“What helps most when cravings hit (tastes, dishes, foods, exercise, activity, etc)?”
Cravings and exercise.
When you’re in the midst of dieting and making healthier life choices, these two words are just dirty 8-letter words…twice as bad as the very familiar 4-letter words adults use when frustrated or angry.
Having “cravings” is when your brain tells you, you think you are missing out on something, and this is the ‘ride or die’ moment when you must have that thing…or else. And guess what? These mean little guys are not going away easily. Your brain keeps harping on you until one of two things happen…either 1) you cave in and submit to the craving; or 2) you find a satisfactory alternative that will stop that nagging part of your brain. Number 1 is easier, but Number 2 is the choice where you win! I like winning! Sounds great! Where do I sign up for these winning #2 choices?
Here are some of my “go to” choices, and so far, they’re working solidly for me.
1) I’m a chai tea latte person. I can’t drink coffee, so chai tea is my morning ritual. Only I don’t really care for it naked. I like the “latte” part of the drink. But when dairy is no longer on the approved list, what can you do? I’ve learned to substitute almond milk for dairy milk, and it’s not a bad substitute. Additionally, instead of a healthy dose of almond milk (like I used to have when I used regular milk), I’ve learned a “splash” is enough to satisfy that
craving. I also learned that when absolutely necessary, I can add a small drop of honey, but that’s a rare occasion. It was an adjustment. I won’t lie. But I’ve learned that almond milk is very friendly with chai and they are happy in this union together, so that makes me happy. (Just for a fun bit of humor, I recommend Jack Whitehall’s comedic rendition of “The Milk Options”. (343) The Milk Options | Jack Whitehall – YouTube)
2) Eggs are another staple for me, so learning to remove the yolk before eating was a challenge, which I have accepted and embraced. No substitutes needed. Just a mindset change. See that? Winning!
3) I have always liked pickle relish and mayonnaise in tuna. Since all of that has moved over to the “naughty” list, I’ve learned that using the right herbs such as dill, dicing cucumbers, adding diced scallions, a little balsamic vinegar, and some chopped up salmon, makes a very nice new option. I’m happy…in fact, I enjoy it much more.
4) Finding a substitute for rice was a BIG adjustment. I’ve always loved rice. I mean I LOVE rice, with butter and salt. It’s simple and perfectly delicious. It wouldn’t be completely honest to say that removing that wonderfully delightful white fluff of goodness was easy, but I have truly embraced cauliflower rice, which I have often with veggies and salmon.
5) Switching from beef and other meats was a true test. However, using the right bean combinations, with herbs, and spices is just as fulfilling and when they’re added to soups and stews or poured over cauliflower rice, it makes a hearty and delicious meal.
6) Yams are magical. Simply baked, they cover the vegetable category, sweet category, starch category, and fill you up. They are extraordinary in bean and veggie soups and stews. I can’t sing enough praises to the simply naked Yam.
7) Salt. There are substitute salt and sodium options, but they’re also on the “naughty” list, so salt is something I only occasionally catch a glimpse of from the rear-view mirror on this journey. So, what do I use to knock those cravings out? I have fully and completely embraced all herbs and some spices and garlic! It’s all in there. Herbs, spices, and garlic can alleviate the need for salt. It takes a bit to get there but learning to use the right herbs do
two things…1) reduces the dependency on salt; and 2) enhances the flavors of the food you’re eating. I will tell you something else. Once you’ve significantly reduced salt from your diet, you will start actually tasting all of the flavors of herbed and spiced food you’re putting into your mouth. The flavors are bold and truly take you on a whole other journey than where salt drove you…covering up real food flavors, and before you know what happened, you’re back to being a true “Foodie”…a connoisseur on an elevated standing. Go ahead, make my day. Break up with salt and start dating herbs like rosemary, thyme, lavender, basil, oregano, dill, chives, parsley, coriander, cumin, fennel, and garlic in sincerity. You’ll never go back.
8) Late night is tough. It’s well after my food cutoff time, (which is at 6:30 pm), and I would usually watch a movie or TV show. Those late-night food commercials are killers. I quickly discovered early in this journey that this time of the evening is no time to just sit and let my mind wander…usually because it wanders to things like pastries and chips and well, just food. So, I change the channel to music, pull out my paints, or a puzzle, or my computer to write, and redirect those thoughts. I’ve learned to break the old habits that lead in the wrong direction and to establish new habits that also open up the creative side of my brain. I have found that for me, just reading a book isn’t a big enough activity. There needs to be movement of some sort that also keeps my hands busy. And it works…most of the time. When that’s not enough, then that other 8-letter dirty word comes into play and I get my exercise matt out and work the cravings out the hard way, one sit-up, one leg lift, and one healthy-paced walk at a time to work it out. I will be honest. This last option is my last option. I truly enjoy a healthy walk or hike in the trees or along the waterfront…just usually not at night in my living room, at the end of a really long day. Yet, it might be the only thing at that particular time which will change my brain to a healthier channel.
One more important reminder. If you just aren’t in the place to win at a particular moment in your day, then don’t struggle alone. Call a friend, a family member, a colleague…whatever it takes to redirect your mind from those pesky detours. These are the people you reach out to who will be on your side, cheering you on, believing in you. They will help you make it to bed, with a big win for the day!