25 Ways to Turn Off the Chatter in Your Head About Food
By Lauren Brown West-Rosenthal
It's time to shut up the voice in your head that keeps begging for the wrong foods.
Food—you can't live without it, so how do you stop obsessing over it? We know how that internal conversation goes: I want a cookie, but I'm trying to eliminate processed sugar. Would one cookie really hurt? I'll eat salad for the next three days to make up for it… It's like your brain just locks in on a craving and overtakes your thoughts until you give in—and then you can't stop beating yourself up for going there. It's a vicious cycle that leads to unhealthy choices and even more noise over the guilt and shame.
But here's the deal—you have the power to quiet those negative thoughts. Once you learn to rewire your brain and recognize your triggers, those blaring thoughts will simmer down to a whisper and eventually completely disappear so you can stay on track and make decisions about food that you can feel good about. Here are 25 surefire ways to quiet down the voice tempting you and to keep your diet on track! Check 'em out and then be sure to try out these 15 Easy Ways to Reset Your Diet for if you fall off the wagon.
Walk It Off
Get out of the kitchen and go outside for a walk (or a jog) and get your mind refocused on something besides food. "Exercise has also been associated with reduced food cravings," says Josh York, founder and CEO of GYMGUYZ. "Perceived hunger may stem from boredom, so going for a walk or jog can help distract and entertain the mind." And psst! Don't miss these 30 Tips for When You're Walking for Weight Loss!
Chug a Glass of Water with Lemon
If you're dehydrated, your mind may think it's hungry—but it's actually thirsty. "Before grabbing a bag of chips or cookies, reach for a cold glass of water to see if that decreases the urge to eat," says York. "Adding lemon provides nutrients, aids digestion, and the fruit contains pectin fiber, which assists in fighting hunger cravings."
Eat a Slice of Watermelon
If you must eat something, go for a slice of watermelon. "It contains more than 90 percent water, which can contribute to a feeling of fullness," says York. "In addition, the fiber in watermelon helps slow digestion and also promotes satiety." Bonus: Watermelon is super trendy right now!
Phone a Friend
Before those negative thoughts get any louder, pick up the phone and call someone you trust. "I call this the Hotline Call," says Dr. Cali Estes, Founder of The Addictions Coach. "Call one 'go-to friend' who will talk you off the ledge of eating junk. This person will remind you why Pop Tarts are not a breakfast food and bikini season is right around the corner."
When your cravings are controlling you, grab your spouse, significant other, or friend-with-benefits and get busy! "It sounds odd, but sex boosts dopamine and serotonin and will occupy your brain for 20 minutes—the time you need to readjust your thinking pattern and release all those feel good chemicals into your body in lieu of the bad foods," says Dr. Estes. If you're not really in the mood, then get some inspiration from these 25 Ways to Improve Your Sex Life Now.
Stop and Stare
To stop negative internal dialogue and the feelings of anxiety that come along with it, pick a spot on the wall to stare at. And then follow clinical hypnotist Margo Drucker's instructions: "Loosen your jaw and let your tongue relax," she says. "Slowly begin to expand your peripheral vision to include all the space around the spot. Then, expand your vision out to the sides, up to the ceiling and down to the floor. Always keeping your eyes on that spot. Expand it even more, so much so that you can imagine becoming aware of the space behind you. This will immediately put a stop to that internal chatter or anxious feeling. The beautiful thing about it is that it can be done anywhere, anytime. You can even use the forehead of the person you're talking to as your focal point. It's that simple."
Take Down The Voices In Your Head
"Close your eyes and listen to the voice for a moment," says Drucker. "What direction is it coming from? Hear it from the opposite side. Hear it from way off in the distance. Hear it in a different voice like Minnie Mouse. Play it a few times in that new voice—slow, fast, then five times slower than before. Open your eyes. Try to hear it again. Notice how it's different?"
Yell and Clap It Out
Combining physical actions with loud verbal cues can quite literally tell those negative voices to scram. "When trying to turn off the 'chatter' in your head about food, combine loud positive verbal messages with physical reinforcement," says Derek Mikulski, BS, CSCS, CPT and founder of ActivMotion®. "This can be something as simple as clapping your hands hard while at the same time yelling, 'Stop!' out loud. The noise of your voice combined with the physical contact between your hands and the stern message will engage different decision-making areas of your brain and help turn off that chatter!" Makes us wonder if all those shouting, indoor cycling enthusiasts are onto something...
