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5 Big ideas to reduce cravings

By Matt O'Neill, MSc(Nut&Diet), APD

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Sometimes all you need to make a breakthrough in weight management is a new way to think about an old situation. Here are five big ideas that can help reduce food cravings.

These ideas & techniques come from Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), which is particularly useful for weight management in individuals who may struggle with feelings or with the Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) approach to changing thinking patterns and therefore, behaviours.

Dr Russ Harris, a GP and psychotherapist is the go-to expert for ACT & some of his ideas are below.



1. Urge surfing

We all get food cravings & we often fight them. Sometimes it works, but other times, fighting back a craving is emotionally draining & then you give in anyway.


Think of cravings as waves. They will come & you can try to push them back. But maybe riding out the craving is a better approach. Accept it as just that - a craving that will calm. By not pushing back & instead riding or surfing cravings, you may find you don't have to act on the craving.



2. Letting come & go

The idea here is not to try & deny or block out a negative thought or food craving. This can drain your willpower.


Let the craving come, but like sand, let it go too. It will pass & reduce in intensity. Sure, you feel the craving but you don't need to act on it.



3. Turn off your struggle switch

See the pattern here... Another way to stop directly fighting cravings is to stop struggling against them.


Accept that cravings will still come but switch off your "struggle switch" so you don't feel as anxious about them. You'll still feel some discomfort but its manageable.



4. Be here

Some of us eat mindlessly, distracted by what we are doing or thinking while we eat. And sometimes worry about food prevents us from enjoying the moment of eating.


Make a commitment to be mindful when you eat. Stop what you are doing & put on hold other thoughts so you can enjoy your food & eat more slowly.



5. Commit to values

Values are powerful personal beacons that guide our choices in life. For example, I'm guessing you value honesty & don't lie very often, if at all.

Often we wish we could be fit & healthy rather than making a commitment to fitness as the core value it needs to be.


Think about your values & commit to elevating wellbeing to core value status with things like family & integrity.

When you treat wellbeing as a value, you'll find that you want to live your life by eating well & exercising. And you fit these things into your life.

Read more about Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in Embracing your demons - An overview of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy by Dr Russ Harris



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