“Have a protein shake in the morning.
Have a big salad for lunch
Eat a sensible dinner
Oh, and take this cocoa drink at least twice daily whether you want it or not.”
That’s what I told one of my clients lately. She had been suffering from the worst cravings. They came in the morning about two hours after her typical “healthy” bowl of cereal and coffee. They also came at night in the form of too many glasses of wine.
She agreed to make these changes to see how it helped even though she was skeptical.
Guess how much she lost? A little less than 20 pounds in just over two weeks!! Before I tell you what happened, let me put a disclaimer to this.
These results are NOT typical.
I don’t know why she lost so much weight, but it pretty much fell off of her as soon as she started to implement my program. While these results are not typical, that was not the last time I saw big results from this “protocol.”
You might be wondering what is typical?
8-15 pounds can easily be lost following this approach.
She did not even do any exercise. She just walked on occasion.
How did she do it?
1. Control Cravings! If you are going to lose weight you must have something that knocks out cravings and hopefully it’s something you enjoy having.
2. Change habits! If you are going to make long-term weight loss change you must deal with the behavioral routines that sabotage your results.
Simple, Satisfying Solutions
It took me a long time to learn this, but when it comes to diet and weight loss you must create simple, satisfying solutions.
The diet must be simple. People are already overworked, overwhelmed and psychologically tapped out. Whatever changes you make must be as easy, or easier, than what you were doing before.
In this case we substituted a protein shake for a bowl of cereal because it is as quick, and actually more satisfying. This immediately took away her 10am cravings for doughnuts and bagels.
She also needed to be free of decisions at lunch. This meal was confusing her. Should she get the healthy wrap? Eat Mexican? Have sushi? Or get a salad? I took the decision away from her. She liked salads, so that is what she had. It became the only option she had for lunch. No more thinking. A large salad. Easy
It is one thing to take away hunger, but we all know there is more to eating than that. A meal has to satisfy the belly and the head. This is where the magic came in.
When you have cocoa the brain chemistry changes in the same way other pleasurable things like drugs and sex did. In other words, cocoa quenched cravings. It gives that wonderful relaxed but stimulated feeling in the brain.
Well, who does not love cocoa? I used this concoction with her. She could have this twice a day whenever she wanted. It worked like a charm.
It knocks out cravings better than anything we have ever tried or you will ever use.
Cravings are chemical in nature. Meaning they come from the chemical reactions going on in your head. But they are also circumstantial or that they are triggered by what is going on in your life and your habitual behaviors.
Think about turning on the TV. When most people do this they are immediately primed to eat. How about when you go to the movies? You have to get popcorn don’t you?
So if you are going to beat cravings you must develop alternate solutions to your traditional habits. In another clinical case of mine the client had wine after dinner and while watching TV. I knew TV was a craving trigger for wine. So together we came up with something that was equally as relaxing to her as TV.
She loved baths so I told her to take a bath when she would normally watch TV.
She asked if she could bring the wine in the tub? I said sure. But guess what happened once the TV went away? That’s right, she no longer wanted the wine. Wine and TV were paired in her mind, NOT wine and a bathtub.
See how cravings work?
For the cocoa, go out and buy organic baking cocoa. Put 1 tablespoon in water (add water slowly and stir to avoid clumping). Do this twice a day or more.
Then have a sensible dinner. Also, make sure you start spotting habit triggers and replacing them with healthier routines.
Cravings are impacted by way more than food. For example, if you go for a long run you may feel great for a few hours after, but that run may be the cause of your inexplicable pasta binge at dinner later that night.
This often surprises people when they hear this; “Brian are you telling me that my early morning three mile run can cause me to overeat the wrong things later?” Yes! Unfortunately, that is exactly what I am saying.
But this is not all cut and dry when it comes to exercise. Some exercise seems to have almost no impact on cravings at all and may actually help suppress them. These things tend to be very relaxing forms of movement like leisurely walking, restorative yoga and Tai chi; basically anything that lowers cortisol.
I talked about cortisol previously and I will refrain from a biochemistry lesson here; so, just remember the two “C”s: cortisol and cravings.
Cortisol has been shown to activate the reward centers in the brain. In other words, it turns on the “I WANT SOME JUNK FOOD” regions of your brain. It also turns on the bad habit centers of the brain.
You remember the idea of trying to replace wine and TV with a hot bath an herbal tea? Well, cortisol makes you revert back to old patterns, by putting the breaks on the development of new healthier routines.
Anything that raises cortisol for extended periods of time can be a key reason you are having cravings. Here are some common things that raise cortisol:
• Sleep Deprivation
• Work Stress
• Skipping Meals
• Eating too much at a meal
• Alcohol consumption
What you want to do is make sure that you avoid doing too much exercise. If you want to do long exercise sessions, then you will need to be smart about other behaviors to compensate for this. Some of the behaviors that can lower cortisol are:
• Eating protein (although likely a better choice than the starch/sugar)
• Leisurely slow walking
• Specific strength training
• Physical affection (sex, cuddling)
• Massage (even self-massage like foam rolling can do this)
• Spa therapies
• Relaxing herbal teas
• Time with pets
• Restorative yoga
• Tai Chi
In the past, when you thought about cravings, you have likely thought about avoiding certain behaviours to prevent them; but, it is far better to think about ADDING behaviours instead.
It may be pretty depressing to think about not having wine or watching TV. But try thinking about how great it will be to have sex or take a hot bath. That too is enjoyable and will make you less, rather than more, likely to have cravings.
The trick is to not make all this too complicated. Here is what we have talked about regarding cravings in the last few days.
• Point 1: Make sure you make diet changes as easy, or easier, than what they replace. Sub a protein smoothie in place of cereal and make your only choice for lunch a salad. This is easy and requires no extra work and less thinking.
• Point 2: Use specific foods that attack cravings head on. Whey protein and cocoa are two of the best.
• Point 3: Avoid behaviours that raise cortisol, and more importantly, engage in as many behaviours as possible that lower cortisol.
Was this helpful? Please let me know what you think. If you can beat cravings, you can lose weight almost effortlessly.