Cravings, especially for sweets and chocolate, can be the bane of anyone trying to cut back and drop those last few stubborn pounds. We all get them, regardless of how mentally disciplined we are, or how dedicated we are to hitting the gym consistently and carving out a serious six-pack for the summer. But recent research published in the journal Appetite has uncovered some mind-melding new strategies—specifically one called cognitive defusion—to keep those hankerings at bay.
The hypothesis: By using self-awareness tips, we can fight obsessive cravings, according to the study, which was performed at Flinders University in Australia. The researchers brought together two groups (one a random sampling of people, and another full of folks who specifically wanted to curb cravings related to chocolate), and tested whether cognitive defusion (the process of redirecting the intrusive thoughts when they first pop up) or guided imagery (which focuses on challenging the images of the object you are craving by attempting to change them to a totally dissimilar image) works the best to bust yearnings.
The results? “We found that cognitive defusion lowered the intrusiveness of thoughts, vividness of imagery before, and craving intensity for both the general test group, and for those who craved chocolate and wished to eat less chocolate,” said study author and psychology Ph.D. candidate Sophie Schumacher.
Some tips offered up by the researchers to confront your own cravings:
- Become more attuned to how your thoughts can impact your behavior. If you're aware of your cravings, that's the first step.
- Recognize that just because you have a thought like “I need chocolate,” it’s probably not true and doesn’t need to be acted upon.
- If you do try some alternate images, go whole hog and imagine sounds and smells to go with the sights. Just, y'know, don't think about cake if you're avoiding chocolate.