By Karen Asp, "Conquer Your Cravings,"January/February 2012
Think you’ve tried every trick to squash food cravings? Try these three new strategies:
1. Muscle through it: Next time a craving hits, make a fist or firm those biceps for a surge in willpower—then walk away. This technique helped people choose a healthier snack in an April 2011 study in the Journal of Consumer Research.
Why does it work? When we’re determined to do something, like eke out the last difficult rep while lifting weights, we instinctively clench our muscles. In the same way, intentionally flexing a muscle can help us tap into that willpower, says study co-author Aparna Labroo, Ph.D.
2. Get some mental distance: Carrying around a bar of chocolate for a week without eating it might sound impossible, but it can be done. When people toting the sweet treat were taught to repeat “chocolate” for a full minute, focusing on the sound of the word when cravings struck—81 percent resisted eating the chocolate. Doing this makes you think more objectively about your cravings, so rather than get swayed by your desire for the sweet, you can choose to indulge or not.
3. Tap it out: A 2011 study in Behaviour Change found that overweight adults who tapped acupressure points on their face and body while thinking about a food craving quelled their urge to eat. (The technique involves repeatedly tapping eight specific points of the body while reciting a short phrase about intrusive thoughts.) By the end of the six-month study, the women had lost about 11 pounds. Some researchers theorize that tapping specific points quiets the amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for cravings.
Try it yourself: Using your index and middle fingers, tap eight points (eyebrow, side eye, under eye, under nose, just above chin, collarbone, under arm, top of head) at least seven to 10 times. Before you tap each point, recite a short, positive phrase about the food you want to crave less (such as “Love that sugar” or “Even though I’m addicted to chocolate, I choose to accept myself anyway”).