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12 Diet Questions Answered

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Control Cravings

Are there any tricks to controlling a craving?

First you need to know what's causing it. Often, plain old hunger makes us jones for a particular food. "Cravings are a normal and natural response to underfeeding yourself and can be prevented simply by planning and eating enough throughout the day," says Katherine Tallmadge, RD, author of Diet Simple (Lifeline Press, 2002). To stay satiated, she recommends eating three similarly caloric meals and one or more planned snacks daily. If the craving lingers after making this alteration, it may be emotionally based. Try distracting yourself for 20 minutes (the usual length of a craving) by chatting on the phone or taking a walk around the block, says Lawrence Cheskin, MD, director of the Johns Hopkins Weigh Management Center in Lutherville, Maryland. If distraction doesn't do the trick, Linda Spangle, author of Life Is Hard, Food Is Easy (Lifeline Press, 2003), says you might have "head hunger." Identify the food you're yearning for: Is it chewy/crunchy or smooth/creamy? If it's the former, there's a good chance that you're angry, anxious, frustrated, stressed or resentful. Ask yourself, What do I want to chew on in life right now? Spangle associates a yen for smooth/creamy foods with "empty emotions" like loneliness, sadness or a lack of recognition. Ask, What am I missing in my life at this moment? Whatever the answer, follow up with the bigger question: Will food get me what I need? Once you realize that eating won't resolve your problem, you can focus on what's really eating you.

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