How to control food cravings

I asked you all about food cravings in yesterday’s SPEEDY BD SURVEY, and there were some really interesting replies.  The most frequent?  Chocolate.

So, let’s talk about food cravings.  Do you get them?  I do.  There are times when I am desperate for a fried egg on buttered toast.  Or a sizzling steak.  Or yes, something chocolate.  Or even, if I’ve eaten heavily for several days, a salad.  I always assumed that this was my body telling me I needed whatever it was.  Like the iron in the red meat.  Or the fiber in the salad.  I also know that there are emotional connections.  In my case, the fried egg on buttered toast is pure comfort food, dating back to my childhood.  When I’m not feeling great, it’s my go-to meal.

I read an article in the Wall Street Journal last week that puts a whole new slant on food cravings.  Among other things, it said:

  • Women have food cravings more often than men.
  • Cravings vary by culture.  While chocolate is the most-often cited craving in North America, in Japan, it is sushi.  The concept of “craving” doesn’t even exist in some cultures.
  • Sometimes we simply crave what we can’t have.  For instance, if there is no chocolate in the house, we may crave it all the more.
  • Sometimes it’s the power of suggestion.  Walk into Dunkin’ Donuts for coffee, get a whiff of a donut, and, oh boy, do you want it.

What’s your trigger?  We all need to think about this.  Obesity is a problem in this country, and satisfying cravings plays a big part.

So what’s the best thing to do when a craving hits?  The Journal article was really good here.  Some thoughts:

  • Embrace the craving, but control it.  I.e., indulge in moderation
  • Exercise.  As simple (and no-cost) an activity as walking has been found to lower cravings.
  • Chew gum or take a deep, deep breath of something that isn’t food – like a flower, say, jasmine.
  • My favorite: the 30-minute timer.  When a craving comes on, set your timer and busy yourself with another activity.  Chances are good that when the buzzer rings, the craving will be either gone or significantly diminished.

I use the 30-minute timer approach for other things, most often, my writing.  When I can’t seem to sit still, I set the timer, write until the bell rings, then jump up.  There are days when I set that timer half a dozen times.  Since I read the Journal article, I’ve also been setting it in the thick of a craving.  I gotta say, it works.

What works for you? If you already know, please tell me.  If you don’t know, try one of the above tactics and tell me if it works.

Share this:
Posted in


  1. Stacia on September 27, 2012 at 2:13 pm

    For me, taking my mind off of it and doing something else will get rid of it most of the time. I have never tried the timer trick, but it is virtually what I do. Sometimes I will give in, but always in moderation.

Leave a Comment