Imagine this: it’s 3:00pm on a Thursday. The afternoon slump is hitting hard, and the only reason you’re not succumbing to the last bear claw beckoning from the office kitchenette is that some other sugar/salt/fat devotee already beat you to it.
I’m gonna stop off for pizza on the way home. I’ve eaten well all week. I deserve it, you decide in desperation. Then you sit down to finish off the day’s mind-numbing tasks.
Decisions relieve stress
Chances are, you probably experienced a substantial amount of relief from the afternoon angst just by deciding to eat bad food later. In fact, your brain rewards such decisions immediately with a little hit of dopamine—despite the fact that those coveted calories have yet to touch your lips. Yes, it turns out that decisions are quite the relief for a stressed, fatigued, and jonesing psyche.
Which is perfect! Go ahead and throw yourself a bone regarding upcoming behavior—especially if that decision delays gratification. Because, presently, I’m going to give you another trick to employ in the moments before actually procuring that triple cheese pie.
Returning to our scenario
It’s 5:00pm. Occasional fantasies involving you, a Seinfeld rerun, and greasy pizza slices helped get you through the afternoon, and now it’s time to call in your order for pick-up on the commute home. But first, before googling the nearest Domino’s, you’ll deploy the latest and greatest tactic for helping folks stick to their nutrient-dense, healthy diet—the five fingers.
A brief aside
Y’all, I’m not kidding here. If you employ the five fingers strategy every time you are about to step off of your healthy food plan, you will, over time, find it easier to say no to comfort food and yes to steamed veggies and sweet potatoes.
Back to you and the five fingers
Ok, you concede before caving to craving, I’ll make a list of five reasons NOT to stray from my healthy plan. And I’ll count them out on my fingers.
Number 1: If I don’t learn to tolerate cravings, I’ll never be able to eat healthfully for the long-term. Number 2: I’ve eaten well all week—why break the trend with a bad meal?
Number 3: This pizza craving will pass whether I eat pizza or not.
Number 4: I’ll be so happy when I crawl into bed if I’ve bypassed the pizza and had my all-veggie lasagna instead.
Number 5: I can always plan to have pizza tomorrow, if I still want it then. That way I’m in control of when I eat the pizza, not my cravings.
Well done, scenario you!
Now, whether you phone in your order or drive straight home for leftovers is less important than the fact that you completed the five fingers exercise. In order to change your response to cravings, you have to do something different than the usual stimulus & response.
Exercise those digits
It’s super important that you involve your actual fingers—don’t just spout off five half-hearted reasons in the back of your head. Counting them out on your fingers means you really have to awaken your prefrontal cortices—wherein reside your inhibition centers—and when those puppies are online, extracurricular food urges beware!
Now you try
As always, these nifty craving busters only work if you work ‘em. So, sometime in the next 24 hours, when you start to get a yen for a little somethin’ somethin’, pull out the five fingers. Count out, on your fingers, five reasons not to give into your craving, and do it before procuring off-plan food. Follow through no matter what over the next two weeks, and you’ll start to see a pleasing trend in your ability to stick to nutrient-dense eating.
Want to know more about Caroline’s strategies for sticking with a healthy diet? Schedule a call with her today and learn how to build willpower!