A tray of muffins in the work meeting. That tub of ice cream that stares you down every time you open the freezer. There’s nothing wrong with treating yourself once in a while - but with the insane amount of temptations most of us face on any given day, indulging in them all would mean you'd constantly be shopping for a bigger pair of trackpants.
Proof: women who report being plagued by cravings tend to have higher body mass indexes, finds a recent Appetite study. And while you can't necessarily control how often a sweet (or salty) treat makes your mouth water, you can determine whether or not you actually eat it. Check out these five surprising tactics to curb your cravings morning, noon and night.
Your early-morning temptation
You lock eyes with a giant croissant in the pastry case while ordering your coffee.
Your tactic: It's tough to just not think about the buttery treat that's staring you in the face...unless you think about something better, that is. Since cravings tug at your sense of sight and smell, you can actually distract yourself by thinking of a pleasing image or aroma, finds Australian research published in Current Directions in Psychological Science.
Your mid-morning temptation
Your boss throws a last-minute project your way, and the pressure has you reaching for jar of biscuits in the tea room.
Your tactic: Most of us think that we gravitate towards comfort foods when we're stressed, but what we really resort to are habits, since stress eats up the brainpower you'd normally use to make healthier choices, says psychologist Dr Wendy Wood. In one study, Wood found that participants who habitually nibbled on healthier fare in response to stress tended to fall back on those behaviours (instead of eating junk) when the going got tough. So start forming a healthier stress-eating habit, like eating a single square of dark chocolate.
Your post-lunch temptation
You sip on a diet soft drink to perk up - and find yourself desperately wanting a chocolate bar.
Your tactic: It might sound bonkers, but try a small amount of something with real sugar (like a handful of dried fruit) instead. When your brain senses that you ate or drank something sweet, it expects kilojoules to follow. And when that payoff doesn't happen (like after downing a can of diet soft drink) you'll likely be fuelled to keep eating, says a review published in the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine.
Your after-dinner temptation
Everyone wants to go out for ice cream.
Your tactic: Change the way you say no. When health-minded participants in a recent study published in the Journal of Consumer Research were asked to choose between chocolate or a more wholesome granola bar, those who said 'I don't eat chocolate,' were more likely to opt for the granola bar than those who said 'I can't eat chocolate.' It's a tiny twist in phrasing - but one that can lead to big psychological payoffs. "It's about decisions and prioritising wants," Stoler says.
Your before-bed temptation
You're up late watching a movie, and suddenly need chips. Lots of chips.
Your tactic: Get thee to bed. Your body is actually wired to crave high-calorie stuff after 8pm - making it even harder than usual to fight the urge to chow down, finds a small study published in the Obesity. You'll be doing yourself a favour to help cope with tomorrow's cravings, too: Sleep deprivation actually impairs the part of your brain that's responsible for making complex decisions while powering up the area that responds to rewards, says a recent Nature Communications study. In other words, you'll have less trouble remembering why cupcakes for breakfast isn't a fantastic idea.