Melbourne Functional Medicine
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We’ve all been there. We’re ‘being good’...but can’t drop the thought about the chocolate sitting in the fridge, or the glass of vino we’ve sworn off, or the sugary, salty, fatty treat that flies in the face of our health goals.
From a health coach's perspective, being rigid and ‘rulesy’ seldom works. It doesn’t tend to be effective in the long term and often has patients feeling more frustrated and resentful in the short term.
A strategy people often employ is will power, otherwise known as ‘won’t power’. You could be in battle with yourself for hours, days or weeks! You might have enough fortitude to abstain for a while, but won’t power is a poor strategy for most.
I’m excited to share with you some of my favourite strategies to support patients when overcoming cravings.
For a very practical approach, there are a handful of interrupting behaviours you can use to increase your successes. Let’s dive into some strategies.
1. Don’t buy the food/drink
If it's not in the house, you have to go out of your way to get it - which means plenty of chances to change tack and reset.
2. Upgrade to better quality
If your standard choice is highly processed and made with ingredients that look more like a list of lab ingredients, what can you choose that is better quality? While this strategy doesn’t stop you from consuming, it does speak to an upgraded health picture long term. Some of the things to look for are:
3. Keep a stash of healthy alternatives
Fresh veg and fruit, nuts and seeds and homemade snacks that tick your nutritional box. When the urge arises, go to your healthy harvest first and even if you end up going to your craving food, you’ve put down a base of health first.
4. Create barriers
Sometimes a simple barrier that creates a delay is enough in the moment. Taking the chocolate out of the fridge and storing it at the bottom of the freezer for example means you can enact step 5.
5. Physical interruptions
You’ve had a thought, which prompted a desire and now you can’t stop thinking about the (insert temptation). It seems like you can’t think of anything else! Creating some space and using your mind differently might be enough to change that cyclic thinking. Some examples are:
If, after performing several interrupters, you still have that strong desire, go ahead and have it. This works because you’re not saying “no”, you’re saying “not yet” so the part of the brain that wants to do the opposite doesn’t get a chance to inform your choice. Also, if you’ve had a couple of big glasses of water and some movement, you’ll likely not eat or drink as much as you might have. If you’ve already implemented step 2, you’re even further ahead.
6. Learn about your emotional drivers
When the urge or craving arrives, notice the types of thoughts you’re having. Sit and write them down. Look for patterns. Chat with your health coach about what you notice. Sometimes we learn there is a story of reward. Sometimes someone might feel truly addicted to something. For some there might be a link to childhood conditioning. So many things inform our habits and choices, and getting to know them is so helpful.
An approach health coaches take is one of investigation and learning. If you happen to choose to eat or drink something you’re making efforts to avoid, what happens? Do your symptoms appear or change? What were you thinking in the minutes prior to choosing to consume? Is this way of thinking familiar to you? That’s the sort of enquiry your coach can help you through.
What happens when you have an enquiring mind instead of a brutal judge, is you get to learn. You ditch the judgement and simply aim to understand (and not be perfect).
Most importantly, if you’re struggling with unhealthy consuming behaviours, I encourage you to spend time discussing it with your health coach. We’re here to help you understand, explore and work together to achieve your best health.