The Junk Food Monologues
Am I even hungry right now?
The answer isn't always easy to come by, particularly when you're confronted with a food you always manage to find room for, like the pint of chocolate chunk ice cream in your freezer. To figure out whether your body actually needs food, imagine that the ice cream is a bowl of fruit salad. If you would eat the fruit, then you're probably hungry, says Janet R. Laubgross, PhD, a clinical psychologist in Fairfax, Virginia. "In that case, you should eat something healthy before you even debate having ice cream," she says.
If you determine that you're not hungry, yet you're craving dessert, that's likely emotional hunger or boredom -- and diving into a pint of ice cream won't necessarily make you feel better. In those moments, listen closely to what your inner voice is saying about that chocolate chunk ice cream: how decadent it tastes, how soothing it would be to eat it, and so on. Then, step back and focus on the reality. "Look at the ice cream and describe it dispassionately," says Marion Jacobs, PhD, an adjunct psychology professor emerita at UCLA. The ice cream is white. It's frozen milk with dark brown chunks in it. The container is green. Not very exciting, is it? "By doing this, you're training your brain to strip away the emotion and just focus on the facts of your food choice," Dr. Jacobs explains.
Is this food splurge-worthy?
And I mean worthy, people. There is some mind-meltingly delicious food in this world. There's a lot of mediocre stuff too. When it comes to indulgent treats, there's no reason to settle for anything less than the best, yet we do it all too often. You'd never buy a car that looks kind of like the one you want, or splurge on a bottle of perfume that smells merely okay. Why not be just as selective about the treats you eat?
If you're having trouble deciding whether the food you're fixated on is worth the calories, try this mind trick: Simply tell yourself you can have it later. People who postpone a treat they're yearning for actually decrease their craving and eat less of the food over time, according to new research presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology. Delaying is an effective strategy because your goal is to simply get past the craving. Tomorrow -- or even a few minutes from now -- that seemingly must-have food may be the furthest thing from your mind.