How to Conquer Your Food Cravings

By Rachael Moeller Gorman, March/April 2011

5 tips to help you stave off overeating.

People who suffer from alcohol or drug addiction have a lot in common with people who chronically crave food: they are highly conditioned to abuse their substance of choice, says Nora Volkow, M.D., director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). If thinking about food rules your life, seek help from a professional. But if you’re someone dealing with occasional cravings, restructuring your day and planning ahead can help you resist overwhelming temptation. Here’s how:

Next: 1. Anticipate moments of weakness »


1. Anticipate moments of weakness.

“You preset yourself [to say], no matter what, you’re not going to allow yourself to be tempted by the food,” says Volkow. “It’s much easier to control your urges if you do it beforehand than if they take you by surprise.” For example, if you tend to binge on candy while working at your computer, cut up melon and keep it on your desk so you’re less likely to visit the vending machine.

Next: 2. Take one flavor at a time »


2. Take one flavor at a time.

“If I give you just one item, say, apples, you will get saturated with the flavor of apples,” says Volkow. “But if I mixed different alternative flavors, you actually can go from one to the other,” eating a lot more than if you only had one type of food on your plate. So keep your meal relatively simple.

Next: 3. Ban eating in the car and in front of the TV »


3. Ban eating in the car and in front of the TV.

“Set up a space for eating so these other activities and spaces don’t get conditioned with the food,” suggests Volkow. Then eat only at the table, using a plate and doing nothing but eating and talking to your tablemates.

Next: 4. Don’t skimp on shut-eye »


4. Don’t skimp on shut-eye.

“It has now been recognized that sleep deprivation increases the risk of overeating and obesity,” says Volkow. The National Sleep Foundation recommends 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night for adults.

Next: 5. Keep your cool »


5. Keep your cool.

“When a person is stressed, that decreases their ability to exert control over desires,” says Volkow. Squelch your stress with exercise: you can schedule daily workouts for a natural high. Volkow also recommends keeping your workout bag packed and ready to use for during high-pressure times. “If I am in a very stressful condition,” she says, “I go and I run.”