Clean Out Your Fridge
Truth be told, if you don't have sugar and refined foods at your disposal, then it's a lot harder to give into your cravings. "Getting rid of sugar gets rid of cravings for sweets and carbs because—let's be honest—that little voice in your head is not calling for grilled salmon and veggies!" says Jacqui Justice, Nutrition Director at NY Health and Wellness. "Replacing nutrient deficient food with nutrient dense food like lean, clean protein, antioxidant and fiber-rich veggies and low-sugar fruits and good fats will help to balance your hunger hormones and take your mind off food —especially mindless snacking, which is generally the biggest issue."
Replace Your Scale with Tight Jeans
"Twice a week, first thing in the morning, try on a slightly tight pair of jeans. This is way more motivating than the scale and more effective at keeping you headed towards your goal," suggests Justice. "In my experience, the scale—whether you lose, gain, or stay the same—tends to throw you off track. If you lose, you think 'I deserve a treat.' If you gain or stay the same, you think, 'I'm doing all this work for nothing.' But whether you made progress or not, trying on your jeans serves to keep you on track because it's more 'real' than just looking at numbers on a scale. And it's way more accurate!" Still stepping on the scale and wanting to know what's up? Check out these 21 Reasons You Gained Weight This Week.
Drop to The Floor
Here's a challenge for you: The next time you're tempted to give into those misleading thoughts, get your blood flowing and do push-ups—even if you drop right there in front of the fridge. "Every time I feel like I need a snack or want to open the fridge for something, I do ten push-ups instead," says Jenna Wolfe, fitness guru and author of Thinner in 30. "There are days when I knock out 100 push-ups while avoiding the extra calories at the same time!"
Predict the Future
If you were to make the bad choice your brain is so forcefully encouraging, imagine yourself three or four hours later. "Ask yourself how would you'll feel physically, mentally, and physiologically," says Monica Auslander, Registered Dietician and founder of Essence Nutrition. "Ask yourself how your energy levels will change. Do you think you'll be satisfied? If you skip your workout, how will you feel later or tomorrow?" Taking the time to think through a bad decision before you act on it—and imagine its impact—will help you from ever even going there.
Add In Some Fat
When your mind starts spiraling and demanding a slice (or three) of pizza, ask yourself if you are getting enough healthy fat during each of your three main meals? "Fat helps to satiate and satisfy," explains Laura Cipullo, RD, CEDRD, and author of Women's Health Body Clock Diet. "It slows the absorption of simple carbohydrates and thus keeps you fuller, longer. Fats mixed with proteins and carbs also prevent a roller coaster in blood sugar that would have otherwise caused you to think you were hungry. You weren't actually hungry, your blood sugar was dropping and you misinterpreted this for the need to eat." If you're not totally sure what we mean by healthy fats, then read up on these 20 Healthy Fats to Make You Thin.
Check the Clock
The next time those voices creep up on you, check what time it is. "If it is the 3 to 4 p.m. hours, recognize this is when your cortisol is slumbering and likely making you feel tired," says Cipullo. "Instead of reaching for a sugar fix, get sunlight, movement and a snack with either carb and fat or carb and protein; the mixed macronutrient snacks are blood sugar friendly. And the light helps to sync you with nature's circadian rhythm and the movement helps to increase your feel good hormones while oxygenating your blood."
Ask Yourself If You're
Your battle often boils down to a simple question: Are you really hungry? "Ask yourself if you would eat a whole plate of broccoli instead of whatever you're craving," says Wolfe. "If the answer is no, you're not really hungry."
But you do need to figure out why you think you're hungry. "It's more likely that you're experiencing an emotional stressor that's triggering your thoughts of food and your desire to eat," offers Robert G. Silverman, a nutritionist and diplomate with the American Clinical Board of Nutrition. "Are you tired, upset, depressed, lonely, anxious, in pain? Are you just bored? Simply recognizing that you're experiencing an emotion lets you shut down that inner eat-junky-food-now voice."
Find Your Mantra
Mind over matter sounds cliché, but it can work wonders when trying to get those overbearing voices to stop leading you astray on your diet. Find your mantra; it can be something as simple as "This may be tough, but I'm tougher." Say that louder than the chatter in your head. "Sometimes, realizing that you're stronger than you think can be enough to convince yourself to put down that extra slice of pizza," says York. "Repeating whichever mantra works for you is a good way to show yourself that food isn't what you're looking for to be satisfied." We recommend any of these 12 Inspiring Yoga Mantras to Change Your Life.
