Upon walking through duty free on my return to England, I endured a real test of my willpower when faced with food that I knew wouldn’t be in my best interests to eat. Earlier, I had been at dinner thinking I would probably have desert as it was my final meal of traveling, and at a top restaurant, and therefore *somewhat* justifiable to be eating a little off track. Alas, none of the deserts took my fancy, and the bill was already racking up, so no desert was had. As a result, when I got to the airport a few hours later, the idea of something sweet was still in my mind. I was also really bored waiting for the plane. In both these situations, it is easy to get side tracked from your diet. I walked into duty free, just to “look” at what they had, and quickly managed to locate some Lindt chocolate and some Reece’s peanut butter cups. I picked them up, walked around the shop for another 10 minutes clutching at my choccie selection which I desperately wanted to devour right there, and then decided to put them back. I resisted the urge and stayed on track – yay! This spurred me to think about all the tools I use to help me stay on point with my diet and what I think about when I am trying to resist temptations. Here is a list of my best advice on how to not give in to those hard-to-beat cravings:
1. Understand that it’s actually really hard to say no, and congratulate yourself when you do.
Lots of people say to me when they hear that I didn’t have a “cheat” on my diet for nearly three months before my last competition that they couldn’t do that as “they like food too much.” Whilst I completely understand that putting yourself through something like a competition diet might not be everyone’s cup of tea, to insinuate I must not like yummy foods as much as everyone else is simply not true. If anything, I like food even more than some people, as I plan a lot of my day around what I am going to eat and spend a lot of my time thinking about food in some way. To be honest, I feel I am a bottomless pit when it comes to eating – I could easily consume double the amount of food someone of my shape and size actually “needs”. There’s also literally no food I don’t like – I’ll eat pretty much anything you put in front of me. Not to mention I also have a massive sweet tooth. Basically, I know how desperately hard it is to constantly say no to food and be constantly surrounded by temptation. Therefore, each time I do “say no”, I feel proud of myself. The next time I feel tempted to eat something, I think about this feeling. I remember how it can actually make me feel pretty good to not give in to temptations, as it shows my strengths, and reminds me that I am one step closer to being where I want to be.
2. Think about times you have caved, how did it make you feel?
I know that some of the worst times I’ve ever felt towards myself is when I’ve eaten an excessive amount of food. Whether it be endless chocolates and crisps during a film night, stuffing my face at an event with an unlimited buffet (free food is my absolute kryptonite) or times I’ve allowed myself a “cheat” and gone totally overboard with it, I’ve ended up having feelings of guilt. This can be exaggerated when you feel like you had been doing so well with your diet and exercise regime and now it’s all “ruined”. So when I have an urge to eat sugary food, or large quantities, I gently remind myself of all those times where “giving in” has made me feel considerably worse. What’s better, feeling pleased with yourself and reminded of how much closer you are to your goals, or feeling disappointed with your lack of willpower and reminded that you perhaps don’t look the way that you want? I know which one I choose!
3. Think about your goals and how much you want them. If eating this food conflicts with them, will it be worth it?
Unless a natural disaster somehow obliterates Switzerland, I’m pretty sure Lindt Lindors will always exist. Donuts aren’t going out of fashion. Crisps will always be at every corner shop you can find. Do you really need to eat them RIGHT now? Whatever your food weakness is, assess when it’s a time that it will be really worth eating it. Most of the time when you logically think about it, you will know that deep down, it’s probably not going to be that second. WHY might you be craving this food? Are you mostly just bored, peckish and it’s right there in front of you? That was me at the airport. As I walked around the shop deliberating about the chocolates, I thought to myself “I don’t need these Lindts, I can always eat them another time when I REALLY REALLY want them, and right now it’s not in line with my goals, I’m being irrational if I get them.” Thinking through your food choices logically and recognising that you can CHOOSE when to eat stuff that you really enjoy can really help you fight those daily cravings.
