Why cravings are good and how to build food discipline

discipline and cravings post title

Here we are, adding the last piece of the puzzle. Today, by popular demand, we’re talking about cravings. I know everyone hates them, but what if we switched that around and saw them as opportunities to grow?

We talked about what makes us overeat (Blog Post: Why we love food) and the hormones that make us store what we eat. If you haven’t read the posts, go ahead and do that, so that everything is clear.

Understanding what’s going on in the brain and in the body can give you a freeing feeling that it’s not your fault, no matter how many times you failed a diet. Of course you did, you were set up for failure from the get-go. Or am I the only one who lost weight and then gained some back, and then lost again and so on? Every single time trying THE SAME THINGS, hoping that this time will work. That’s the definition of insanity.

But that also means that you can do something about it, now that you know what the problem is. That involves letting some foods go. Again, it’s crazy to want a different result if you don’t change the strategy. Sugar, you’re fired! If when you read that, your brain came up with all the reasons why you can’t, then you probably need to drop the sugar.

But it’s difficult, right? While the body adjusts, it will crave the sweets, the snacks, the comfort food. How do you say no?

The 24h plan

What if I tricked you and said that “No” means “Not now”? Would you put the donut down? There’s a big chance you would!

Planning your food 24h in advance helps you do just that.

How does this work?

It’s as simple as it sounds. When you get up in the morning, you plan what you’ll eat the next day. Not the day you have ahead, but the next one. And then you eat that and only that. Planning doesn’t mean cooking the food, but only deciding what you’ll eat.

When you choose food on the spot or only a few hours ahead, you use the part of the brain that only seeks pleasure and instant gratification. The animal brain doesn’t make the best choices, and if you have a dog you might know that (oh, the stuff that they eat…). However, if you make choices ahead of time, you use your evolved human brain, the part of you that has your best interest in mind.

How does this help?

Apart from making better decisions for yourself, it has two big beneficial consequences:

  • You grow your discipline and self-confidence muscles. You build trust that you’ll do what you say you’ll do. And that is an amazing skill to have! For that to happen though, I have one big tip: start where you’re at. Do not set yourself up for failure by planning a salad when you know you’ll definitely have pizza. Plan the pizza. Eat the pizza. Success. Do this for a while and then change the diet. I was confident at planning before I quit sugar! I already knew I can follow a plan, which made the next step easier.
  • You limit the emotional eating. If you feel like crap and really want something to make you feel better, you’ll have the amazing opportunity of dealing with your feelings, rather than eating them. See how in the next section. And you can still have the comfort food, but tomorrow! If you can’t shake the craving off, you plan that specific food for the next day. You’re not saying No, you’re saying Not now.

It takes a while to get this going. The first few days you do it, you’ll forget about a restaurant reservation, a celebration at work, a change in your normal schedule, etc. Or you won’t plan enough food and you end up hungry (I’ve done this a few times)! Come back to it, there’s no problem, it’s all normal and expected.

It took me about three weeks to build a routine and remember to check my calendar for events or trips. Now I plan for the entire week ahead, put it in my calendar and only check one day before to see if I need to adjust anything or shop for any ingredients. I also plan for exception meals once a week.

Most restaurants now have their menu online so it’s easy to plan. If not, go for something that you know all restaurants have!

My brain is free from making food choices all day long and I can spend that energy on something else. Brilliant.

Allowing cravings

Notice that I used the word “allow”, not “fight”. Fighting cravings involves a lot of willpower, which only works for a while. You look away from the food, feeling a storm building up inside and at some point, the storm breaks, and you don’t even know when the cupcake got into your mouth. You wipe the cream off your face thinking “this diet didn’t work either, I might as well try the red velvet one now that I failed”.

How do you allow a craving? You sit there in discomfort and you’re ok with it. Oh, if only that would be so easy!

But that’s basically it. When you feel a craving, you want to sit down and explore it. Here’s my process:

  • Ask yourself why you want the food
  • Notice how it feels
  • Breathe and calm down
  • Remember that you’ll be uncomfortable either way. If you don’t eat it, you’ll feel this feeling for about 10 minutes and then it goes away. If you eat it, you’ll feel bad for doing it, possibly for days at a time because it stops your progress. I talked about this more here.
  • Remember your why – what’s your reason for losing weight or quitting sugar?
  • Make a choice from the future. Imagine your future self with all her goals achieved. What would she do?
  • If you have a role model, ask yourself “what would X do?”
  • Let all the feelings come up and be curious about them. What are you thinking about? Why are you feeling that way?
This is how a craving should feel like. Remember that IT TAKES PRACTICE

Wow, it would be easier to eat the food, right? But you know the cool thing about the process? You can apply it to anything – it helped me with procrastination!

How do you know if you’re fighting or allowing? First of all, it feels different. If you’re using phrases such as “I’ve been good today“, or “I deserve this because I’ve done so well yesterday”, or “I don’t deserve this because I’ve been bad this morning”, you’re definitely using willpower. If you’ve been bad, you deserve a spanking, not a cupcake.

That’s the diet mentality, and honestly, who wants yet another diet when we already know they don’t work? You want something that will work forever.

Repeat after me. It’s not a diet.

This is it. Hit me up with all your questions and let’s do this!

Sugar, you’re fired! And You got this.

Want to work with me 1 to 1 on your weight loss goals? Check out all the details here.

Love,

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