Weigh the Pros and Cons
If you're debating whether or not you should skip the workout or eat those fries, take a few moments and jot down the pros and cons of your choice. "Writing down your thoughts before making a poor decision gives you the opportunity to mindfully consider the consequences of your actions," explains York. "In other words, 'If I skip my workout, I'll probably feel guilty and regret it but if I get it done, I'll feel great!'" Journaling is one of the 30 Fascinating Weight Loss Tricks You Haven't Tried that we recommend at Eat This, Not That!
Stimulate Both Sides of Your Brain
"Grab a ball or anything that will fit in one hand such as keys, a pen, or a water bottle, and think of that thing that's causing you anxiety. When you feel that anxiety somewhere in your body, rate it from one to ten," recommends Drucker. "Pass the ball back and forth, from one hand to the other, crossing the center of your body, so you're stimulating both hemispheres of the brain. For the quickest results, keep one hand in front of you as the other swings out to the side each time you pass the ball. Do this for one minute. Stop. Take a deep breath. You might notice the anxiety has vanished. This is because by stimulating both sides of the brain, you're spreading blood and electrical impulses throughout the brain and this floods that cluster of neurons and diffuses it. Now, think of that same thing again and see how much anxiety you can manage to call up, and rate it again on the 10 to 1 scale. Repeat until the anxiety has disappeared."
Visualize Yourself Reaching a Tough Fitness Goal
If you have a goal in mind—running a 5k, hiking a mountain, or fitting into an outfit that's currently too tight—envision yourself accomplishing that goal. "Eating a donut instead of a grapefruit for breakfast may seem rewarding in the moment, but thinking of the long term goals that are set can usually provide a healthier perspective," says York. "And anyone knows that running, hiking, or feeling confident in a new outfit is much trickier after eating a donut."
Cross Items Off Your To-Do List
"Quiet the snack chatter in your head by knocking off an item or two from your to-do list," recommends Wolfe. "Getting stuff accomplished can be as satisfying as snacking." And it can even burn calories too! We recommend grabbing a garbage bag and cross-checking your pantry with these 25 Awful Ingredients Everyone Still Uses—But Shouldn’t!
Dress Like You're Hitting the Gym
When the chatter is too loud, just put on your workout clothes and lace up your sneakers. "Even if working out seems like too much effort, looking the part can at least reduce the urge to eat," says York. "Putting on workout gear can create a shift in mindset, and requires leaving the kitchen where most temptation resides."
Get Your Zzzs
Are you sleeping at least seven to nine hours every night? If not, make it a priority to get to bed earlier because lack of sleep can affect your cravings and number on the scale. "Individuals with less than seven to nine hours of sleep are likely to eat an extra 250 calories per day!" says Cipullo. Can't Sleep? Avoid These 20 Foods That Keep You Up at Night
Silverman has his patients make it part of their routine to write down and commit to all their meals and snacks for the day—including any treats—in advance. Once it's written down, there's no going back. "That way you know exactly what you'll be eating and when," he says. "This helps you block out unwanted thoughts about eating."
Double Check Your Blood Sugar
That inner voice—as trying as it may be—can sometimes really be trying to tell you something is going on with your body that you need a doctor to check on. "A strong desire for low-quality carbohydrates is a common symptom of blood sugar problems that can signal pre-diabetes or even diabetes," says Silverman. "Eating these carbs shoots your blood sugar up higher than normal. And then because you're not handling your blood sugar well, it then drops too low. That makes you feel tired, shaky, and hungry—especially for more carbs. You eat them and feel better, but you've also started the sugar roller coaster again. If you think this might be a cause of why you're constantly craving unhealthy foods, check in with your doctor. Blood sugar issues almost always respond really well to simple diet and lifestyle changes."
Give Yourself a Break
We're human and it's okay to give yourself a break. in fact, letting yourself have an off day is key to getting your brain to let up on the negative suggestions. "Don't deprive yourself. It's okay to take a cheat day once a week," says Dave Colina, certified CrossFit trainer, Krav Maga instructor and founder of formula O2. "Rewards are important, but in moderation. If you happen to give into the inner chatter, don't beat yourself up; just learn from it and adjust your habits accordingly." You can even give yourself a break and still be extra-smart about it with these 20 Cheat Meal Tips for Weight Loss Success.
MORE FROM EAT THIS, NOT THAT!
ABC News Chief Women's Health Correspondent