I’ve seen it happen so often with my clients: There they’ll be minding their own business and sticking to a healthy diabetes meal plan, when, suddenly, a craving hits and all those good intentions are cast aside. Has this happened to you? It could be chips or chocolate, salty or sweet. No matter what your craving is for, it may seem almost impossible to control. Because I’ve seen this so often, I tell my clients not to worry; there are strategies that may help. These are a few of my most successful “craving crushers.”
Wait a bit before giving in to your cravings. Set a timer and walk away. Do jumping jacks for five minutes (talk with your diabetes care team before starting an exercise plan) or take a meditation break to clear your mind. I’ve found chances are good that your cravings may fade or even disappear.
Don’t call it “cheating”
Eating something that’s a bit junky doesn’t make you a cheater. In my experience as a Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE*), that makes you normal! I’ve seen people actually reduce their cravings once they stop labeling some foods as “bad” and feeling guilty about eating them. Give yourself permission to eat a food that you once considered taboo; just keep that as a treat and watch portion sizes. (Learn more about portion sizes here.)
Treat yourself to the real thing
If you want crunchy crackers or chips, don’t eat carrots as a substitute. You know that won’t really satisfy you. Instead, my advice is to eat a planned amount of the food you really crave. Eat slowly and savor every bite. Want chocolate? Eat chocolate chips one at a time to make them last a longer time.
Spread your food out
You may find that you have many fewer cravings if you eat consistently throughout the day. Skipping breakfast or working through lunch may set you up for out-of-control hunger or a strong desire for junk food. Take time for at least three balanced meals each day and follow your diabetes meal plan.
Embrace life balance
Hit the hay at a reasonable hour; enjoy time for yourself; and get regular exercise. Feeling positive and balanced may help protect you from impulsive eating and guard you from the feelings of deprivation that I’ve seen often lead to a desire for unhealthy foods.
Build a “distraction kit”
Cravings hit nearly all of us, so be prepared! Fill a box or a bag with things that may keep your mind off that craving. Keep your distraction kit nearby. Fill it with exercise bands, a magazine, nail polish, a puzzle book, blank greeting cards, and a list of chores that you keep meaning to get to. When the desire to snack hits, get distracted!
Replace the visual image of food with the image of something else. Researchers found that conjuring up the image of a rainbow or other common sight may curb cravings. It seems to be harder to focus on the craved food when you’re using brainpower to hold a mental picture of something else.
Reach for a stick of sugar-free gum before a craving strikes. In one study, when men and women chewed for fifteen minutes each hour after lunch, they seemed to reduce their hunger and cravings for sweets.
Jill Weisenberger, MS, RD, CDE*, is the author of Diabetes Weight Loss Week by Week, and the upcoming The Overworked Person’s Guide to Better Nutrition, as well as contributing editor at Environmental Nutrition, and has written for many publications including EatingWell, Diabetic Living, Her Sports + Fitness, and LifeScript. Weisenberger is a paid contributor for The DX. All opinions contained in this article reflect those of the contributor, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies, or affiliates.
*“Certified Diabetes Educator” and “CDE” are certification marks owned and registered by the National Certification Board for Diabetes Educators (NCBDE). NCBDE is not affiliated in any way with Sanofi US. NCBDE does not sponsor or endorse any diabetes-related products or services.
© 2014 The DX: The Diabetes Experience