Supper has just finished, you settle on the couch to relax, when a little voice in your head whispers, “Psst…hey you! You know what would really hit the spot right now? (add your favourite junk food here).”
You try to ignore the voice, but it keeps coming back, each time occupying more of your brain space, until you must give in to the temptation.
Snacking on junk food can be a difficult habit to break. These delicious combinations of fat, sugar and salt stimulate the reward centres in our brain and provide significant, if momentary, pleasure. However, this sensation does not last, and we must go back for more. The more positive associations created with these foods, the more your brain will encourage you to eat them.
How do we stop these cravings?
It is important to remember that behaviours you do not reinforce will lose strength. This means that if you do not give in to your cravings regularly, eventually they will lessen or go away. Conversely, the more times you succumb to your cravings, the stronger they will become. Here are some tips for fighting cravings:
• Become aware of your cues and triggers – figure out the situations that lead you to eat these foods whether it an emotional state or seeing a bag of chips on your shelf.
• Have a planned, alternate response –when your brain receives an unwanted invitation, what are you going to do? One idea is to avoid going into the kitchen or opening the fridge after supper. Or finding a healthier substitution, like sucking on frozen berries instead of ice cream.
• Positive self-talk: A conversation with yourself might go like this: “I know I really feel like chips right now but if I eat one, I will eat the whole bag. I can control this, I will just take the dog outside instead and eventually the craving will go away.”
• Leave it at the store – you will decrease the likelihood of submitting to a craving if you actually have to leave your house, get in the car and drive to a store rather than simply opening your cupboard.
Food cravings can be very powerful and distracting. However, with practice you can retrain your brain and gain control over what you eat.
Eating junk food should be something you enjoy on special occasions, not something you need to do every night.
-Serena Caner is a registered dietician who works at Shuswap Lake General Hospital.