and the cravings will subside.
Fail Fast, Fail Cheap
The bad news is that you will still periodically deal with small cravings. Perhaps it is for your old favorites or perhaps you have a sweet tooth? Or perhaps cookies or crackers are your thing? Regardless of what special food is your Achilles’ heel, it makes sense to have a plan for when those moments arrive. Entrepreneurs have a saying: “Fail Fast, Fail Cheap”. No, I am not telling you to fail – that expression means that when you “make a go” of a new business venture, if it is going to fail, make sure that failure is as cheap as possible in both resources and time. Cravings can function the same way. If it is going to happen – and trust me, it WILL happen, make it have as little impact on your diet as possible. We can do this by establishing a contingency plan.
Engineering a Safety Valve
At the core of a craving is missing out on a specific flavor or texture, usually. Sometimes it is content, like sugar or caffeine. There is something in particular that you are wanting to satisfy. For me, it is often sweet things or chocolate. But also, salty and crunchy things drive my cravings. Whatever it is, we need to set up a situation where we can satisfy the craving if we can’t resist it. Then move on with as little impact on our daily caloric intake as we can manage. I achieve this by having just a few things around that can help me out in those situations
Let’s look at what I have set up for my safety valves:
- If I am craving crunchy, salty things, I might get a small bowl of salsa and 15 tortilla chips. That is just enough to satisfy my cravings and at the same time is not going to put my diet-day in jeopardy. Calories are likely around 150 for the tortilla chips and maybe 45 for the salsa.
- If I am after sweet things, I fall back on the IsaDelight chocolate squares by Isagenix. They work wonders on my cravings and at only 60 calories it really has little impact on my diet day as well. In addition, the chocolate is made with green tea, so it’s a chocolate that’s better for you than some others. In particular, the Sea Salt and Caramel is my favorite!
- I also keep the Orville Redenbacher Smartpop 100 calories bags of popcorn around for a low impact snack. The kettle corn variety offers just a touch of sweet to the taste and feels entirely decadent. As a 100 calorie quick snack, it is awesome.
- A staple for me is peanut butter and honey on toasted bread. This is a snack that I use when I am feeling a huge hunger for something hearty and filling. I have to be REALLY careful with this one as it is very easy to spiral. Low cal bread is 40cals per slice. I put a tablespoon of PB on each slice and a dab of honey. That comes out to about 280 calories. That’s the kind of snack that you can only indulge in sparingly. I try to keep it to one per week if I can.
- Sometimes I am in a middle ground where I don’t want the peanut butter and toast – that’s too much. But, I need more than a chocolate square. I turn back to Isagenix here for their Fiber Snack bars. In particular they make a peanut chocolate chew bar that is 150 calories. It gives me a taste of both chocolate and peanut butter and generally can tide me over until the next meal.
So there are five items that I sometimes have around the house to satisfy cravings. To be clear, these aren’t used just for everyday snacks. I save these for those situations when I am craving something in particular or am feeling the need to indulge in richer food. Most of the time, my snacking is fruit or vegetables with hummus.
Here’s where it gets difficult. I am talking about having safety valve foods on-hand, yet having bad things in the house makes cheating so much easier. Eating the wrong things is difficult if they are not in the house. That how I did it to start with. IF the bad things were there, I would break down and eat them, so I got rid of them and gave myself no choice. In the beginning, having that stuff around was a huge temptation and would have seriously undermined success.
It’s a balancing act based on where you are in your diet routine and what you need to be successful. You may be one of those people with a super will power and able to simply decide what you will eat and won’t …and that’s the end of the story. I’m not one of those people. Healthy snacking is a fickle mistress and she often tempts me to stray.
When I started my diet, I had to remove all the bad things and restrict myself to only what was on my diet. Then, after I had gotten through the first month, slowly my dad started bringing in his favorite snacks, cheese, crackers, etc …and I was able to withstand it – mostly! I could go days without anything, then in a spectacular crumbling of will, break into a bag of M&M’s and eat half of it. As it turns out my body is rather unforgiving. If I slip up like that, it punishes me and I can pretty much count on no weight loss that week. It’s a pretty strong motivator not to mess up.
It wasn’t until about 3 months in to the diet that my taste buds changed and I then was able to handle having the snacks in the house and not splurge like that. Everyone is different, however, and your ability to handle snacks may be completely unique to my experience. It’s about being honest with yourself and finding out what works for you.
So after a year and half I am to the point where I know what I need to do for my diet and what I can and cannot eat. I have my safety valves set up for me when I get cravings and reserve them for when I really need them. I have my healthy snacks set up so my safety valves are not a daily occurrence. And I often reach for water or tea/coffee first when I get hungry, as an effort to see if that quells the issue. Remember, the safety valves are not your go-to snacks …they are the exception and there to serve a specific purpose. Having a plan in place also is not permission to cheat whenever you are hungry.
I’m not going to sugarcoat it. This was damn difficult until I got to the 3-month point. I have made mention of that several times now, and for good reason. Prior to that I spent a lot of the time frustrated and angry because I felt like I was denying myself. That was part of the commitment required to stick to my diet and get myself acclimated. That starting period is the worst part. It takes serious discipline to get through it and adjust your body. Just remember that it does get better. At the end of the day, being successful depends entirely on your will and dedication.