Delay for Greater Control

In a previous blog, I wrote about cravings and how they often aren’t about hunger. Instead, we misinterpret some other feeling of discomfort (like sadness or boredom) as needing something to eat. The interesting thing about cravings is they usually go away—we just don’t ever give them a chance. We simply give in to the desire.

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In a previous blog, I wrote about cravings and how they often aren’t about hunger.  Instead, we misinterpret some other feeling of discomfort (like sadness or boredom) as needing something to eat.  The interesting thing about cravings is they usually go away—we just don’t ever give them a chance.  We simply give in to the desire.

For most people an absolute goal like, “I’ll never eat cookies again” is destined to fail.  Instead, put some time between the feeling and giving in to it. Most cravings last less than 15 minutes before they go away.

Therefore, use the “20 minute rule.” Next time you feel an overwhelming urge to eat something that isn’t part of your healthy lifestyle, set the kitchen timer for 20 minutes.  Say, “I may eat that eventually but I’m going to at least put 20 minutes between me and my craving.” Next, do something that’s fun or distracting or engaging and is not related to eating. Call a friend, play a game on the computer, take the dog for a walk. It’s even better to do something that’s incompatible with eating. It’s really hard to eat chips when you’ve just painted your nails. It’s impossible to eat a sandwich while taking a shower.

What if 20 minutes go by and you’re still certain you’re hungry? At least you put some control between you and the craving and you can continue to feel more in control by:

  • Writing it down in your food journal
  • Limit it to a 100-calorie serving
  • Eat it slowly
  • Focus on your eating – no watching TV (even The Dr. Oz Show), driving in your car, reading a book. 

Blog written by Leslie Heinberg, PhD
Leslie Heinberg, PhD, is a clinical psychologist and Director of Behavioral Services for the Bariatric and Metabolic Institute at...