by Cynthia Perkins, M.Ed.©
1. If you are going to a social event take your own appropriate food with you. It is very tempting to throw your restrictions aside to be part of the crowd and fit in. Pack up your own little meal and take it with you. Yes, you may feel embarrassed at first, but over time you will become more comfortable. You could also try eating a healthy meal at home before going to the event so that you won’t be hungry and then you can just skip the eating aspect of the event and enjoy the other aspects.
2. If you are going to be away from home during meal times or snack times, pack up a little lunch in a small cooler and keep it with you. If hunger hits you when you are out and about it is very easy to give in to unhealthy temptations that you will pay for later.
3. Find alternatives to replace your restrictions. If you can’t eat wheat, then get products made with alternative grains. If you can’t eat chocolate, then try some tasty carob. If you can’t have sugar, use sugar alternatives. If you can’t have dairy, there are numerous delicious dairy alternatives that can satisfy your craving for ice cream or cheese. It is essential to find alternatives, so that you will not feel deprived. If you are feeling deprived you will be more likely to cheat.
4. Once a week reward yourself with something you aren’t usually allowed to have. For instance if sweets are forbidden then once a week allow yourself to have a healthy sweet. Something made with a healthy sweetener. Sugar is addictive because it is not a really a food. It is a chemical. The biochemical make up of sugar is almost identical to alcohol except for one molecule. Sugar weakens the immune system, depletes the adrenal glands, and depletes vitamin and mineral levels. You can break the sugar habit, but replacing it with things such as dates, bananas, raisins, maple syrup, barley malt, brown rice syrup, or stevia. These sweets are whole foods and will not damage the body. Another example would be if you are not allowed to eat wheat, then once a week allow yourself a meal of something made of wheat.
5. Exercise regularly, at least 3 times a week for 20 minutes. It not only burns off calories, but it improves immune function, and boosts self-esteem by stimulating our happy hormones. Exercise is essential.
6. Call a friend. If you can get a buddy system going this can very helpful. Call your friend during times of weakness and talk it out. Make arrangements with your friend ahead of time and have a plan of action. Have your friend remind you of your goals or how badly you will feel after you eat them. Have specific phrases for your friend to repeat back to you.
7. When cravings come, remind yourself that a craving usually only lasts a few minutes and it will be gone. Remind yourself that you will be able to have your reward on your specified day. Ride it out. After you ride it out a few times, it will become easier.
8. Reframe your thinking. For me it is simple to avoid unhealthy foods, because I simply do not desire to eat poison. I don’t want to do that to myself. So try to reframe your thinking about the foods that you desire. Try to think of them as “poisons” instead of “delicious forbidden treats.”
9. Don’t let emotions build up. Express yourself regularly. Keeping emotions pent up can cause you to eat unconsciously. Unexpressed feelings can also decrease self-esteem and if self-esteem is low you will be more likely to give in to cravings.
10. Forgive yourself. When you fall down and give in to your temptations don’t beat yourself up for it. Forgive yourself and let it go immediately. Just start over again. No harm down. To criticize will only be self-defeating. Don’t let the weak moment become a reason to stay off the restrictions for a longer period of time or to give up. Just pick yourself and begin again. Don’t think of it as failure, but rather as a minor setback. Change happens slowly and usually involves many setbacks. It is a process. Over time this will all get easier. Your body will begin to repair itself and it will stop craving the unhealthy food eventually. It is a long process, but when you begin to see little steps of progress then you will feel more motivated. It will also take some time for your taste buds to adjust to alternative foods. Give it time.