How To Survive Afternoon Cravings!
As a wellness counsellor I hear so often how hard it is when you are hit with that mid afternoon crash and cravings set in. The morning coffee has run dry, and boredom or stress is a common occurrence at this time of the day. Its also a time where habits are formed which are hard to break once patterns become ingrained. What most people who suffer from compulsive, stress, emotional or even boredom eating do not realize is that the "food trance" starts one before you take that first compulsive bite. What I mean by a food trance is that space of compulsive eating when you are not totally conscious it is happening until it ends. When you begin to have the fist thought of eating compulsively…the thought of your favourite treat, the trance has begun. This does not mean that you cannot eat any of your favourite foods and you have to pack carrots every afternoon though. This simply means you want to train your brain to be conscious at all times.
So how do you stay free of that mid afternoon snacking that can easily "ruin the day" in a few compulsive bites?
1. Eat Breakfast: Yes, I know this sounds simple- and unlikely that it would interfere with afternoon snacking but in fact studies have shown that those who do not east breakfast (within 2 hours of waking up) have a much higher probability of bingeing later on.
2. Plan your Afternoon Snack: and Make it GOOD!- So if you know that mid afternoon is a time of craving, for whatever reason- plan a snack at this time that you actually look forward to having! Come prepared! Choose something that does not "set you off", but is something you will feel happy to eat :) When you plan ahead in this way, you stay conscious.
3. Drink Water: Drinking a lot of water through the day is not only important for re-hydration, but it also tells the brain that you are providing nourishment and self care…and its hard to go to the opposite extreme when you are in "nourishment" mindset. Adding lemon or fruit to your water can be fun here- especially in the summer! In the winter, I love fresh ginger tea :)
4. Develop a Nourishment Attitude rather than a Diet Attitude: The last point ties in perfectly here. When you make a decision to nurture YOU- that means no more restriction, denial, punishment, guilt or shame..then everything changes. It really is this dramatic. When you decide that you will give yourself a treat and do it in a way that is about love and nourishment, you do not need to go overboard. There is an acceptance and peace around food and the afternoon becomes another opportunity to welcome this process.
5. Exercise: This does not need to be extreme, but planning to do something that moves the body everyday will motivate the self care mindset. Not only does it get the endorphins going but it creates a mindset that is about health rather than self destruction. This can be anything at all from running, walking, nature trails, yoga, sports or something softer like chi gong or tai chi, which also help with calming the mind immensely.
6. Meditation- You do not need to sit cross legged for an hour every morning to reap the benefits of daily meditation. What happens when you give yourself the time and space to get quiet and be with the present moment, even if only for five minutes in the morning is an awareness and presence that flows throughout the day. Start simply by sitting comfortably and watching the breath. Just notice the inhale and notice the exhale as it comes, without trying to manipulate the breath at all. When the mind is active simply notice and acknowledge the active mind, but continue to draw your attention to the breath. You cannot do anything wrong here. The mind will wander, but being able to continually come back to breath will come in handy when you feel as though you are losing control throughout the day.
7. Make Lunch Count- Eating a lunch high in protein and healthy fats will keep the blood sugar level and provide you with the energy you are looking for to get through the afternoon feeling at ease. Complex carbohydrates such as brown rice are the best choice for adding carbs and chewing each bite fully will provide your digestive system with the fire it needs for long term energy.
8. NOTE Your Emotional Cravings- When you feel that hit of a craving coming on, write down what you are thinking and feeling at that moment. Keeping note of this for a week at each eating period is also very helpful in noticing patterns and starting to get at what is underneath your hunger pangs.
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I look forward to hearing how you deal with afternoon cravings below. If this serves, don't hesitate to share :)