Dealing With Guilty Pleasures

woman eyeing some pastries

You may be having the kind of day that any dietician would applaud: Balanced meals, leafy greens on your plate and plenty of water. Then, when you least expect it, you’re a victim at the hands of yet another craving. It may sneak up on you in the middle of the afternoon, while you're running between meetings or errands or trying to find a way to breathe and to treat yourself. 

It may be late at night, when you're unwinding and looking for a little mischief, and the only place you can seem to look is in the fridge. In those moments it may feel like your sense of discipline is worthless, as it's been thrown away in the morning's recycling bin. So instead of eating a reasonable sized portion of [insert your snack of choice here]; you inhale an entire bar of chocolate, bag of chips, pint of ice cream or too many slices of pizza. You quickly feel guilty for what you perceive to be your weakness, pray to do better tomorrow—and then again fall prey into the snack-attack cycle.  

Hunger Distinctions

To understand the difference between a craving and hunger, we must assess the distinction between physical and emotional hunger. Your body makes you aware that it is hungry when your stomach sends a signal to your brain. You know it's time to eat, your stomach feels empty and you may even begin feeling lightheaded.

On the other hand, emotional hunger does not involve any of these cues. You may be eating when you are not physically hungry because you are upset, sad, scared, confused or angry. You're using a bodily response to address an emotional need, trying to satisfy and fill yourself with food. If this is a frequent habit, you're not alone, but it is crucial that you explore the causes of your emotions, and learn to process them in healthier ways.

While you're addressing the internal work of changing emotional eating habits, here are tactical strategies that can guide you in not engaging in the guilty pleasures:

  • Gift yourself fifteen minutes, during which you agree not to indulge in the craving. During this time, the craving may become less intense. 
  • If you find that the time passes and you still crave the food, try engaging in a non-food-related activity: Take a walk around the block, call a friend to vent or laugh, dust your living room, play music and dance, throw in a load of laundry—do whatever you need to do to distract yourself from eating.
  • Leave the house so you are further away from the food craving that is stuck in your mind, especially if it's sitting in your kitchen. Just don't leave your house and head to the supermarket.
  • If you think you've exhausted all possibilities for avoiding your guilty indulgence, then consider going for it. It may be time to give in, and taste the food you are holding up on a pedestal.

How Much Is Okay To Indulge?

Once you've decided you're going to give into your craving, then do so without guilt and live your decision. You want to enjoy this experience, right?

Clearly portion out a reasonable amount of food. You're not doing it to binge eat, you're trying to savor the flavors you have decided you absolutely need at this point in time. So sit down, take a couple deep breaths and chew slowly.

Then the next time your craving comes calling again, ask yourself: Am I physically hungry, or emotionally aching?

Latest Tweets