Conquer your High FODMAP Cravings
What do cravings have to do with the low FODMAP diet? Food cravings can derail your best of intentions to stick to low FODMAP foods. In reality, most people experience food cravings. A craving is a power, insatiable desire for food. When a craving hits, sometimes it is the only thing you can think about. As dietitians, we want to help minimize your cravings so it is easier to eat low FODMAP and nourish yourself with healthy food.
Let’s get one thing straightened out first. I’m not talking about hunger. Feeling hungry is a normal biological sensation. Think of it as stomach hunger. When you feel stomach hunger, your physiology is telling you to eat. Cravings are different. A craving often starts when you aren’t hungry.
Think of a craving as head hunger. Your head desires food in response to how you are feeling emotionally or because of a learned behaviour around food and eating. Get in the habit of asking yourself, is this stomach hunger or head hunger? If your answer is frequently head hunger, try the following strategies. I’ve included an activity with each strategy to guide you. I’m will warn you that some of these activities will take some creative thinking and practice.
Find your triggers
What triggers you to eat high FODMAP foods? Here are some common triggers to get you thinking.
|Turn the TV on||Eat Doritos|
|Go to the movies||Eat too much popcorn|
|Get home from work||Go straight to the fridge|
|Have a coffee||Buy a muffin|
|Feel tired||Over eat chocolate|
|Feel sad||Eat ice cream|
|Hard day at work||Treat yourself to a meal out|
|Someone else is eating it||You want it too|
|Mom baked you a treat||You can’t say no|
Notice the common and repeated triggers you experience and you will find that most are predictable. They often happen at the same time of day or the same location. Find patterns so you can make a conscious effort to avoid these triggers in the future. What are some of your triggers for eating high FODMAP or unhealthy foods? Was it a feeling like sadness, boredom or fatigue? Are you sensitive to visual trigger like a TV commercial, billboard, or seeing someone else eat? Here’s an activity for you.
- Activity: Throughout your day, notice what triggers you to eat something high FODMAP. What are your typical responses? Come up with one strategy for how you will change your response next time.
Engineer your environment
There was a fun and informative study done by Brian Wansink at Cornell University. The study included 40 admin assistants over a 4 week period and a supply of chocolates that were replenished daily. They investigated whether proximity to and visibility of the chocolates impacted how many the admin assistants ate.
Low and behold, when the chocolates were within reach and in a clear candy dish, they ate considerably more than when the chocolates were placed two metre away in an opaque dish. The researchers concluded that when food is visible and within reach, you will eat more and I totally agree!
Brian Wansink elaborates on how our environment influences what we eat and how much, in his book Slim by Design. Look around your workspace, your home and even your car. Are high FODMAP foods visible? If so, change your environment to conceal your temptations. ON the flipside, make the low FODMAP choices easy to see and convenient to reach. If you find it challenging to eat two pieces of fruit daily, place a fruit bowl on your counter and include oranges, bananas, kiwi, cantaloupe and other low FODMAP fruit. What else can you do to make your environment work for you, instead of against you?
- Kitchen makeover activity: Look around your kitchen. Can you see high FODMAP foods in plain site? If so, find a permanent place for them in a cupboard or fridge. Make the high FODMAP foods difficult to see and inconvenient to access. Position the low FODMAP foods prominently where they are easy to access.
Pause, postpone or wait
When you craving something high FODMAP, your only two options are eat it all or eat nothing, right? Wrong. In this research study by Mead and Patrick, participants were divided into three groups and asked to watch a 20 minute video with a bowl of M&Ms. The deprivation group was told not to eat the M&Ms. The satiation group was told to help themselves. The postponement group was told they could snack after the movie. After the movie, all participants were left to eat the M&Ms in private. In the end, which group ate the most M&Ms? You guessed it, the deprivation group.
Both the postponement group and the satiation group ate around the same amount of M&Ms. However, the postponement group felt the least deprived, had a lower desire for chocolate, and ate less chocolate for the entire week following. The postponement group reported the lowest level of deprivation and loss, and experienced more self control for the following week.
Therefore, telling yourself you can have it later works! Postponing dampens the desire and makes it easier to stay within your FODMAP limit. It also buys you time to find a low FODMAP and healthier alternative.
Next time you want something high FODMAP or unhealthy, take a deep breath and pause… Make a plan to treat yourself with something low FODMAP later in the day or when you feel stomach hunger. This action will help decrease your feelings of deprivation and increase feelings of self control for up to a week.
- Activity: When you crave a treat, wait. Set a timer if you need to and give yourself permission to eat a low FODMAP treat once your time is up or when you feel stomach hunger.
Nurture or distract
How many times have you said to yourself, “I deserve a treat.” I couldn’t agree more, you do deserve a treat. It is very common to nurture and distract yourself with food. However, if you frequently desire high FODMAP foods, you will go off the FODMAP rails in a hurry. It is a good lifelong habit to find other ways to nurture and distract yourself, that don’t include food.
This however, can be very challenging! You have to be creative and choose something that is equally as enjoyable and convenient as food. Here are a few ideas to get you thinking.
- Cup of tea
- Ice cold drink
- Your nails
- Sudoku puzzle
- Call a friend
- Yoga stretches
Activity: Write down three of your favourite ways to nurture or distract yourself. Practice doing them when you feel you need a treat.
Know your FODMAP limits and eat mindfully
You’ve tried the first four strategies, but they are not going to cut it today. Now, you let go of guilt and indulge mindfully, within your FODMAP limit. There are plenty of treats that are low FODMAP. I encourage you to look through the Monash app and know your exact limit for your favourite treats like chocolate, biscuits, popcorn etc. When you do indulge, serve yourself a portion that is within the FODMAP limit and put the package away so you are not tempted to dip in again. Eating mindfully while not distracted with anything else will help you fully enjoy the experience and be satisfied with less. If you eat while on the run, or with horrible feelings of guilt, you will have a very hard time stopping at your FODMAP limit.
- Activity: Pick a low FODMAP treat. Check on the FODMAP limit for each treat. Next time you desire a treat, serve yourself a low FODMAP portion, turn off distractions, let go of guilt and do nothing but savouring the experience.
These strategies really work but they take practice. Try one or two strategies and see how you feel. Remember that indulging in a high FODMAP treat doesn’t mean you’ve failed, it just means that you need to make a few changes and practice.