You've been hit by the evil cravings monster.
Why else would you eat something that clearly isn't good for you, makes you feel horrible and gives you bad skin, spare tires, cellulite and makes the cravings even worse?
Well, don't beat yourself up. There's much more to it than mere discipline, and the good news is – it's not your fault!
Cravings can be deadly, and can seriously derail any good intentions you have for your health. It's not about will-power and it's not that you're weak, but modern food is designed specifically to keep you going back for more, and that's why they pack it full of salt, sugar and fat – it's addictive and cheap!
Once you recognise cravings for what they are you can beat the monster every time and make a healthier choice towards the health you've always wanted.
Craving something salty like… crisps, chips, potatoes, Pringles, salty nuts, pizza, rice crackers or popcorn?
Eating excess salt over time can raise your blood pressure, which greatly increases your risk of developing heart disease or having a stroke in the future. It also dulls your taste buds, so you feel like you need more and more salty foods to get your "fix". Salt addiction is made worse when you drink a lot of alcohol or when you are dehydrated.
Satisfy your salt craving with flax crackers from health food shops or buy healthier salts such as Celtic sea salt and pink Himalayan salt and sprinkle on slices of ripe tomatoes.
When I'm incredibly desperate for a salty snack and nothing else helps, I make some home made popcorn. It's not the healthiest snack but if you make it yourself rather than eating a microwaved version, you can control the level of oil and salt.
Craving something sweet like… chocolate, ice-cream, cakes, sweets, biscuits, custard, soda, muffins?
Excess sugar can cause tooth decay, obesity, mood swings, hormonal problems, weight gain, hyperactivity, and it's an incredibly addictive substance. Chemical sugar additives such as aspartame and high fructose corn syrup are even worse and seem to be hidden in many different processed foods, including sauces and salad dressings.
Luckily, it's incredibly easy to get a healthy sugar fix in raw and whole food. Switching to sweet fruits such as melon, watermelon, strawberries, mango, pineapple, plums and dates will give you a virtually unlimited choice and give you healthy satisfaction for your sweet tooth.
Even better news is that you can get raw chocolate that's dairy free and sugar free. It's usually very rich, so you don't need a lot of it to get your chocolate cravings under control. You can get many different brands of raw food now in mainstream health food shops.
Need something easy now and tempted to eat fast food, biscuits, packets of crisps, ready meals or convenience snacks?
Have emergency snacks handy such as tangerines and bananas (easy to peel and nice and sweet), handfuls of nuts (will give you immediate satisfaction), medjool dates (they taste like a luxurious treat) or packets of dried fruit.
Juices and smoothies can also take less than one minute to make if you have a blender. Just throw in some fruit, water and ice and you've got yourself a healthy version of a meal replacement shake.
Have you eaten enough food?
If an effort to eat a healthier diet, some people can go to extremes and cut calories. You don't want to do this. It can set up an unhealthy cycle of bingeing and guilt that can lead to serious eating disorders.
If you are worried that you are not getting enough food while you are trying to be healthier, consider tracking a typical day's food on Nutridiary, an online calculator that can track calories and nutritional information.
Ordinarily, I don't advocate calorie counting, but doing this every now and then can give you valuable information. For example, if I don't eat enough calories in a day, I can go crazy and eat literally anything that's in front of me – crisps, cake or chocolate.
Are you actually thirsty instead of experiencing cravings?
Some people drink little or no water in a day (coffee, tea and sugary drinks do not count!). Drinking enough water can give you better skin, clearer eyes and even better concentration, so make sure you are getting enough. Drinking a good amount of water (6-8 glasses) can help you feel fuller and fight cravings.
Appreciate how far you've come
Cravings do lessen overtime when you stop the cycle of addiction and eat a balance real food diet. I used to have massive cravings for McDonald's and Pizza Hut pepperoni pizza, and now I would never go!
Cravings are not the end of the world, so just relax. If you've had a bad day and you feel like you've fallen off the wagon, make your next choice a healthier one and move on.
It will get easier!
© Denise Duffield-Thomas