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The Whole30 Daily

  • Hunger vs. cravings
  • Keep a cravings journal
  • Kiddos, marshmallows, and you
  • Fight the cravings
  • Food dreams!

Welcome to Day 4!

Today, we’re tackling a topic that will be with you (off and on) throughout the duration of your Whole30 program—cravings. Namely, what we call the “Sugar Dragon,” tempting you with promises of pleasure, reward, and comfort if you’ll only give in and eat that donut-cookie-cake-dinner roll. Don’t be tempted! The Sugar Dragon lies, offering false promises of comfort when you know there’s only regret and remorse at the end of that particular tunnel.

Cravings are an inevitable part of your Whole30. Your brain doesn’t like it when you tell it that it can’t have something, and during this first week, the struggles are generally the worst. So today, we’ll give you all of our best sugar-dragon-battling tips, and ways you can emerge from this first Whole30 week unscathed and proud of each small win.

Now might be the perfect time to stop by the Whole30 Forum and lend support to your “compatriots in cravings” in this Whole30 adventure.

Have a great Day 4!

Hunger vs. Cravings

It’s not always easy to tell whether you’re actually hungry, or just having a craving. Here are two methods to help you figure out whether you need to eat something healthy or just ride it out the next time the Sugar Dragon rears its ugly head.

  • HALT! This acronym stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. The next time you’re having a craving, stop and ask yourself, am I really hungry, or am I just angry (or frustrated), lonely (or bored), or tired. If you’re not really hungry, then use some of our craving combat strategies below to see you through. If you discover that you really are hungry, then eat! (We’ll help you figure out what to eat when the Sugar Dragon is spitting fire next. Hint: it’s not fruit!)
  • Steamed Fish and Broccoli: This next trick is a bit simpler, and brutally effective. The next time you get a hankering for something to eat (and wondering if it’s just a craving), ask yourself, “Am I hungry enough to eat steamed fish and broccoli right now?” If the answer is no… you’re not really hungry, you’re just craving, so act accordingly. If the answer is yes, then you really are hungry! Time to eat… read on to see what the perfect craving-busting meal should look like.

Have Yourself Committed

We all know what it’s like to ask someone to help keep us from doing something—like, when on the way to the restaurant, you ask your spouse not to let you even look at the dessert menu. But the best known example comes from one of the greatest stories ever told. Odysseus, on his way home from the Trojan War by ship, orders his men to tie him to the mast and stop up their ears so no one goes overboard when hearing the seductively lethal song of the Sirens.

Why are we talking about Odysseus and the Sirens, when we should be talking about you and the Whole30? Because this same technique remains the foremost weapon in your arsenal against temptation.

The science-y term is precommitment: limiting our own choices while we’re safely distant from temptation. Why do we need this? Because of another science-y term called time inconsistency, which says our preferences will change along with our state of desire. It goes like this:

You make reservations for dinner that morning, feeling secure in your Whole30-ness. But by the time 7 PM rolls around, you’re hungry, stressed, and all too ready to break down in the face of dessert-menu temptation. Where did all your earlier resolve go? That’s time inconsistency, my friends.

So how can you use precommitment during your Whole30? Here are a few strategies:

  • Keep tempting food and drink out of your house completely. If it’s not there, you can’t indulge.
  • Enlist a supportive friend or loved one to hold you to your commitment. Make it fun by betting on your success—if you finish your Whole30, the other has to buy you those new pair of jeans or that new fitness DVD you’ve been eyeing.
  • Tell on yourself. Before you open the box of cookies or pour that glass of wine, jump onto the Whole30 forum or call your best friend and announce, “I’m planning to go off the Whole30.” Telling someone will force you to really think about what you’re about to do… and is often all you need to put the cookies down.
  • Check yourself into “rehab,” if necessary. During the toughest days when the cravings are the worst, don’t allow yourself to accept dinner or happy hour invitations, and don’t participate in activities that revolve around eating or drinking less healthy food.

Source: We Have Met the Enemy: Self-Control in an Age of Excess, by Daniel Akst

Battling Cravings

Willpower (or “self-control”) is what people use to restrain their desires and impulses. One group of researchers studied how four-year-old children learned to resist immediate gratification. They would bring the children one at a time into a room, show them a marshmallow, and offer them a deal before leaving them alone in the room. The children could eat the marshmallow whenever they wanted, but if they held off until the experimenter returned, they would get a second marshmallow to eat along with it. Some children gobbled the marshmallow right away; others tried resisting but couldn’t hold out; but some managed to resist the whole 15 minutes for the bigger reward.

