Nothing derails your diet quicker than a sudden hankering for a junky snack. You know you’ll eat dinner in an hour, but your taste buds don’t care–they want those office cookies and they want them now! But you don’t have to feel powerless over your junk-food cravings. These inventive–and OK, a little weird–tactics from The 8-Hour Diet can help keep your inner Cookie Monster in check and stop you from binge eating.
PLUS: Is your job making you fat? Learn how to avoid office junk food traps with six expert tips.
1. Drink to your health
Your grandé mocha with whipped cream delivers a pretty nasty calorie blow, but some drinks can help you sip yourself slim by filling you up without filling you out. Our picks:
Water: Thirst often masks itself as hunger, so a cool glass of H2O might actually curb cravings.
Green tea: It’s been shown to suppress appetite and aid in fat burning.
Oolong tea: One study found that drinking a cup an hour before you work out increases your fat oxidation by 12 percent.
Black tea: A study in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition found that black tea decreases blood sugar levels by 10 percent for 2 1/2 hours, so you’ll feel fuller and avoid hunger later.
2. Make a fist
A lot of people become tense or stressed when a craving comes on, and you’re better off trying to channel that tension into your muscles. In a study published in the Journal of Consumer Research,people who tightened their muscles (regardless of which ones) while trying to exert self-control in their food choices were better able to overcome temptations. The researchers speculated that this may be because we unconsciously associate firm muscles with willpower.
The researchers speculated that this may be because we unconsciously associate firm muscles with willpower.
3. Watch a funny YouTube clip.
It’s a common cliché that you burn more calories with a smile than with a frown, but there might be some truth to it. Scientists in Brazil say that by activating your “happy hormone” serotonin, laughter could reduce appetite.
4. Phone a friend, or your mom
According to a study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, hearing a supportive, familiar voice prompts the brain to release oxytocin, a stress-fighting, mood-elevating hormone, and reducing stress has been linked to increases in your satiety hormone, leptin.
5. Don’t waste your willpower
According to a Case Western Reserve University study, you’re going to have less willpower at the end of the day than when you woke up, which can leave you vulnerable to evening binges. Your move: Try to minimize situations that drain your willpower by making decisions and sticking with them, delegating stressful tasks, and not procrastinating. This way, you’ll be able to save up your will for when you really need it–like when you’re staring down an extra large piece of cheesecake.
6. Play a game
Stanford researchers found that playing video games stimulates the brain’s reward system–the part of the brain that might long for the excitement normally provided by food. Getting your jollies from a 0-calorie Candy Crush session will leave you satisfied without touching a snack.
Another option is to pick a challenging puzzle game, like crosswords, Scrabble, or anagrams. If your brain is busy determining a 5-letter word for “pile up,” it won’t be free to dwell on hunger.
7. Be kind
The emotional side of your brain can do a number on your diet. Did you have a falling out with a friend, family member, or co-worker? Try writing a letter to smooth it over. A study from the Journal of Obesity found that focusing on forgiveness helped participants increase mindfulness and reduce anxiety, and they were also less likely to eat in response to food cues.
Another tactic is to kill your cravings with kindness. Help your neighbor carry in his groceries, compliment a co-worker’s skills, or just simply volunteer. Research shows that using loving-kindness techniques can reduce the frequency of emotional eating. In fact, simply thinking about doing something generous releases happy hormones serotonin and dopamine.
8. Move it
Myth: Exercise makes you hungry. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. According to research out of Loughborough University, running increases production of peptide YY (an appetite suppressant) and reduces ghrelin (an appetite stimulant). The study also found that strength training reduces ghrelin production by up to 25 percent. (Bonus: the muscle you build will boost your metabolism.)
Not a fan of running? Try yoga. Scientists at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center found that people who practiced yoga had smaller appetites and more controlled eating habits.
9. Walk at work
The more you sit, the greater your appetite, according to research from the University of Massachusetts. In fact, researchers at the University of Missouri found that every consecutive day of inactivity significantly increases blood sugar levels–26 percent, on average–which can leave you feeling hungrier and craving junky snacks. Try one of these easy ways to get moving at work:
– Set up a pop-up timer on your computer. It’s easy to get wrapped up in your work, so a timer will help you remember that it’s important to get up–even if only to get a drink of water.
– Need something from payroll? Why not pay them a visit instead of picking up the phone or emailing them. You might even get what you need even faster.
– If a project has you feeling frazzled, take a breather outside or pay a visit to a coworker. You’ll return feeling less overwhelmed, and when your stress level is lower, so is your likelihood of overeating.
10. Treat your nose, not your tongue
Aromas can have a strong effect on your brain and your tummy. Research shows that lighting candles scented with peppermint, banana, green apple, or vanilla can trick your brain into thinking you’ve eaten, and one study published in Regulatory Peptides found that smelling rather than eating dark chocolate is more effective at reducing the hunger hormone ghrelin. Prefer a floral scent? Try jasmine. One study found that the jasmine scent has specific hunger-killing powers and can also reduce anxiety and boost energy.
11. Lighten up
Stress causes your body to produce the hormone cortisol, which creates resistance to leptin, an important hormone that makes you feel full. Research shows that sunlight can reduce stress, so finding a bright or sunny space for 10 minutes is a simple way to calm down and squash cravings.
12. Step up your wardrobe
A study from the University of Southern Indiana found that business-causal attire makes you feel more authoritative, productive, and competent than everyday-casual clothes. Giving yourself a confidence boost can translate to greater confidence in your ability to stick with the diet.