Do you control your food cravings, or do they control you?
Everybody has cravings -- for chocolate, for sweets, for salty or crunchy foods. Some people handle them well, others go berserk and "eat the whole thing."
Here are a few things you can do to restore a little sanity to your eating.
* Trash the "forbidden foods' list.
Do you have a mental list of foods you believe you shouldn't eat? Often, abstinence makes the heart grow fonder. When you finally give in, the bottom of the bag is the only place to stop. Relieve the pressure. Let yourself eat any food you want.
* Delay gratification a little.
Many cravings are just passing fancies and will vanish if you wait 10 or 15 minutes. If the craving doesn't pass, make a decision about when and how to satisfy it. You might decide, for instance, to have dessert with dinner later tonight, or popcorn at the movies.
* Ask yourself, "How much is enough?"
The quantity of food you eat determines the overall effect on your diet. If you crave potato chips, do you buy the giant economy size, or will a single serving pack do? Can you settle for one scoop of ice cream, or even two, instead of a pint or a quart?
* Avoid craving "triggers."
The sight and smell of food can set off cravings even when you're not hungry or not really in the mood. That's when discretion is the better part of valor. So, turn left instead of right, and don't pass the fast food shop, have the bread basket removed from the table, stay out of the food court at the mall.
* Decide if it's "worth the calories."
Does the food you craved taste as good as you imagined? If it doesn't, you can stop eating whenever you choose. At "all you can eat" affairs, take a small spoonful of the things that look really good to you. Taste.
Leave behind what isn't great. Allow yourself another portion of the best, if you're still hungry.
* Eat at least three healthy meals each day.
Studies show starving triggers bingeing. If you diet by skipping meals, you're more likely to give in when the doughnuts are passed around, and around, and around. Often a small portion of a craved food is enough when it's part of a well-balanced meal. A few corn chips with a sandwich of turkey, lettuce and tomato on seven-grain bread and a bowl of vegetable soup wouldn't ruin anyone's eating plan. A whole bag, instead of lunch, might.
* Exercise regularly.
Exercise helps normalize appetite controls and relieve the stress that often triggers overeating. Taking a walk or working out at the end of the day, even though you feel "too tired," will help eliminate that 5 o'clock binge that's the bane of your existence.
Colleen Pierre, a registered dietitian, is the nutrition consultant to the Union Memorial Sports Medicine Center in Baltimore.