The average craving lasts for only 3-5 minutes, so when cravings come up, take a lesson from the successful 4-year-olds, and learn to distract yourself until the craving passes. Use these two techniques to help you successfully fight off the sugar dragon:

  • Physically remove or obscure the temptation in question, placing it out of sight or ignoring it. If you can’t remove the temptation, physically remove yourself from the temptation.
  • Make a list of five distraction techniques you can use the next time your craving hits. Really, make a list. Keep it handy. When your cue(s) pop up, refer to your list, and then do one of those things.

Your list might include: going for a 5 minute walk, calling a friend, reading 10 pages in your book, writing a thank you card, filing your nails, eating something healthy, chatting with a co-worker, cleaning something, organizing something, or planning tonight’s dinner. It doesn’t really matter what’s on the list—only that you have one, and you use it!

Fight the Cravings

One of the most important and life-changing goals of the Whole30 is to change your tastes, change your habits, and change your emotional and habitual response to craving. The worst thing to do when you’re craving something sweet (and actually hungry) is to satisfy that craving with sugar, even if it is from an “approved” source. Your brain doesn’t know the difference between a Snicker’s bar and a dried-fruit-and-nut bar… All your brain knows is that it threw a sugar tantrum, and you gave it sugar.

Here are 5 ways to fight food cravings:

  • Delay or distract. We’ve already talked about this—tuning out a food craving for just a little while can actually make it go away, as will finding something else to do.
  • Chill out. Since cravings are often triggered by stress, boredom, anger, and other emotions, find other ways to calm down. Exercise has been shown to ease stress and release endorphins, so go for a walk, do some office-chair yoga, or drop and give us 10 (push-ups). Other ways to let out the stress are meditating, journaling, or even calling up a friend to vent.
  • Eat. If you’re legitimately hungry (use the techniques we described above) and craving something sweet, skip the sweet stuff—no snacking on fruit. Instead, eat a meal or snack focused on protein and fat. These two macronutrients together pack a huge satiety punch, letting your brain know that your body is full, well-nourished, and happy.*
  • Drink Up. Thirst can easily masquerade as a craving—that feeling of, “I need something…” is often hard to pinpoint. The next time you have a food craving, drink a glass of water first. Then wait about fifteen minutes. If you’re still hungry, it’s probably legitimate, but this method is a great way to make sure you’re not just dehydrated.
  • Nap it. Food cravings and sleep deprivation go hand-in-hand. When you’re sleep deprived, your body releases a hormone that makes you crave sugars and carbohydrates. If you think you might be reaching for food from sheer exhaustion, go to your room (or out to your car) and take a fifteen minute cat-nap. Giving your body what it really needs will be a more effective way of making yourself feel better.

Source: Amyswrites on Hub Pages

*Insider tip: A few deviled eggs, some deli turkey with salsa and avocado, or some Primal Pacs jerky with a side of jicama are quick, on-the-go, craving-busting foods.

Food Dreams

We’ve heard of folks dreaming about all kinds of foods – sometimes things they don’t even eat in real life! Like an Arby’s roast beef melt… Melissa dreamed about this fast-food fare during her last Whole30, and she’s never even been to an Arby’s! More food dreams from our readers:

  • April L: “I dreamed it was Thanksgiving and the table was full of desserts. I was just going to have a taste and it turned in to a full blown sugar weekend.”

  • Lindsey F: “I’ve been dreaming of donuts. Not even something I would usually eat, but they are tasty in my dreams.”

  • Ayla C: “I had a dream I was chugging glass after glass of milk.”

Often, these dreams bring on just as much guilt and remorse as if they happened in real life!

  • Myzsa G: “I just wish I didn’t feel so guilty in my dreams about eating bad foods. I can’t even enjoy binging there.”

  • Lori S: “Last night, I was gorging on cupcakes – but not enjoying them through the guilt!”

  • Badier V: “The funny thing is, I wake up feeling really guilty, until I realize that I didn’t actually eat the cookie.”

So if you’re having strange dreams about gorging on non-Whole30 foods… relax! It’s totally normal, given the changes you’ve made, and it’s not indicative of a weakening of willpower. Heck, if you get the chance, enjoy those cookies, cakes, or Arby’s cheeseburgers, because in your dreams, those foods could make you more healthy!

How did you do today?

Every day, we ask you, "How did you do?" If you ate clean, congratulations! If you didn't, we start the 30 days over again tomorrow.

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