Crav­ing for junk food? Keep a raisin or nut on hand.

You were just about to decide to eat healthy, but you got a lit­tle dis­tract­ed — and now you’re already chew­ing a burg­er or chips? Any­one who has tried to switch to a health­i­er diet is famil­iar with the prob­lem of relapse. Amer­i­can nutri­tion­ist Leslie Corn, author of The Good Mood Kitchen, offers a wit­ty and, as he claims, effec­tive way to com­bat temp­ta­tions. More­over, all you need is one high­light.

Don’t give in!

Food temp­ta­tions and crav­ings for high-calo­rie foods, which are also over­sat­u­rat­ed with sug­ar, salt and fats, are seri­ous. The temp­ta­tion can be as strong as the crav­ing for alco­hol or cig­a­rettes, espe­cial­ly if you haven’t slept well, are stressed, or have sim­ply been work­ing hard phys­i­cal­ly or men­tal­ly. But for­tu­nate­ly, our brains love to be dis­tract­ed by new tasks and sen­sa­tions, and this can be used to cope with crav­ings for the for­bid­den.

So, you only need one twist.

First of all, take a good look at it: care­ful­ly exam­ine all the inden­ta­tions and uneven­ness on its sur­face, focus on tac­tile sen­sa­tions — is it soft or hard, how does it react to com­pres­sion, what does it remind you of? Smell it and notice how your body reacts to the aro­ma.

Then place the raisins on your tongue and roll them around in your mouth, explor­ing the tex­ture of the fruit. Try to chew it slow­ly, con­cen­trat­ing on the tex­ture as well as all the fla­vors. Chew it for as long as you can, then swal­low it — and try to imag­ine how the raisin slow­ly goes down the esoph­a­gus into the stom­ach.

(By the way: How to break your diet with health ben­e­fits and not gain weight)

All of these exer­cis­es are about slow­ing down and get­ting in touch with your body. In addi­tion, accord­ing to Korn, this prac­tice increas­es lev­els of a neu­ro­trans­mit­ter that sup­press­es anx­i­ety, sta­bi­lizes appetite and even improves diges­tion.

Now that you’ve focused on how you feel, ask your­self what your body real­ly needs? Does it real­ly want to eat? And if so, what food do you need right now? Most like­ly, the answer will sur­prise you: with a high degree of prob­a­bil­i­ty, you will find that you will eat veg­eta­bles, meat or nuts with great plea­sure. Or just drink water.

By the way, if you don’t have raisins on hand, any small piece of food will do: a nut, a slice of dark choco­late, a slice of apple or a piece of cheese. The main thing is to focus as much as pos­si­ble on all the sens­es, from sight and smell to taste.

(By the way: How to cope with hunger on a diet: four ways)

What else can you do to reduce cravings for unhealthy foods?

Get enough sleep

The worse we slept, the high­er the lev­el of hor­mones respon­si­ble for the feel­ing of hunger. In addi­tion, peo­ple who slept six hours or less tend to eat high­er-calo­rie foods dur­ing the day, typ­i­cal­ly high­er in light car­bo­hy­drates, fat, sug­ar, and salt, as the brain tries to com­pen­sate for the lack of ener­gy.

Monitor your stress levels

The high­er the lev­el of the stress hor­mone cor­ti­sol, the more we crave high-calo­rie foods, as well as sweets and fast food: in this way, the brain and body pre­pare to repel attacks and also help us run or hide.

Drink more often

Uni­ver­sal advice: if you feel hun­gry, drink a glass of water. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, very often we mis­take thirst for a desire to eat and snack at the moment when our body actu­al­ly needs mois­ture.

Exercise

Exer­cise helps main­tain healthy blood sug­ar lev­els, relieves insulin spikes, and improves com­mu­ni­ca­tion with your body. After an intense work­out or even just a quick walk, it’s much eas­i­er to under­stand what our body real­ly wants — and resist anoth­er unhealthy snack. So even a few bends or squats can keep us from eat­ing anoth­er unhealthy treat.

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