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A couple of weekends ago I ate something I hadn’t in years. Within about an hour, I experienced something I had also not had in years: a ferocious food craving.
The experience made me realize that my usual daily diet–along with effortlessly keeping my weight down–has produced an unexpected benefit. It has immunized me from food cravings.
What I ate was a piece of gluten-free bread. But, still, later that evening, I found myself drooling over the thought of chomping down on another piece of bread. I savored the thought of biting into the crust, working my way through the soft dough…
But I wouldn’t let myself have any more, simply because the experience of wanting more bread so badly unnerved me.
My usual meals are based on the Paleo diet. The Paleo diet is meant to generally exclude the foods humans have gone a little overboard on since the introduction of agriculture about 10,000 years ago. It centers on meat, fish, fruits, vegetables and nuts. It omits grains like wheat and corn. It forbids gluten, dairy and soy.
I went on a Paleo diet because I have health issues associated with gluten. Aside from slowing the damage I experienced from gluten, the unexpected benefit of quelling food cravings was a surprising one. And one that you too, whether you have problems with gluten or not, might appreciate. But if going paleo is not for you, there are other effective ways to cut down on food cravings…
Quieting the craving
Exactly why a Paleo diet might put an end to food cravings is debatable. I think this happens because as long as I stick to my approved foods I can eat as much as I want. That doesn’t leave room for cravings. How can you crave a food if at every meal you stuff yourself with as much food as you desire?
Many days I feel like I don’t just eat as much as I want, I eat about as much as I can.
Oh, did I mention that since I went on the Paleo diet, I’ve lost about 15 pounds? Yes, I exercise but I don’t work out for an unreasonable amount of time. As long as I stick to the foods on my diet and stay away from sugary drinks, weight, for me, has become a non-issue. I eat until I feel full. And if I feel hungry a short time later, I eat some more.
But if you don’t want to go on a Paleo diet, the so-called nutrition experts have come up with other methods that are supposed to be effective at curbing food cravings:
- Keep junk food out of your pantry: No-nonsense right? If you don’t keep problem foods in your house, you can more easily resist a craving for them.
- Eat the food you crave in the middle of a meal: According to Melinda Beck in The Wall Street Journal, research shows that eating a problem food like chocolate during a meal may help you fend off a craving for it later. Better yet, eat dark chocolate–because it’s not a ‘problem’ food like sugary milk chocolate is.
- Chew mint gum: This is a tip I heard from Dr. Oz that comes from the idea that a minty taste in your mouth will make other foods taste yucky. I think it’s spot on. Try it…
- Change your mindset about treats. Instead of going for cookies, cakes and pastries, switch your dessert preference to the three pleasures. This tantalizing trio can actually quell your sweet tooth and help you maintain a healthier weight. This recipe is a great example of it.
- Yoga: If the above doesn’t work, a British study found that using controlled yoga breathing exercises may be able help you control cravings and addictions. If you want to give that a try, Dr. Wiley’s video is very helpful.
Of course, the best way to cope with a food craving is never to have one in the first place. Eating a diet that is satisfying and nutritious should keep cravings at a minimum. Healthy meals can be even more satisfying physically and emotionally, especially if you take the time to discover what you really like and cook it the way you like it–as long as you maintain what makes it a healthier choice… for example: olive oil would be a better option over corn oil.
As for me, I did allow myself one more piece of bread on Sunday. This time, I did not find myself attacked by the kind of intense craving that had besieged me the day before. Maybe I ate it at a time of day when I was less susceptible to a craving. Whatever the explanation, my bread experience over the weekend has reinforced my conviction that the Paleo diet is my best weapon against our current, toxic food environment.