A common motivational saying is “you can do anything you put your mind to”. An easy example of that is eating healthy. Literally all you have to do is make good food choices. But that is the hard part of doing anything you put your mind to — temptation gets in the way of those good choices. I have two easy steps I follow to strengthen your resolve and keep your focus when it comes to eating healthy and feeling good in your body.
The last thing anyone should want to do is wake up in ten years having gotten used to being fat, tired, weak, and unhealthy. We all need to take time to focus on ourselves to make sure we are living our best life. So here are some personally tested steps to controlling food cravings, and trust me, I have got some serious food cravings (damn sweet tooth!).
Journal Your Eats
Journal your relation to food, but specifically your negative food experiences.
You don’t need to waste time by journaling or keeping track of your every meal and snack…unless you only eat bad food! Most times people eat it’s not super negative or super positive, and there isn’t really anything to write about. I find that when I eat healthy I just feel normal and light, nothing to write about, just normal good living. So writing about normal or healthy meals isn’t needed, unless you do get a particularly positive physical reaction to a certain healthy meal, then by all means journal that. You just need to journal eating experiences that have some effect on you.
Overstuffing yourself, eating a bunch of sugary food, not eating enough — whatever sort of bad eating you do, next time you do it write how it makes you feel. Writing it down will help you remember how trash you feel after eating poorly, plus you build up a journal of bad experiences so that you can literally see your pattern of poor choices, which is the best way to start making better decisions.
What gives me a response worth remembering is when I have a really unhealthy meal or just way over-eat, so that is what I journal. Log these experiences, put down in words exactly how awful you feel. That way you can go back and read these feelings when you are thinking of making a bad food choice again.
You don’t need to take much time to do this. Just jot down what you ate, any important contextual details like over-eating, and how it made you feel. Any time in the half hour or hour after you eat is good as that is when you will be feeling the pain of your choices.
Here’s an example of an ice cream dinner I had a few months ago, and actually I journaled this the following morning:
“Ate two pints of ice cream for dinner last night. This whole morning I felt an absurd and uncomfortable feeling of both hunger and bloat. My stomach felt awful, couldn’t even suck my stomach in to attempt to not look fat! It took all morning to finally go away. Couldn’t do anything active beyond walking.”
It’s as simple as that. Should only take a minute or two to journal a bad meal choice. Here’s another example from my journal (my sweet tooth should be coming into focus now):
“Had a pan chocolate chip cookie for my lunch today. Made in rice cooker. Was so delicious but good god rest of the day I felt terrible. A mix of bursting stomach pain from eating too much, mixed with that over-sugared feeling in which my body basically feels like a metaphysical vomit. Rest of the day just wasted because of this. Couldn’t even finish the last few bites because it was just too disgusting to think about how it’d make me feel. I feel like I want to eat nothing but watermelon for the next week just to balance out the density and dryness. I feel like the sugar sucked out all my life force.”
A bit dramatic perhaps, but that was the last time I had a giant pan cookie for a meal. Reading this, how could I possibly ever make that same decision again?! I don’t want to feel awful all day just because of a bad lunchtime decision.
And it might not even be feeling physically terrible after an unhealthy meal. If having an unhealthy snack ruined your plan to eat really healthy for the day, write about your disappointment for not following through on your plan and allowing a bad choice to stop you from achieving your goal.
Nobody is perfect. We all can use help in strengthening our resolve to make good decisions and avoid bad decisions. Keeping a short journal of the effects unhealthy meals or eating habits have on you is a fantastic way to keep from making the same mistake again and to build better nutrition habits.
Find a healthy alternative to fill your cravings
Replacing cravings with alternative healthy meals is another powerful tool in building better nutrition habits and creating a healthier you.
A couple cravings I sometimes have are for ice cream and grains. I don’t eat grains too often, but when I do I tend to go overboard and just way overstuff myself on pasta or have a whole loaf of bread or eat a whole pizza or a ton of mac n cheese. I never feel good after such meals, so that’s a problem for me.
This year I figured out that a good replacement for ice cream is full-fat greek yogurt with either just fruit or with honey and cacao nibs. I get the creaminess and the sweetness I’m craving, but it is immensely more healthy that the tub of ice cream it replaces.
I have also replaced loading up on a bunch of pasta or bread with having a bowl of couscous. Couscous still fills that grain craving, but the granules are so small I have to fill the bowl with a bunch of other stuff, unlike having pasta or bread. So I end up throwing in olives, nuts, spinach and more in order to fill up that bowl so the volume of my food comes from a variety of healthy sources instead of just a stomach-full of grains.
It is important to figure out your cravings, where the weak points in your diet and willpower intersect, in order to figure out how to fill those with better alternatives. Also, when you do figure out alternatives to a craving, you can log that experience in your journal as well, even if it’s just something like “this was delicious and hit my craving and I feel fine afterwards”. That log is going to read a lot differently than your experiences from eating the unhealthy meal that it replaced, and you can contrast those experiences in your food journal later.
In summary, just follow these two steps: journal your negative (and positive) food experiences and find healthy alternatives to your cravings. Stick to these two things and you will very quickly find your willpower magnified when it comes to nutrition. The temptations of your food cravings will seem a lot less desirable when you can read your own words about how bad they make you feel, and then easily replace them with healthy alternatives. A healthier life and a better feeling body is just a simple habit away. If you try these things or have other nutrition habit tips let me know in the comments!