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How to Fight Christmas Cravings and Win

How To Fight Cravings!

Christmas is coming, and the goose isn’t necessarily the only thing that’s getting fat. We are beset with temptations and indulgences on all sides, be it the office party, festive drinks with friends, or family blow outs. For anybody seeking to maintain or get in shape, this can be an incredibly challenging time of the year and one where any craving can be far too readily indulged.

Whenever I encounter the need to fight cravings I always take a moment to recall the tale of Pavolv’s dog. Ivan Pavlov was the Russian researcher who by ringing a bell immediately before feeding his dogs conditioned them to salivate merely at the sound. In other words they had a physiological response to totally neutral stimulus (in this case a bell). There are things that we associate with food simply because we are conditioned to – not because we especially want or need that food. For instance, I myself cannot settle properly in the cinema without a huge tub of popcorn sitting in my lap, although I now smuggle the homemade stuff with added organic butter and Celtic sea salt . Others absolutely must have Christmas pudding on Christmas Day, but how many people want it at any other time of the year?

Unfortunately we are conditioned to associate food with everything from a festive celebration to a fight with a partner. And it is this path that leads us to over eating, over indulgence and a derailing of our carefully nurtured goals. If we want to break this habit and maintain our peace of mind over the holiday season then we need to exercise self discipline and break the cycle of comfort / party / social eating. I want to give you advice that you can put to immediate practical use, so let’s eschew the platitudes about motivation and desire. That wavers for all of us when the box of Quality Street is calling our name! (oops, you have discovered my guilty secret now!)

The next time you start to feel yourself succumbing to a craving that will derail your fitness / physique efforts follow these simple strategies and I promise you that far more often than not your willpower will prevail and you won’t be left with a pile of sweet wrappers stuffed down the back of the sofa. (oops, there goes my second guilty secret!)

Tips to Fight Cravings

  • Brush your teeth – this kills your desire for anything sweet stone cold dead in its tracks.
  • Eat a pickled onion – consuming something totally the opposite of your craving will immediately halt the need for anything sweet.
  • I am not going to be unrealistic here and recommend that you go pump iron or run 3 miles. However a nice brisk walk should release feel good endorphins that will nicely balance out the brain chemistry and stop the craving.
  • Heavy cream and added glutamine (as little as 10gms can do the trick. but sometimes more is needed) is a tip I picked up off Charles Poliquin. If you are really watching the calories then even just adding a liberal dose of glutamine to a glass of water can work just as well for some.

It is also worth reminding yourself that most cravings and overeating triggers fade to nothing after only 15 minutes. So if you stay strong and practice one of the “tricks” outlined above you will come out on top.

Finally we should also note that life is for living, and unless Christmas is right in the middle of your athletic season or a month away from your photo shoot, then a few indulgences of what you fancy aren’t going to kill you. In fact if you are one of those disciplined souls who religiously follows a tight nutritional plan now might be a good time to loosen the reigns a little and just relax for a few days. Your body and mind may both thank you for the break, and there is always the New Year waiting just around the corner with resolutions and challenging gym workouts!

By Nick Mitchell, “London’s Best Personal Trainer” (Time Out London 2010)

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