Sunday, 19 April 2015

How to Resist Naughty Food Cravings

What constitutes "naughty" food is subjective but it could be said to be any sort of food you shouldn't indulge in, or that you're covering up for on a regular basis. Many foods could be viewed as "naughty" when consuming them results in unusual behavior (disguising it, lying, etc.), or leaves you with feelings of guilt, remorse, and dissatisfaction. For example, it might be the chocolate, cookies, cakes, and fast food that you crave even though you're trying hard to keep healthy or to a certain weight but you're justifying "just one or two" here and there every day. And this isn't just about dieting – there may be some foods you're mildly allergic to but you still indulge in them and suffer five days of hives or a blinding migraine after.

Whatever your definition of a "naughty food", staying away from it or minimizing your consumption of it is dependent on facing the fact that you're giving in to it square on. Here are some suggested ways to resist your naughty food cravings.

1. Determine your naughty food. 

Identify the foods you don't want to or should not be eating for nutritional, diet, health, religious, or other reasons but you're indulging in anyway. Some examples that commonly apply include:
  • Fast food on a regular basis, such as fries, burgers, hot dogs, fried anything, etc.
  • Pastries, cakes, cookies, doughnuts, and other baked goods.
  • Sugary breakfast cereals.
  • Fat-laden dishes.
  • Chocolate and candies.
  • Foods that bring on a headache or migraine, hives, rashes, or a general feeling of unwellness (this does not refer foods that result in severe, life-threatening allergic reactions – you'll be more than aware you can't indulge in those, period.)
  • Foods that seem to impact your complexion or your energy levels poorly.
  • Foods that are not supposed be eaten because of your faith-based or other beliefs, such as meat, beef, ham, pork, unfiltered drinking water, etc.
  • Foods that leave you feeling guilty or remorseful for eating, and eat in hiding or go to great lengths to cover up (with the caveat that managing your relationship with such food and emotions is crucial.)

2. Find your triggers. 

It's important to focus on what causes you to indulge in naughty foods so that you can seek appropriate treatment or remedies. Cravings for food have a number of possible causes from emotions to medical conditions, and in some cases it's probably a good idea to discuss the problem with your doctor. In general, the following reasons can trigger food cravings:
  • Blood sugar levels and insulin levels are not being maintained evenly throughout the day. After spiking, a drop in blood sugar levels can bring on cravings.[1]
  • Convenience – some foods, like highly salted, fatty snacks, or sugary ones, are really easy to find in packages, and gobble down, without any preparation needed. The saltiness or sweetness makes them even more crave-worthy.
  • Sleep deprivation – whether caused by emotional stress, a medical condition, or some other reason, a lack of sleep can cause you to crave food as a solution to your tiredness.
  • Emotional stress or distress – eating due to stress is well-known and is a major trigger for eating naughty foods. Often termed "comfort food eating", there is a tendency to eat naughty foods when feeling down to get emotional comfort. And a lowered level of serotonin (common in depression) can bring about food cravings as well.[2]
  • Pregnancy – cravings during pregnancy can involve foods or non-foods such as clay (known as "pica" when it's not food).[3]
  • Menopause – women's tastebuds undergo significant changes for post-menopausal women, causing them to crave sweet foods because, ironically, they are less able to taste sweetness (presumably causing women to eat more to try and restore the taste of sweetness).[4]
  • Rebelliousness or resentment – you may resent the fact that you're not supposed to enjoy a certain type of food and rebel against the forbidden nature of it by indulging in it.
  • Habit – you may simply be so used to a food that you cannot stop indulging in it even thought it's not good for you. This is generally a thoughtless form of consuming the food, in that you simply resort to doing it because you've always done it, without questioning its value to your health or well-being.

3. Find solutions. 

There are many possible solutions to resisting naughty food cravings but what's important is to find solutions that fit in with your personality, needs, and lifestyle. The following steps suggest a range of possible solutions; it is also suggested that you talk with your health professional about issues you find challenging or worrying, and that you try a selection of solutions to see what fits your needs best. It may be that some work far better than others, or that a combination of solutions tailored to your unique needs is the optimal response.
  • Be patient as you learn what works and does not work, and most importantly, be gentle on yourself – slip ups are an inevitable part of changing what is, essentially, a bad habit.
  • Try to note which foods cause you to hit "rock bottom". Common suspects are caffeine and sugar in sensitive individuals.[5]

4. Be picky. 

Select your top naughty foods. Look at their ingredients. Identify the ones that have the absolute worst things in them, like high fructose corn syrup, trans fatty acids, high levels of sugar, salt, saturated fat, artificial colorings and flavorings, etc. Try to whittle down to 5 of the least adulterated naughty foods and use those as your "high quality treats" while leaving aside all the other ones. This makes them truly naughty foods because they're extra special, probably more expensive, and only to be eaten with complete focus on their quality.
  • For example, if you love chocolate, only ever indulge in the more expensive, low sugar, dark varieties purposefully aimed at being high quality. Or only eat the chips you know are cooked in a good oil over ones cooked in poorer oils.

