Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Conquering Cravings by Managing Anxiety

Cravings are incredibly frustrating. I've worked with many clients and students who share that they do terrific with weight management, only to succumb to cravings that seem to undo all their hard work otherwise. Cravings are especially challenging when they're frequent, intense, or both.

We've already talked about how to beat the cognitive distortions of cravings, and I hope you've found those tools helpful. Today we'll take a look at how anxiety can overlap with cravings, and consider what you can do to conquer your cravings by managing anxiety.

First, let's clarify how anxiety is different from stress. Stress is the body's response to a situation you perceive as challenging or threatening. It's often defined as the fight-flight-or-freeze response. In other words, you believe you're in danger, so your body automatically prepares to either fight back, run away, or freeze. When you're stressed, you're thinking, "How will I handle this?"

In contrast, anxiety is worrying about things that aren't happening. In fact, many (even most!) of the things that anxious people worry about never come to pass. Anxious people are inordinately fond of "What if...?" thoughts.

Personally, I'm not one to stress overmuch. When things are actually happening, I'm usually able to marshal my resources and manage situations. I often find situations many people find stressful to be fun, rather than scary.

Instead, I tend to be an anxious person. My relationship with cravings changed dramatically when I learned about anxiety and began taking steps to better manage it. In fact, discovering and managing my anxiety all but eliminated the sense of dread and panic I'd often experience in the mid-afternoons, which would then lead to intense cravings.

So, if you tend to worry about "What if..." questions, or if you've noticed that you have intense, powerful cravings that 1) aren't related to seeing or smelling food, 2) happen frequently, especially if they tend to happen at the same time of the day, 3) are for what you consider to be "comfort food," 4) are associated with feelings of dread, panic, or fear, you might benefit from exploring whether your cravings are related to anxiety.

Dr. Edmund Bourne's excellent book, "The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook" is a terrific place to start. This book provides a tremendous amount of information on ways to manage anxiety, ranging from self-esteem to cognitions to self-nurturing. You can find more information on his book here. If you check out the book and work on managing your anxiety, don't forget to stop by and let us know what you try, and how it goes! :)

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

To Juice, or Not To Juice?

The juicing craze is still going strong! I've had several students in my online classes ask me my opinion on juicing, and participants in my parenting classes are asking the same question. Personally, I don't own a juicer; I'm old enough to remember the last juicing craze, back in the 1970s, and I haven't seen evidence that juicing is beneficial enough to warrant splurging on yet another kitchen appliance.


That said, juicers can be useful. I think it's a great idea for people to make their own fruit- or veggie-based beverages that they can tweak to their preferences, use the produce they grow in their own garden, or increase their fruit and veggie intake. 

Unfortunately, juicing also encourages people to prepare and drink concoctions unpleasant enough that they're posting pictures on social media and complaining about the taste, noting that they're drinking it "because it burns fat" or "cures disease." That's unfortunate, as although fruits and veggies are nutritional powerhouses, the perspectives some people have are less than accurate -- they're usually based on truth, but not quite true.


I have other concerns with juicing, too. Although non-starchy veggies are incredibly low in calories, they do contain calories -- and juicing is one way to get a lot of non-starchy veggies into you very quickly. It's much faster and easier to drink 200 calories of tomato-carrot juice than it is to eat 200 calories from tomatoes and carrots. (On a related side note, most people with type 2 diabetes can eat 200 calories from tomatoes and carrots. However, many would see a blood sugar rise from 200 calories' worth of tomato-carrot juice.) Because fruit contains more than twice the calories of non-starchy veggies, this is even more true for fruit-based juices.


Juicing can also get in the way of a healthy eating pattern. I love fruits and veggies, but we need more -- protein, calcium, B vitamins, iron, etc. Although it's possible to choose a balance of different kinds of fruits and veggies, because of the nature of juicing, it's easy to fall into the trap of drinking a lot of a certain kind of fruits or veggies, and miss out on the possibilities of a wider variety of fruits and veggies. It can be all-too-easy to get full on fruits and veggies, and miss out on all the nutrition you need.

So, overall, juicing can be part of a healthy eating pattern, but a juicer isn't an essential appliance. Fruits and veggies should indeed be part of your day, every day, but whether you eat them or drink them is entirely up to you!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Gear Up for Father's Day!

Father's Day is around the corner, and your dad has enough neckties. Instead of buying him the same old-same old gifts, why not surprise him with something different? -- and something will support his weight management efforts? Here are some ideas to get you thinking:

Get Sporty. In the parenting classes I teach, dads are far more likely to describe themselves as "playful" than moms. (I haven't kept statistics, but I'd guess the ratio is at least 3:1 in favor of playful dads.) So, consider a new gaming system or a new game. Surprise him with new sports equipment. Spring for a gym membership, or pay for classes so he can revisit a favorite activity or explore a new activity.

Go High-Tech. Dads are infamous for craving the latest and greatest technology. Support Dad's love of all things new and his weight management efforts, and surprise him with a new pedometer, a FitBit, or a water bottle that tracks his water intake.

Support His Softer Side. Instead of the usual necktie, how about a warm and fuzzy gift that Dad can use daily, like luxurious new sheets or a soft, cozy blanket? Or, consider blackout curtains, a white noise machine, or an alarm clock that wakens with music, instead of a blaring alarm.

Help Dad De-stress. Does Dad need some encouragement to de-stress? Consider a gift certificate for a day spa or massage, or buy a chair massager for his car. Explore aromatherapy (lavender, khus, or sandalwood are good places to start) or color therapy. Treat Dad to a class on stress or time management.

Now it's your turn: Dads, what's the best Father's Day gift you've received, and why? Let us know! :)