But what was more like a drug was the food.
March 2, 2006 11:08 PM   Subscribe

Do my food cravings mean anything? Or, rather, how can I satisfy that feeling without reaching for the junk food? (Way too much more inside).

Over the last few many months, I've totally revamped my lifestyle. I've been eating right, exercising five days a week, and have been feeling wonderful. I'm right at the weight I want to be at, and am looking forward to maintaining this weight with exercise and a healthy, balanced diet. I've discovered foods I'd have ago shunned are actually quite wonderful.

The last couple weeks, though, have been incredibly hard. I seem to be giving into cravings left right and center. I was doing fine until about three weeks ago, when I was housesitting. I was under orders to eat whatever I liked, and I thought that that was fine-- I'd just bring my own groceries over anyway. But they had chocolates and nuts, and I sort of ate more than my fill of those. Anyway, housesitting ended, and I got back on track.

But now I'm housesitting again, and the same thing has happened, only this time with ice cream. See, when I am at home, this food is easy enough to avoid, because I just don't buy it. Done and done. But I'm worried about the long term practicality of this. Obviously I won't be able to avoid this stuff forever. It's going to be available.

So what I am asking is twofold, I guess. First of all, I am wondering if when I get a psychological craving (and I know it is psychological, because I don't really feel hungry-- it is more of the "Wow, that'd taste good!" type thing) if my body is trying to tell me something, like I am not getting enough of some nutrient or something, and if so if there is some way to substitute things. Second, if there is not some physiological need that needs addressing, if anybody has any other tips to, well, bolster my willpower, I guess.

Like I said, I am eating a pretty balanced diet. The last few weeks, I have been monitoring my dietary intake with that sparkpeople site, and usually I am within the healthy range for everything (though I find it more difficult to avoid sodiium, liking soy sauce as much as I do). Typically for breakfast I'll have oatmeal (sometimes with cinnamon and brown sugar) and then some fruit mid-morning; lunch is usually soup (from scratch if I've made some recently and froze it, or from a can) and a salad or a sandwich (either way with some protein, like a chicken breast in the salad). Dinner is usualyl some sort of meat with vegetables (I switch these up all the time, rarely having the same veggies twice in a row) and some grain (barley or brown rice; recently couscous) or potatoes. When I snack it is usually fruit, or popcorn in the evenings.

Everything else health-wise seems to be going fine.
posted by synecdoche to Food & Drink (19 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
It can often be a blood sugar thing. You tell yourself: "I'll just have one sweet", your blood sugar spikes and then dips low and your cravings are doubled.
posted by Manjusri at 11:42 PM on March 2, 2006

My advice would be to stick to what you've been doing as far as not buying junk food. And when you happen upon junk food unexpectedly and get a craving, give in and have a bowl of ice cream. It's ok to cheat occasionally, in fact, some believe that an occasional junk binge is good because it forces your body to work in different ways and can thus improve your overall metabolism. Unless you are a professional housesitter this shouldn't be a frequent enough problem to seriously slow down your healthy lifestyle.

The other, less enticing, answer is to bring a variety of healthy snacks with you, and force yourself to substitute. So you see ice cream, say "hmm, that would taste good, maybe I want a snack," then you grab an apple, start eating, get full, realize you don't want a snack anymore, and carry on with your evening.
posted by rorycberger at 12:34 AM on March 3, 2006

Drink lots of water, it fills your stomach so you think "maybe I'm not so hungry anymore."
posted by Orange Goblin at 1:27 AM on March 3, 2006

I agree pretty much with rorycberger. You're allowed to indulge every now and again. One evening of pizza and ice cream isn't the end of the world. In fact, I'd argue that continually denying yourself all treats and splurges and mini-binges is more likely to make you unhappy and fall off the healthy wagon for good.

Obviously, if you find yourself tacking up adverts for your housesitting skills in order to cheat your way to ice cream you may want to rethink things a bit, but otherwise man cannot live on chicken breast and brown rice alone. Or he can, but if he's anything like me he gets damn cranky.
posted by Hartster at 2:05 AM on March 3, 2006

Take the no-s-diet approach, but define your housesitting days as s-days (perhaps as a substitute for the birthdays of your loved ones), and presto: an excuse to cheat in a controlled way.
posted by Skyanth at 2:51 AM on March 3, 2006

You could try this.
posted by teleskiving at 3:57 AM on March 3, 2006

I think food cravings often mean your body needs something in the food, but in this case, it seems more psychological, otherwise you would also have the cravings at home.

I agree that an occasial splurge into junkfood is probably not that bad for you, but when I felt that way it felt like I was addicted, and I hated that.

There are two books about this: The Pleasure Trap by Douglas Lisle and Breaking the Food Seduction by Neal Barnard. I haven't read them myself, but I know people who find them helpful.
posted by davar at 4:40 AM on March 3, 2006

Did you gain weight house sitting? What does "more than my fill" mean? did you binge, eat a whole box of chocolates?