5. Keep everything in moderation. 

Even when allowing yourself selective high quality treats, keep their consumption to a minimum. 

6. Eat regularly and in small amounts. 

Aim to eat regular, small-sized meals throughout the day that are low in or devoid of sugar. This will help to maintain your blood sugar at an even level and prevent craving spikes.[6]
  • Avoid refined carbohydrates as much as possible. As delicious as they are, they stimulate cravings by making your blood sugar spike and then drop dramatically.[7]


7. Half size every naughty food. 

There are lots of ways to reduce your consumption of naughty foods by half.[8]
  • Only take a few bites of your dessert, or share your dessert or meal with a friend or partner.
  • If you'd normally take the super-size portion, take the small size. Think in terms of your waistline not how much value the purchase entails – just because an extra large soda is only 5 cents more and comes with endless refills doesn't make it a better choice than the regular with no refills. Learn to consciously appreciate limits.
  • Do trade-offs. During meals, only eat one naughty food rather than several. For example, if you want to eat dessert, avoid the calorie or fat-laden parts of the main course.

8. Exercise. 

Exercise can balance blood sugar levels and ease your digestion. Do an easy walk after meals to help relieve the cravings. Do a sport or physical activity that you love.

9. Find substitutes. 

 Substitutes aren't only about foods that taste similar but foods that also fill the same emotional or textural role that the naughty foods have previously fulfilled for you. There are a number of ways that you can substitute the naughty foods:
  • Find the unsalted, lighter, less fat-laden, etc., version of whatever naughty food you're targeting. Read the labels really carefully though; the benefit of switching to the same product with a label stating it has less fat, salt, sugar, etc., doesn't necessarily mean it's any better for you. Be responsible by doing your research rather than relying on the company's marketing.
  • Remember that "fat free" doesn't mean calorie free if dieting is your issue!
  • Find foods that fill the role of the naughty food. For example, maybe you're snacking on chips and chocolate and sipping soda while watching TV because you've always done this and it feels right. Try to use foods that still give the sensation of constant munching but don't come laden with the calories, fat, caffeine, sugar, etc. For example, try unsalted and unbuttered popcorn, diluted fruit juice, a dip and raw veggies, etc.

10. Make it really easy to eat foods that aren't naughty. 

A big reason why many of us cannot make food changes is that the alternatives seem "too hard". When breaking a habit, use the time to retrain this mindset by finding all of the ways to make it "too easy" and replace those naughty foods. Some ways to help yourself include:
  • Purchase pre-cut nibbling vegetables. Or prepare a large amount of vegetables for snacking on over several days and leave in the fridge for the weak moments. It's much easier doing the effort in big batches than hurdling the "I don't want to prepare it" excuse at the time you need a snack. Great veggies to keep ready to snack on include: celery, carrot, sugar snap peas, radishes, beansprout, etc.
  • Always keep low-fat, delicious dips on hand.
  • Wash all fruit prior to putting in the fridge or fruit bowl. That way, all you need to do is grab it and eat it! Great fruit to always have available includes: apples, bananas, oranges, mandarins, pears, melon, and watermelon. If cutting apples, pears, or bananas for storage, add lemon juice to prevent browning.
  • Create separate ration portions with the acceptable calorie/sugar/fat, etc. content per serving. Ration them out and know that when this portion is consumed, that's it!
  • Read how to choose healthy snacks.

11. Don't buy forbidden foods. 

Don't have them sitting around the house tempting you and drawing you in. Resist the temptation to buy naughty foods just because they're on special – go and hunt for good foods that are on special instead!
  • Ask family members or other members of the household hide their stashes of naughty foods from you.

12. Face the emotional triggers. 

If any of your triggers are emotional ones, including stress, resentment, rebelliousness, or even laziness, it won't be as simple as finding substitutes, halving proportions and wishing yourself free of the cravings. You'll need support to work on the underlying emotional reasons. This might be by way of counseling or therapy, or through reading widely on overcoming your emotional issues and learning to engage your emotions more constructively. If you're suffering from stress, it's really important to learn the many ways possible to reduce stress that are far more effective than filling your unhappiness with poor quality food.
  • Learn to relax. Inhale deeply and practice deep breathing.
  • Move away from the situation that is distressing you. Going for a walk can remove you from the problem instantly and give you a chance to think things over rather than eating your way into more misery.

