In many ways, junk food cravings aren’t unlike those associated with other addictions. You can’t have just one cookie or one piece of candy. This can present a major problem if you’re on a path toward weight loss. The good news is that you don’t need to cut out treats completely in order to stay on track with your goals. The key is to devise a strategy for enjoying those treats in moderation.
The question: Why is consuming treats in moderation so difficult? It has to do with the fact that we often look at treats as rewards—something we’ve earned. The problem is, that feeling is generally fleeting. While the treat may taste good in the moment, that sense of reward is short-lived. People should focus on how they want to feel long term, at least 30–60 minutes after the treat.
By looking into the future, you are more likely to choose an appropriate portion. While you would likely feel guilty for mowing down a gallon of ice cream soon after the last bite, when you step back and consider that result, you’ll be motivated to adjust the serving.
Many nutrition experts will tell you that it may actually be easier to harness the self-discipline necessary to stick to a healthy diet over time if you allow yourself a treat every now and again. It’s all about reframing the way you look at treats and creating environments where you’re more likely to succeed.
How to Redefine Treats
While it’s okay to enjoy treats in moderation, most of us can benefit from shifting the way we look at snacks—especially if you’re trying to lose weight. We all have various small pleasures that we want to enjoy in life, but we should redefine what a treat really entails—there are better quality treats than others.
Here are a few redefined treats:
A baked sweet potato sprinkled with cinnamon, a drizzle of honey .
Cinnamon sugar whole grain rice cakes with a thin spread of almond butter
Fresh fruit topped with wheat germ and a drizzle of honey
A smoothie made with coconut milk, banana and cocoa powder
Homemade applesauce or fruit puree
A warm baked banana topped with a tablespoon of peanut butter
Control Your Environment to Curb Binging
In addition to reframing the way you look at treats, it’s also important to control the environments you’re in as much as possible to set yourself up for success. For most of us, this will include home, work and social settings. By investing a bit of time into planning and eliminating temptations where possible, you’re less likely to sabotage your weight loss.
Since home is usually the easiest environment for you to control, limit the amount of treats you keep in the house. What’s more, be sure your cupboards are stocked with healthier options so you’re not constantly ordering delivery when you’re hungry.
At work, you can’t control the donuts your colleagues bring in or the catered lunch, so it’s important to plan ahead. Don’t rely on the office snack stash and reach for a cup of calming chamomile tea during high stress work days.
At social gatherings, question ingredients. Was that store-bought cupcake made with high fructose corn syrup? Is that cake full of artificial dyes? Consider these types of questions to help you think before you eat.
Choose sweets that are as fresh as possible, and when it’s a pitch-in, bring your own go-to sweet treats—fresh fruit is always a great treat for social gatherings.
Of course, maintaining an overall healthy, nutrient-rich diet can head off many of those junk food cravings that can tank weight-loss efforts. In fact, those cravings may even mean that your body is trying to communicate that it needs something else.
Balanced meals and snacks can often offset the likelihood of major imbalances. When in doubt, go big with veggies—fresh or cooked vegetables can add bulk and nutrients that support feeling full. They also offer a boost of nutrients.