Unless you are really gorging on the sweets, maybe you don't have a problem here. You can have a healthy diet of which ice cream is an occasional part. Think of it as confirmation of your virtue.
posted by LarryC at 4:56 AM on March 3, 2006

BTW: you mention chocolate and nuts. These are not necessarily that unhealthy. Bring some good quality 70% dark chocolate, and unroasted or (if unroasted do not satisfy your cravings) dry roasted nuts. Nuts are really good for you, and chocolate is full of antioxidants.
posted by davar at 5:19 AM on March 3, 2006

I also agree that "moderate splurges" (if that's not an oxymoron) are perfectly acceptable. You can't deprive yourself of chocolate and ice cream forever - or at least, I know I couldn't! And seeing foods like that as completely forbidden somehow makes them more tempting. The key is to make them fit into your daily caloric intake. I, too, have been using Sparkpeople to monitor what I'm eating. I have no trouble fitting a couple of squares of chocolate or a small bowl of ice cream into a few days of my week, but I have to keep myself honest about the portion size. I find it helps to really sit and enjoy your treat without the tv on or any other distractions. If you listen to your body, you might find a half cup of ice cream is enough. Obviously, I'm not too hung up on eating things some people consider unhealthy, as long as the bulk of my calories come from good sources. Like davar says, your chocolate and nuts can be both a luxurious and healthy snack, and I find when I do fit ice cream into my daily caloric allowance I come closer to my daily calcium goals, too. Good luck to you, and congratulations on your healthy lifestyle and weight loss!
posted by katie at 5:28 AM on March 3, 2006

If you have a craving for ice cream, consider going out for ice cream at an ice cream store. My problem is that once I buy a tub of ice cream, I know it's there and easily accessible. Sometimes I think "Well, if I don't eat this, it isn't going to get eaten and then it will go bad." (This probably isn't true of ice cream, but cravings defy logic!)

Whereas if I don't have it in the house and have to make a special trip, I might think twice about it. This is also useful for other junk foods - don't keep them in the house, but if you have a craving, allow yourself to go out and get a snack-sized package of chips or candy or something.
posted by srah at 6:02 AM on March 3, 2006

Like others upthread, I can't demonize chocolate and nuts and ice cream, it's the moderation that's the hard part. I seek out the total top-end luxury version of the sweet that I like. The expense helps me ration.

Nah, your food cravings aren't telling you that your body is missing a nutrient. See my comment in this previous thread.
posted by desuetude at 6:05 AM on March 3, 2006

By the way (sort of in line with my last comment): I suggest finding foods that are in line with your dietary ideas, yet satisfy your cravings. When I crave sweets an apple doesn't cut it. But blended banana/frozen strawberry "ice cream" does. It really tastes wonderful (to me) so I do not feel deprived anymore. My potato chips cravings are satisfied by a few pieces of roasted (without oil) papads at the moment (not a smart choice if you already eat much sodium). Think outside of the box. Make your own cookies etc.

Of course, that does not help if you are somewhere where everybody eats potato chips, you can't just go roasting papads or blending strawberries on a party. But because I do not feel deprived and 'treat' myself regularly to snacks I like, I have no problem staying away from potato chips at parties.
posted by davar at 7:58 AM on March 3, 2006

I think I've recommended this in a previous thread: you might want to check out this website and see if it sounds anything like you.
posted by granted at 10:14 AM on March 3, 2006

Also, you might find it easier to curb your cravings/feel better if you had some protein with your oatmeal at breakfast.

I would say that yes, your cravings mean something, in that they don't mean nothing. It might be impossible to figure out what that is (and in my case, all hypotheses about sources being "psychological" have never gone anywhere, ever), and it might be something that you can learn to live with/moderate. The question, of course, is "how?" and I'm afraid I don't have a definite answer for you, and I don't think anybody else does either. I think it just depends on your own body. For me, the website I linked above described me exactly and following the steps outlined helped me immeasurably. For you, it could be that or something completely different, but learning your body and its needs is a lifelong process of trial and error.

Another suggestion (and like the first one, I'm lifting this from the website I linked) is to keep a journal that notes everything you eat and how you feel afterwards. That might help you notice a pattern between food, your moods, and your cravings.

One last thing about psychological vs. physical cravings - just because you're not hungry when you're drawn to certain foods doesn't mean the cravings don't have a physiological basis. I feel like the distinction between psychological and physical anything is too murky and tenuous to have much significance - cocaine doesn't have physical withdrawal symptoms but that doesn't mean the addiction is only psychological, whatever that's supposed to mean.

Anyway, good luck to you!!
posted by granted at 10:27 AM on March 3, 2006

Avoid that first bite of stuff you don't have at home when you're housesitting. It's much easier than avoiding the 2nd or 200th.
posted by callmejay at 10:37 AM on March 3, 2006

just because you're not hungry when you're drawn to certain foods doesn't mean the cravings don't have a physiological basis.
No, but the fact that you only have those cravings every couple of weeks when you are at a certain place does suggest they are psychological to me.
posted by davar at 1:55 PM on March 3, 2006

There's been a lot of buzz surrounding "intuitive eating." Googling that might provide something helpful.
posted by craniac at 3:22 PM on March 3, 2006

Out of site, out of mind. Before you move in for a housesitting gig, go through the house on a full stomach and hide all the trigger foods. Hide the ice cream behind the ice bucket. Stick the nuts and chocolate in the refrigerator vegatable bin. If you don't see it, you won't eat it.
posted by 45moore45 at 6:18 PM on March 4, 2006

« Older Why'd my cat decide to eat all of his hair?   |   Financed Motorcycle Insurance Woes Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.