13. Self massage away your naughty food cravings. 

Self-massage can help some people reduce their cravings; at the very least, it's a great distraction technique and brings relaxation:[9]
  • Sit in a comfortable place. Mix a tablespoon of sweet almond oil with two to three drops of one of these essential oils: lavender, geranium, neroli, or jasmine.
  • Massage your lower legs using the oil. Use long sweeps from the feet to the knees.
  • Add moisturizing cream to your face and neck and massage in with your fingertips.

14. Try hypnotherapy. 

Hypnotherapy is commonly used to help reduce cravings and addictions.[10] Your hypnotherapist will likely ask you about your food cravings and the emotions invoked by food prior to hypnotizing you. Expect to be given visual cues and visualizations to help distract you from your naughty food cravings. 

15. Indulge now and then. 

Don't give up your naughty foods completely. To do so would be to deprive yourself of pleasures in life and most people will not only resist deprivation but will actively resent it until they can give in to it again. The key is to eat naughty foods in moderation and to leave them for special occasions rather than to indulge in them regularly.
  • Learn to savor the flavor. Aim to really appreciated the flavor of the food you're eating rather than aiming to get it into your stomach as fast as possible.
  • Avoid substituting with a food you can't stand. You're much better off with greatly reduced proportions of the naughty food than gulping down lots of the detested substitute.

16. Face up to your beliefs or health needs. 

When your naughty indulgences breach your faith-based or other beliefs, or where eating the food leaves you sick, the issue is broader than simply concentrating on your weight or future health.
  • In the case of breaching your faith-based beliefs, speak to your faith mentor, priest, minister, rabbi, etc., and seek solutions to the situation. It may be that you're not taking your faith seriously enough, in which case, a more in-depth rethink might be needed.
  • If you're following a particularly strict diet like vegetarian, vegan, fruitarian, raw food, etc., and you're eating food that doesn't align with your dietary and wider ethical beliefs, it's time for a rethink about what you're doing and whether the choice you've made is working for you.
  • In the case of breaching your beliefs, you're potentially going to suffer far greater guilt and self-loathing for breaking with them than with any other reasons for giving in to cravings, so it's important to do your inner searching and reach sound decisions about your choices as soon as possible.
  • If eating something causes you to break out in hives, suffer from mild allergic reactions, get a terrible migraine, or generally feel bloated or unwell, etc., it's important to reflect on the consequences and the dangers involved of eating food you react badly to. Is that food item really worth suffering for?


  • Think of the extra spare cash. Naughty cravings don't come cheap!
  • Weight loss is made easier when you bring down your blood sugar and insulin levels; this is a good reminder for your weaker moments when dieting.[11]
  • If peer pressure is an issue, simply tell people you cannot eat certain foods because they are harmful for you.
  • A low GI (glycemic index) diet can reduce cravings.[12] In some cases, following this can be as easy as turning from instant, over-processed versions of a food to the unprocessed, slightly longer-to-prepare versions. Easy as!
  • One definition of "naughty" foods is for foods named after anatomical features or shaped like genitals. This article is focused on a very different definition but it's accepted that both definitions are apt!
  • Consider collecting "food porn". Indulge your love of food by looking at glorious photos of food in magazines, recipe books, and online. The more complex and beautiful the food, the better for your eye. Just don't give in and let it end up in your stomach! Consider creating a photo album of your favorite naughty foods to indulge in viewing rather than consuming your tasty delights.


Sources and Citations

  1. Ann Fittante, The Sugar Solution, p. 7, (2007), ISBN1-59486-693-7
  2. Selene Yeager, The Doctor's Book of Food Remedies, p. 214, (2007), ISBN 1-59486-753-4
  3. The Merck Manual of Medical Information, p. 1440, (2003), ISBN 978-0-7434-7733-8
  4. Ann Fittante, The Sugar Solution, p. 128, (2007), ISBN1-59486-693-7
  5. Selene Yeager, The Doctor's Book of Food Remedies, p. 216, (2007), ISBN 1-59486-753-4
  6. Reader's Digest, Curing Everyday Ailments the Natural Way, p. 77, (2000), ISBN 1-876689-78-1
  7. Ann Fittante, The Sugar Solution, p. 21, (2007), ISBN1-59486-693-7
  8. Ann Fittante, The Sugar Solution, p. 128, (2007), ISBN1-59486-693-7
  9. Reader's Digest, Curing Everyday Ailments the Natural Way, p. 77, (2000), ISBN 1-876689-78-1
  10. Laura Haden, Beating the addition, p. 52. Woman's Day (NZ), October 18, 2010
  11. Ann Fittante, The Sugar Solution, p. 7, (2007), ISBN1-59486-693-7
  12. Ann Fittante, The Sugar Solution, p. 60, (2007), ISBN1-59486-693-7

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