You know the cookie issue right? You see them and before you know it, you’re halfway through the packet without realising…..I really hope it’s not just me on this one!
How does this happen? We know we want to eat more “healthily” and we REALLY do try but yet here we are with the crumbs of shame on our shirt and a huge temptation to run to the gym for a guilt fuelled session. Now I’m not going to tell you that I have the magic cure to food cravings, but I certainly have a few insights that might explain why it happens and even a few tips for avoiding the cycle of
Cookie* → Shame → More Cookies → Guilt → Gym
(*of course, replace cookie with your own guilty treat of choice. Whether your weakness is cookies, wine or local takeaways the same rules still apply.)
For a minute let’s hit the pause button and ask a few simple questions:
- Would I still want the cookie if it wasn’t there? In other words was it the smell or sight that triggered our desire or craving for it?
- Would it have helped if someone had stopped me just before eating the first one to check if I really wanted it?
- Why do I want it in the first place? Have I just had a bad day or am I a little bored and want a pick me up?
I am not asking these questions to try and increase your guilt and make you feel bad. Let’s take them one by one before reaching for the cookie jar:
Would I still want the cookie if it wasn’t there?
In my experience a lot of food cravings are triggered by sight, in other words, I stick a batch of fresh cookies on your office desk and you miraculously want one. Take Easter, for example, I rarely eat chocolate but when Easter rolls around I eat a lot more than normal. Why? because it’s in my house staring at me and my subconscious brain kindly reminds me it’s there, when I really wish it wouldn’t. Case in point: if it’s in my house I am going to eat it.
Experiment* #1 Could you remove the cookies from your house? If yes, give it a try. Remove all the rubbish foods you would prefer not to eat regularly from your home and workplace (where possible) and test it out for a few weeks. By avoiding having these foods in your cupboards you won’t have to rely so much on willpower to stop you later.
Are you eating fewer cookies? Yes? great. No? That’s ok too. Move to the next area and try again.
Note that I said ‘fewer’ and not ‘no’ cookies. We don’t need to be perfect we just want to see improvement…plus what’s life without the odd cookie!
*The reason I have used the word experiment is that’s exactly how I would like you to view it. A scientist doesn’t get upset when an experiment fails. He or she simply learns what doesn’t work, makes adjustments and tries again. Failures are just unavoidable steps on the road to success.
How about if someone had stopped me just before?
Removing cookies from cupboards may be enough for some but for others (myself included) what about work? Meetings? Coffee shops? We can’t avoid places that sell cookies forever. So unless you can afford to pay someone to follow you around and slap cookies out of your mouth all day we need another plan.
Experiment #2 Play the “Not now, later” game. This is a super simple technique that can make a huge difference. You are not saying no, you are just saying later. Find yourself flirting with a Starbuck chocolate muffin at 9am? or uncomfortably staring at your favorite bottle of Rose at 12pm? Don’t say no, just say later. If you still really want that muffin tonight give yourself full permission to drive back across town and buy it. By saying “later” or “tomorrow” and not now you create an alternative compromise. Chances are you will forget about it (most cravings fade in 15 minutes) but if you haven’t and you are prepared to drive across town just to eat that muffin, you must have really wanted it in the first place! It goes without saying that buying it for later spoils the point and goes against experiment #1.
Why do I want it in the first place?
Not all eating and drinking habits are related to stress but a fair few certainly fall into that category. So why are you craving that cookie? Has work or the kids sent your stress levels soaring, leaving you craving that hit of sugar? The brain knows that cookies make you feel better in the very short term so will trigger a craving when you feel stressed and horrible, so I ask again why do you really want that cookie? If it’s because you’ve had a bad day it may be worth trying something different.
Experiment #3 Try something else first. Similarly to experiment #2 Say no, but then do something else. For example:
- Take a 5-minute walk outside to calm down
- Read a book for 5-minutes
- Go chat with a friend at their desk for a few minutes
- Use your lunch break to de-stress with a gym class or yoga session or if you’re stuck at home do a 10-minute exercise programme (Check out Nike Training Club)
- Practice guided meditation for 5-10 minutes (Check out an app called “Calm”)
It really doesn’t matter what you do, just do something else and see if that makes you feel even 10% better.
So do I eat the cookie or not?
The simple answer: it’s your choice, it always has been. If you’re trying to lose a few pounds but keep ending up at the bottom of the cookie jar it may be worth trying a few of experiments like the ones above:
Remove cookies from sight i.e your home and desk.
Play the “Not now, later game!” And delay gratification.
Try something else first
And if you do decide to eat that cookie here is my advice (yes advice from a personal trainer on how to eat a cookie). Eat it slowly and really enjoy it, and please leave the guilt on the table it’s just a cookie!
As I said, this is no magic pill, just honest advice from my own experience and that of my clients. I hope you enjoyed and please share with anyone you feel it could help too.
If you’re struggling to make changes to what or how you eat or making exercise a part of your life in a healthy way I would love to offer my hand in support. Book your FREE transformation session today using the reference “COOKIE” in the description field. Schedule your session HERE.