How a Change in your Environment can help you Demolish your Cravings
People sometimes tell me that I ask too many questions.
But so what?
As the old Chinese proverb says:
He who asks a question is a fool for five minutes; he who does not ask a question remains a fool forever.
I prefer my foolishness to be temporary.
So I like to ask questions. Good questions. Interesting questions. Questions that make people think and reveal things they typically wouldn’t.
Every now and then I’ll pose a question on the B2F Facebook page in the quest to get a better understanding of how I can serve my readers (you) better with my content.
This stuff helps me gauge what you’re struggling with. What you’re most interested in. Or what you need a little more clarification with to help you along your journey to a better body.
So here was one question I posted recently:
“Which habit do you have that you want to get rid of?”
The answers were somewhat predictable, yet unusually skewed to a common spectrum.
They went something like this…
Eating when I’m not hungry.
Unhealthy snacks ….
Excessive consumption of sugar!
Not eating enough fruits and vegetables.
Late night snacking.
Snacking when I am not hungry.
There were plenty more and they were all along the same line of thought. People seem to have a problem with controlling their sugar cravings. Their late night snacking. Their inability to control what they eat and when they eat.
So today I wanted to tell you about a few things you can do to prevent sugar cravings and make healthier snack choices.Image Source
Understand Your Cravings
There’s no doubt about it: sugar is addictive.
If you want to read how it affects you on a psychological level, read this.
In the book It Starts with Food, there is a story about a woman who was once heavily addicted to drugs (like Cocaine and stuff). When asked about her eating habits, she said that she found it more difficult to beat her sugar cravings than her addiction to cocaine and heroin.
Let that sink in for a second…
If you’re a sugar fiend, put down those sparkly sugar packs and listen up.
You need to start eliminating sugar from your diet.
But I’m not just talking about sweets and sugary drinks.
I’m talking about all forms of carbohydrates.
Because, at the end of the day, no matter what kind of carbohydrate you consume, whether a lollipop or a bowl of whole grain pasta, it all ends up getting broken down into the same basic sugar molecules.
Eliminating – or at least minimizing – glucose from your diet can literally transform your life, but I’ll save the ridiculously long list of benefits for another post.
The question becomes…
How do we successfully get rid of our sugar cravings?
Change Your Environment
My solution for your sugar cravings and uncontrollable snacking habits is actually quite simple:
Remove them from your environment.
By discarding these nasty elements from your environment, you completely eliminate the possibility of consuming these garbage foods.
A little harsh? Perhaps.
Too simple? Maybe.
If you want to successfully get rid of these bad habits, you need to completely revamp your environment.
And you need to take an all-at-once approach.
What does that mean?
It means exactly what it says: we’re going to get rid of everything at once.
No baby steps or slowly eliminating one thing at a time. That stuff doesn’t work. See what Dallas and Melissa Hartwig had to say in their book It Starts with Food:
Despite what you may believe, habit research shows that dramatic changes are actually easier for us to manage, both physically and psychologically. Conscious decisions are made in the frontal lobe of the brain and require active attention. But habits – automatic behaviors – take place in other parts of the brain, including the basal ganglia, and require much less cognitive effort.
To establish healthier habits, you need to dedicate yourself to making good decisions until certain behaviors become habits.
And it’s much easier to accomplish that when you completely eliminate the possibility of making bad decisions.
So what constitutes your environment?
Your environment is wherever you spend a good chunk of your time. This means your home. Your workplace. Your car. Your cubicle. Your garage? I don’t know. You get the point.
You need to make sure that these places are completely free of comfort foods.
Not partially clean.
I’m talking about one hundo percent.
This means no snacks in the pantry of your house. No funky jupe-jupes in the glove compartment of your fine ride. No sack of old potato chips in the drawers in your cubicle. No bag of gummy bears sitting next to the remote.
If it’s not there, you can’t eat it.
By simply removing these things from your environment, you’ll make it much easier for yourself to make healthy and positive food choices.
And yea sure it will be tough at first. Nothing worth achieving is ever easy.
You’ll still be craving those comfort foods. Your brain will still be looking for that sugar rush and it will tempt you with nice, pulsing releases of dopamine that will have you salivating during every commercial.
And naturally you will try to satisfy those sad, depressing, biologically-driven urges.
But when you reach into your pantry or glove compartment, there won’t be any jupe-jupes or potato chips waiting for you. Sorry. That stuff is long gone. Your brain will be disappointed (it might even cry a little) and it won’t reward you with those same endorphins you used to love so much.