4. Be wary of times when you want to give into cravings and bring substitutes.
For me, I want something sweet pretty much after every meal. I also like to feel full. This is times where my willpower will be lower, and I’ll want to cave. So I have found products to have on hand to stop me giving in to these temptations. For example, I have sugar free flavour drops to put in a coffee as a “desert” or sugar free fruit juice sachets to put in my water. Not only do these give me a sweet tooth fix but the volume of liquid after a meal makes me feel much fuller. Whilst I can’t pretend these are substitutes for the real deal, it definitely helps me get through times when I’m most tempted to sway off my diet. Likewise when I go to the cinema I know I’m going to want something to snack on, I bring something that I will still think of as a “treat”, but is not nearly as bad as what I could end up buying there. For example, I will bring some Greek yoghurt mixed with sweeteners or flavour drops and also a couple of sugar free jelly pots. Not quite ice cream, but a good substitute to spoon out of a tub and spill all down yourself before the film even starts. Addressing WHEN your cravings are likely to get worse and planning accordingly will keep your motivation levels much higher when you are faced with the temptation.
5. Sugar is addictive. Salty foods are addictive. “Giving in” is addictive. Beat these addictions.
I saw a quote today – by Alex Ferguson funnily enough – which said something along the lines of “if you quit just once you will be willing to quit again” and this mentality often helps me get through cravings. I feel that when I haven’t “given in” to a craving for a while, continuing to do so becomes WAY easier. It becomes a habit. I start to feel I actually don’t want to eat a certain something anymore as I’ve already come so far not having it. If I were to I eat it just once, this simply triggers wanting it all the time again, and it’s only more likely I will say yes again. Saying yes will become the habit and I’m back at square one. Whilst it’s fine to allow yourself a treat every now and then, again you must assess whether it’s going to be worth potentially breaking a new habit that you are forming, and this should stop it happening more often than you’d like. I also apply this “addiction” mentality to the types of foods I am craving. If I’m presented with something like crisps which are so moorish not at all filling, I will try as hard as I can not to eat even just one, as I know once I start all I want to do is eat more, and in my mind it’s not going to be worth that mental turmoil. Similarly sugar is also a highly addictive substance, and is known to release hormones that trigger the same feelings of euphoria as some class A drugs. I think about how hard it is to break that kind of addiction. If you can get through 2 weeks of not eating sugary foods, I well an truly believe you will have somewhat cracked the sugar addiction and fighting the cravings becomes a hell of a lot easier. Knowing not only when and why your cravings strike but also WHAT is a key to beating them.
It’s also worth ensuring that your diet consists of food you actually really like and is not too restrictive to help avoid extreme cravings. Completely banning a certain food, saying you will “never” eat that food again, coupled with being in an extreme calorific deficit, is a sure way to make completely you gorge out on it whenever you do allow yourself or you do “give in.” Trust me, I’ve done extreme dieting, and the result is always bingeing on those foods you’ve not allowed yourself. When you ‘can’t’ have something, it will make you think of nothing but that. For example, my weakness is Haagen-dazc Belgian chocolate ice cream, which I’ve been obsessed with since I was 11. This was made much worse when I was 19 and they DISCONTINUED the flavour in supermarkets. It was disastrous, the fact I literally could never have it, made me want it all the time. The few times I had access to it, I would savagely gobble down 3 or 4 huge scoops from the Haagen-Dazc shop in Leicester Square, no matter what my diet goals were at the time. Post competition, I even ate a whole tub of the stuff (they reintroduced the tubs into supermarkets just a few weeks before I stepped on stage and this was definitely not a time I could have got away with eating it!) Whilst this was completely justifiable to eat after my competition, as I judged that in that situation it was definitely worth it, knowing I absolutely “could not” have it before that made me really want to pig out on it when I was able to, rather than eating a normal sized portion. So unless your doing something extreme like a competition, I’d say allow yourself these things every so often, weighing up the best times to have it. Knowing that you are choosing not to have something, rather than completely banned from it, should help deter you completely going overboard with it.
I hope these tips will help you to think through your food choices a little bit more logically and feel empowered to resist the temptation in a moment of weakness. Let me know your thoughts and if you have any tips yourselves in the comments below 🙂