There’s a reason why candy, cookies, chips and fast-food tastes oh. so. delicious. Many food items are engineered by scientists to deliver an irresistible “bliss point”—a term that describes the optimization of a tasty ingredient like sugar, salt, or fat that drives you to reach for more.
But just because food scientists have worked really hard to make treats too delicious to pass up, doesn’t mean you have to succumb to the pull of your tastebuds. It’s totally possible to outsmart those cravings for bite-size candy bars and drive-thru fries. All you need to do is adjust your habits and retrain your palate. Don’t worry, it’s easier to do than it sounds.
Disrupt Your Routine
If you typically grab a piece of candy when you walk by your co-worker’s desk on your way to the restroom, consider going a different way next time—one that doesn’t take you past those tantalizing treats. “Often your environment determines whether or not you will make a healthy choice,” says Steven Ledbetter, an expert on behavior change and co-founder of Habitry. “Change your environment, change your routine, and you eliminate the temptation,” he says.
Distract Your Cravings
Most cravings are just that, cravings. They don’t always signal an immediate need for sustenance. With that in mind, it’s possible to overcome a craving by thinking about something else. The next time you’re jonesing for that chocolate bar in the breakroom vending machine or those drive-thru donuts, remind yourself you had a filling, healthy lunch and then get busy. Focus on the email that’s been sitting in your inbox for three days, the GPS directions to your kid’s soccer game, anything but food.
Reach for Something Else
But what if you didn’t have a healthy lunch? What if you missed it completely? Be ready with a plan B. “When you decide to take on a new habit like eating better, it’s always a good idea to have a plan for those times when it will be hard to choose vegetables over fast food,” says Ledbetter. Keeping healthy snack options in your desk and in your car is a great plan B. No, carrot sticks and sunflower seeds don’t taste anything like nougat or potato chips, but when your cravings really are driven by hunger healthy snacks will be just as satisfying.