Conquer Your Cravings
Treat Yourself Guilt-Free
Research repeatedly shows that, in moderation, sweets can fit in a healthful diabetes meal plan. And when it comes to control, people who give themselves permission to enjoy some treats seem to crave them less.
"It's amazing how many type 2s are eating sweets but think they shouldn't," says Linda M. Delahanty, R.D., director of nutrition and behavioral research at the Diabetes Center at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. "So they just trade cravings for guilt."
Cravings can happen anywhere, any time of year, and often when you're least expecting them. We'll show you how to fend them off in three circumstances: daily, before a food-focused event, and when tempting foods stare you in the face. Practice these tips, and at your next party you'll have more control over the cake and your blood glucose, too.
"It's important to learn when and how to give in, and when it's better to distract yourself," Delahanty says. Here's how.
Eat What You Truly Love
There are very few foods you can't have, although you do have to stay within your meal-plan allowance and possibly count carbohydrates. If you really love chocolate, eat it and count it. But don't give in to a craving for something you like but could live without.
Change Your Food-Behavior Labels
When you eat that food you love, enjoy it. Don't label your behavior as "cheating" or "failure." Success is in the balance.
Don't Eat Around Your Cravings
Nibbling carrots, crackers, pretzels, and apples when you really want ice cream often backfires. By the time you've eaten all those "healthy" foods, you may have consumed more calories and carbs than if you'd had 1/2 cup of ice cream to begin with.
Don't go to a party hungry. Everything looks more tempting when you're starving. Instead, exercise, eat, and take your medications as usual so you're in normal control. If the party starts late, have a salad before you go. And if it's really late? Have dinner at home and avoid the party fare altogether.
Pick Your Favorites
If you know what foods will be served at a party, think about which you'll want most. Is it garlic bread or lasagna? Stuffing or gravy? Cake or cookies? Before you go, decide what you absolutely must have. Then at the party, eat those things and forget about the other high-fat, high-carb treats.
Practice Your Response
Imagine the temptations you'll face at the party and imagine in your mind how you'll react. For instance: "I'll have one small piece of my favorite pizza, then I'll walk away from the buffet table." That way, you'll be mentally ready to do it.
Wear noisy bracelets on the hand you use to eat. When you reach for more food, the jangle will remind you to not go overboard. Or use a coin or other object to keep your hands busy. "Play with a ring or bracelet instead of eating," Mintz says.
Alcohol can weaken your resolve as well as lower your blood glucose, so grab water or diet soda and sip it before you think about eating.
Scope Out the Scene
"Before you pick up a plate, go on a reconnaissance mission to see what's available," Bulik says. Mentally choose the food that fits your meal plan, then get a plate and serve yourself exactly that.
Stop for a Moment
When the craving intensifies, stop and talk to yourself. Think, I am stronger than my craving. Cravings rise and fall like waves. If you wait it out, it will pass.
The sight and smell of food can intensify cravings. Focus instead on dancing, chatting, looking at photos, or making a new friend.
Try the Thought-Acceptance Approach
If you feel helpless when faced with certain foods, the thought-acceptance approach may be helpful.
"Tell yourself that if you don't eat this food, you'll be bothered by it -- but you're OK with what your mind is going to do," says Evan M. Forman, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology at Drexel University in Philadelphia. Then notice when and how your thoughts stop you from taking care of yourself.
In one study, the Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) approach helped people with type 2 diabetes get their A1C levels in target range. In another study, college students learned the ACT approach and were able to carry chocolate candies for two days without eating them. To learn how to use ACT, check out The Diabetes Lifestyle Book (New Harbinger Publications, 2007).
Sort Out Your Emotions
If you frequently soothe sad feelings with sweets, you'll still feel sad and your blood glucose control may suffer. "If you're sad, let yourself cry," says Laurie B. Mintz, Ph.D., associate professor of counseling psychology at the University of Missouri in Columbia.
Get in the habit of filling in these blanks: I feel ______ because _______. Then act appropriately. If you feel stressed, practice deep breathing instead of eating chocolate. If you're lonely, call a friend.
Create a Playlist
Listening to music taps into your emotions -- eating often does as well. So fend off cravings by getting lost in your favorite song. "Better still, grab your iPod and make a special playlist of songs you know can take you somewhere else psychologically," says Cynthia M. Bulik, Ph.D., distinguished professor of eating disorders at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Make a Distraction Box
Write down a list of little nonfood things (knitting, walking) you can do to soothe yourself instead of eating. When cravings annoy you, choose one thing and do it.
Lead a Balanced Life
Get enough sleep, relieve your stress with exercise, and eat healthful foods. Taking good care of yourself is the best way to fend off the sense of deprivation that triggers craving and binge eating.