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What to Do When Cravings Hit

Sugary candy spilled across a pink background illustrates junk food cravings

A common myth about bariatric surgery is that it is a “magic” solution or “the easy way out” for significant weight loss.  Although bariatric surgery restricts how MUCH you can eat, it’s certainly not a cure-all for cravings.  Read on for tips on what to do when those old cravings creep their way back in!

They say the real weight loss battle occurs not in the stomach but between the ears. Even though you’ll only be able to eat small amounts at a time, if you make unhealthy choices, your success will be short-lived.

But hey, we’re only human.  Sometimes you still want chips, ice cream, candy, whatever your go-to craving is!  So, then what do you do?  If you’re like most unsuccessful dieters, you’ll try to get by on sheer willpower, occasionally fail, beat yourself up over it and end up feeling depressed.  Setting up that negative feedback loop makes you feel worse and more powerless about your diet “cheats.”  They become more frequent as you eat to feel better but then feel worse because you ate. Hop off that rollercoaster!

As is often the case, the best defense is a good offense. So don’t wait till cravings hit to figure out what to do. Tell yourself that you’re human, you have limits, and that, occasionally, you’re going to want a treat.  Take time now to develop your game plan for when those times come.

One of the first things you need to do is to determine what triggers your cravings.  It could be stress, anxiety, anger, sadness, boredom, hormones, or even celebration.  If we start to soothe our bad feelings, fill our boredom, or reward our wins with food, we pair food with our emotions! That can lead to emotional eating. For many of us, this could have begun in our childhoods, making it hard to identify the underlying triggers – it feels so automatic.  Try to learn what your triggers are and find healthier ways to cope.

Another important strategy is to have healthier alternatives on hand. Whatever your weakness – sweet, salty, cheesy, etc., a myriad of healthy options is available.  If you have protein chips, low-carb candy, or other treats within reach, they can help satisfy the cravings without totally derailing your progress. The key is that they must be healthy alternatives that you like!

You can also allow yourself some “cheat days.” Maybe for a holiday or special occasion, allow yourself a piece of grandma’s famous cake. Keep the piece a reasonable size, the cheat days few and far between, and try to increase your activity to balance the extra calories. Go on an extra walk. Do an additional 30 minutes on the treadmill. Go to a different exercise class that week. Burning some extra calories is the perfect way to allow yourself a very occasional indulgence!

With time and practice, you’ll be handling cravings like a pro.  You’ll stay on track with your weight loss goals while feeling like a normal human. Remember to be patient with yourself. It took years to build these patterns. They won’t disappear overnight, and no one is perfect. We’ll all have moments of weakness where we slip up. Forgive yourself and get back on track. You only fail if you stop trying.

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