When you’re busy, stressed, and tempting foods are everywhere, healthy eating is not easy.
Many of us feel ‘addicted’ to certain high sugar foods. Chocolate, anyone? (yes please!)
Although the urge can be overwhelming and it FEELS like an addiction… for most of us, it’s not.
What we feel is down to a pattern in our brain known as:
THOUGHT / TRIGGER (often an emotion, tiredness, or certain time of day)
This leads to a FEELING (I want chocolate)
Which can be pretty powerful and creates ACTION (eat chocolate)
Which produces a RESULT (feel better… then feel worse a bit later and beat yourself up)
You CAN change this process.
If you believe you are addicted, you might feel ashamed, hopeless and stuck.
If you believe it’s just a learned pattern (which is true), and that you can learn a better one…
You can feel EMPOWERED.
Then you can start making that happen.
Why do we crave certain foods?
The foods we crave most are designed to have the perfect combination of fat, sugar, and often salt, that makes our mouths reach ‘Bliss point’.
This causes an explosion of the happy-hormone dopamine in the brain, and your brain then learns (again) that this food makes you feel AWESOME.
Next time you feel tired or stressed, or it’s that danger time of day, ta-da! Your brain has the perfect solution in the form of a delicious comforting snack.
The goal of food companies is to get you reaching Bliss point and then craving that food again.
It’s the same with crisps and other savoury foods too – they use starch, fat, salt and often glutamate to get you feeling hooked and wanting more.
Another fact that doesn’t help us…
We are wired to seek out foods that provide LOTS of calories for very little effort.
Your Great Great Great (x a few thousand) Grandma
Lets call her Betty.
When Betty was roaming around thousands of years ago, it took a lot of effort to find food.
If she had spent a ton of energy trying to get hold of some broccoli she would have died early, and you wouldn’t exist.
Betty learned from those around her that getting hold of a beehive and bingeing on all the honey was a much better option when possible.
(there was a recent study on one of the few remaining hunter gatherer tribes, where tribe members drank 1.5 litres of honey in one go because they suddenly had access to it).
Our brain is still programmed to seek high calorie foods, spend as little effort as possible in getting hold of them, and store the extra energy in our fat cells for when we might need it.
So it makes total sense we crave all these tempting junk foods.
And of course they’re marketed to be as seductive as possible, placed on TV adverts, billboards, at the end of supermarket aisles and next to you in the petrol station where they’re oh so easy to pick up.
So… what can we do about it?
Set up your environment for success
Your home and work environment has a huge impact on your behaviours each day.
Often a few small changes can make a big difference, and make it a lot easier for you to choose the healthier options that serve you best.
Create effort barriers to snacking
Often we snack because food is there and very easy to mindlessly eat.
So we need to make snacking more of an effort.
Extra effort is often enough to put us off, or at least eat less than before. Plus, it inserts more time into the equation, giving you chance to think, and chance for cravings to subside.
Ideas to help with this:
- don’t keep tempting snacks in the house (if you want them, you can still have them, but you have to go out to the shop to get them)
- with less healthy foods that you sometimes overeat, keep them somewhere more difficult to get to. Perhaps in the garage, or on the top shelf of the cupboard behind healthier alternatives
- buy more effort-inducing snacks such as nuts in their shells, so you have to crack them (it’s amazing how much less you’ll eat due to this)
- create a beneficial barrier such as ‘I can have this chocolate bar if I go out for a half hour walk first’
Maybe not two bars of chocolate though…
Limit your exposure to food cues
How many times have you been perfectly fine, then spotted or smelt a food you love and suddenly had an overpowering urge to eat it?
Food cues are everywhere. You can’t avoid them, but you can reduce the amount of exposure you get to them.
- Don’t leave tempting foods lying around – chocolate, biscuits, crisps, nuts, bread… if you have these kind of foods in your house, always keep them tucked away in the cupboard. Have the rule of bowl of fruit being the only visible food in your house.
- Hide tempting foods behind healthier options – make sure when you open your cupboard, fridge or freezer, the first foods you see are NOT biscuits, crisps, chocolate and ice cream that set off cravings. Place them behind other foods you keep that will serve you better and are a lot less tempting.
- Avoid places at work with tempting foods – if your staffroom always has cake laid out on a Friday, go for a walk at lunch that day or spend your break somewhere else. If there’s always sweets, cookies and donuts being brought into the office, ask for them to be positioned somewhere away from you, and away from where you walk past.
- Only go shopping when you’re full and have a list – If you don’t know what you’re getting or you go in hungry, you’ll see all the delicious junk foods on offer and be far more likely to buy them. Have a plan and be on a mission – stick to the list and get round quick so you can stock up on just what you need, and get out to enjoy the rest of your day.
Keep learning and refining as you go
Most of the time, those annoying people who seem to have bundles of willpower have just developed good habits to protect it.
So, keep looking for ways to set up your environment to support your goals.
Habits, routines and planning ahead make a huge difference.
The way I love to look at it is like this – habits, routines, planning and consistency might seem boring, but they earn you fun, freedom and success.
Keep yourself on track most of the time, so when you have the chance to enjoy a delicious meal out or amazing piece of cake, you can do that guilt-free and still progress towards your goals.
Hope this helps, and if you have any questions, get in touch with me HERE.
A great book to help with building better habits is this one:
And to listen to a brilliant podcast with tons of helpful tips on weight loss, I’d recommend checking out this: