Conquer your food cravings

Once you've started eating healthier, you may find yourself yearning for the kinds of snacks that got you those extra pounds in the first place. Fortunately, those desires will be minimized if you follow our eating plan. "You're more likely to have cravings if your meals are lacking in variety," says Adam Drewnowski, Ph.D., director of the nutritional sciences program at the University of Washington. 

"A well-balanced diet, by definition, shouldn't bring on new food cravings." When you do have cravings, Drewnowski says, they're likely to be for foods with a combination of protein, fat and salt-such as hamburgers, pizza, potato chips and possibly ice cream. (Women, he says, are more likely to crave sugary fat foods such as chocolate.) Here are five ways of dealing with those yearnings.

Use substitute foods. Cravings don't usually come from hunger, but from a desire for something physically pleasurable. So give yourself something you'll enjoy just as much: Have a cup of strong coffee or tea, drink a bottle of water, chew some gum, or make out with your girlfriend.

Reduce your stress. "Being overstressed is often a cause of food cravings, because good foods release pleasure-inducing endorphins and give you physiological satisfaction," Drewnowski says. So whenever you feel a need to snack, do something relaxing instead: Call up a buddy, play a game that doesn't present physical demands, or simply sit in a comfortable chair and listen to music.

Move it. "Exercise releases endorphins that can satisfy your physical cravings," Drewnowski says. "Also, physical activity is a very good way to relieve stress." Just a brisk walk around the block several times may be enough to clear your head and quell the craving. Plus, you'll also burn off some calories.

Don't tempt fate. Keep healthful snacks around the house, but not those items you're sure to go searching for in weak moments. You would eat them if they were waiting in the cupboard, but you'll be better able to resist the impulse if eating them involves driving all the way to the grocery store.

Don't give in. The more you defy cravings, the higher your resistance will become. By not snacking whenever you feel like it, you'll be teaching yourself patience, and tolerance for an unsated appetite. On the other hand, snacking on junk when you do feel a craving isn't likely to make the craving go away; on the contrary, Drewnowski says, you'll probably just end up wanting more. -Ben Kallen

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