But that’s OK. The brain needs a bit of tough love sometimes. Some good ol’ fashion discipline.
After a few weeks of disappointing experiences, your brain will adjust. It will re-wire its circuitry.
It knows how to do that really well.
Your dopamine levels will normalize. Your receptor sites won’t react the same way at the sight or smell of supernormally tasting, nutrition-depleted foods.
Your cravings will vanish.
What if I NEED to snack on something??
Alright, alright. Sometimes cravings are simply too powerful to ignore.
Remember – they’re more powerful than drugs.
Elimination > Replacement (but still cool)
If you’re struggling to completely eliminate things from your environment, here’s what you can do.
Instead of completely emptying out your environment, you’re going to replace the garbage foods with healthy alternatives.
Load your pantry with beef jerkey and coconut oil. Load your fridge with fresh vegetables, fruits, and nut butters. Load your glove compartment and cubicle drawer with organic nuts and seeds.
You can even make your own protein bars and stash them in secret places.
Keep in mind that the idea here is NOT to encourage a snacking habit. Snacking sucks. It’s like constant grazing that never gives your hormones a chance to work their magic.
But hey, if you’re going to graze, you might as well graze on foods that improve your health instead of ones that deteriorate it.
So if you can’t handle the cravings (yet), simply make the necessary replacements. Just make sure you make those replacements in all of your environments, not just one or two. The all-at-once rule still applies!
Ever since I moved out of my parent’s house a year ago, I’ve been eating clean.
Like really, really clean.
Because now I’m in the driver seat. I get to decide what I’m buying. I get to decide what I’m going to put in my fridge. I get to decide what I’m going to prepare for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
The decision is in my hands.
And having the ability to control exactly what I have in my own environment (my fridge, my pantry, my cubicle, my car, etc.) has completely changed my eating habits.
And yes I’ll have a craving from time to time. I’m human too, remember?
But that craving is short-lived because my brain understands that it’s a craving that cannot be fulfilled. Those foods that my brain is looking for every now and then simply don’t exist in my apartment.
My brain and I move on.
But the game changes when I go back home on the weekend to visit my parents. As hard as I’ve tried to convince my mom to eliminate ALL garbage foods from the house, they’re still lurking.
And my brain knows that.
It’s like an elephant. It has a long-lasting memory. It knows, from way back in the day, what those super-stimulating foods have to offer. And I’m pushed to have a little bit. I almost have no choice when it’s front of me.
The same can be said for social occasions like going out to bars or restaurants.
I don’t go out to those places as often as I used to.
Sure this makes things somewhat difficult. And even awkward at times. But I’ll live with that. I’d rather make things awkward for five minutes than put myself in a situation where I’m going to make a bad decision.
It comes down to priorities.
So how do you avoid relapse in these situations?
Realistically, if you’re going to avoid relapse, you have one of two options:
- Have a support system that encourages you to make good, healthy choices,
- Completely avoid situations that put you in a position to make bad choices.
If having a support system is not an option, then your solution is simple:
Avoid situations that allow for bad decision making.
It’s that simple.
If you know for a fact that you don’t have it in you to avoid the cravings and the temptations in social settings, avoid those social occasions.
Don’t put yourself in that position.
The best thing you can do for yourself, however, is convince your friends and family to support you on your journey to a better body. Help them understand that this is important to you. And when it comes time to go out, they won’t mind going out to a place that would allow you to make healthier decisions.
I obviously don’t want to stop going back to visit my family.
They’re important to me.
And they are also (part of) my support system. My mom understands this and so she makes sure that on the weekends I’m coming over she makes gluten free muffins, replaces yellow potatoes with sweet potatoes, and provides an environment that allows me to make health(ier) choices.
(Mom, if you’re reading this – and I know you are – thank you!)
What you can do Today
Change your environment.
As soon as you finish reading this post (and, of course, after leaving a wonderful comment and sharing it with your friends :)), I want you to head over to your pantry and fridge and get rid of the garbage foods. Empty out your glove compartment. When you get to work (or maybe you’re reading this at work), throw out all the foods that you find on your desk or in your drawers.
If (and only if) you need to replace those foods with healthier alternatives, do so.
I encourage you to maintain this new environment for at least 30 days because that’s how long it takes to develop new habits.
During those 30 days, I want you to fight the urge to satisfy your cravings if the opportunities present themselves. Just do it for me!
If you do, I promise you can say goodbye to those nasty cravings.