Tips on how to control your urges

We rarely do things that we don’t have an urge to do.  Change the urge and you have more control of the behavior. urge-management NHN

Remember:  An URGE is not a COMMAND.  It is merely an urge, a nudge, an inclination.  It can be altered, if you know how, so that you are in CONTROL.

A useful tool in Urge Management is to RATE the level of your urge:

0 = absolutely no urge at all, and you won’t engage in the behavior
1 = you only know that you have had the urge before, but no desire at this time
2 = a passing thought
3 = an urge that you might consider following through with, or not
4 = a low level urge, easily managed by postponement or interruption
5 = definitely an urge, but you could substitute it with a readily available alternative
6 = an urge that you cannot deny, and that you start to give in to without thinking
7 = highly likely that you will give in to the urge
8 = an overwhelming desire to act on the urge
9 = you ARE going to act on the urge
10= NO ONE could stop you from acting on the urge. . . No One

Before you use any strategy listed below:

  1. Decide which urge you are going to tackle first, e.g., urge to splurge, to get angry, eat that cookie, smoke, bite your nails, etc.
  2. Rate your current URGE LEVEL
  3. Engage in one strategy suggested below
  4. Rate your urge level again.  Has it gone up, stayed the same, gone down?  What have you learned?
    • If up, use a different strategy
    • If the same, use the same strategy once more to see if there is a change, now
    • If lower, congratulate yourself, and put that strategy on your list to use again as needed

Keep using various strategies until you find the ones that work best specifically for YOU!

There are several categories of ways to manage all types of urges.  They are:

• Prevent the behavior
• Interrupt of minimize the urge
• Postpone the behavior of the urge
• Distract yourself from the urge
• Substitute the urge for a healthier behavior, prepared in advance
• Retrain your brain for a CHANGE

As an example, let’s take the common behavior of mindlessly overeating junk food.

Prevent the behavior:

  • When you are driving home (if you usually drive by a fast-food place, and habitually just stop in), drive home on a different street that avoids the temptation of that restaurant. If you are not on that street, it is very hard to Drive-In.  You have PREVENTED the behavior
  • Prepare your meals at home ahead of time, so that when you get home and are ready to eat, you will have nutritious foods ready for you
  • Decide AHEAD of time what you are going to eat or DO when you get hungry
  • Have your shopping under control. Never shop when you are hungry
  • Decide on high antioxidant, nutrient-rich foods, to put on your grocery list. Buy them
  • If it isn’t on your grocery list, it doesn’t get bought and brought into the house
  • Most of us are fortunately too lazy to:
    • have an urge for a food
    • stop what we are doing
    • get dressed
    • drive to a store and
    • purchase it
    • . . . and that is one time that we can be thankful for our laziness!

Interrupt or minimize the urge:

  • Clap your hands 3 times, stand up, sit back down
  • Go brush your teeth, WITH toothpaste
  • Walk to the water cooler, and smile at a colleague on your trip
  • Sniff peppermint . It will energize you when you are hungry
  • If there is a food that you REALLY want (desire level is a 9 on a 1-10 scale) simply SMELL it, close your eyes and imagine eating it.  Check your urge level again, which probably will have decreased.  If the level rises again, eat 1-2 bites of the food, imagine eating more, but don’t.  What is your urge level then?
    • Decide which bite was the most enjoyable
    • Most people enjoy the first 1-2 bites the most, and pleasure decreases with each subsequent bite
  • If you start to eat an undesired food, just switch hands.  You may find it much easier to put the food down!  Make your brain work a little so that every bite you take is a conscious decision and not an automatic behavior
  • Do you see a picture in our mind, in living color, of the food (or substance) that you are trying to avoid?  Change the picture to black and white.  How does THAT change your urge level?
  • Are there words in your mind compelling you to follow your urge?  Whose voice is speaking in your mind?  Change that voice to Mickey Mouse’s voice.  How does THAT change your urge level?

Postpone the behavior:       

  • Institute the ’15 minute’ rule.  As soon as you get a “cue” to eat, train yourself to wait just 15 minutes before you do.  This will help break the automatic response cycle in your brain that, ultimately, helps cancel out the old associations
  • Drink a glass of ice water.  Often, when we think we are hungry, we aren’t. . . we are merely thirsty.  Make it a habit. . . when hungry, FIRST, drink a glass of ice water
  • Have you ever noticed how only 4 ounces of tomato juice can tame the munchies while you are preparing a meal?
  • Tell yourself, “I could eat those fries, but won’t right now”

Distract from the urge:

  • Take the dog for a walk
  • Take 3 deep breaths
  • Call a friend
  • Pick up a magazine to thumb through

. . . you get the idea!

Substitute the urge for a healthier behavior, prepared in advance:

  • Eat clear soups or a large salad before each meal
  • When you eat a few nuts 15 minutes prior to a meal, you will eat less in that meal
  • Have healthy foods readily available to you at all times.  Munch on unsalted nuts, carrots, cukes, celery, turkey, broccoli, boiled egg, string cheese, even a couple of Healthy Chocolates™ a day

Retrain your brain for a CHANGE:

  • Intelligently MANAGE the urge by changing the associations you have with food
  • A food diary will help keep track of associations you have with certain foods and behaviors. In addition to listing foods, also chart your mood, activities, etc.  to help you discover your associations between ‘food thoughts’ and ‘food urges’
  • Changing our associations may seem difficult, but altering our behavior is actually easier than we imagine. Seven things to do right now that can put change into motion:
    • Never eat standing up
    • Never eat out of a container.  Put it onto the plate or into a bowl
    • Use a small salad plate, not dinner plate
    • Use your non-dominant hand when you eat
    • Never eat in your office.  Always eat at the dining room table (or other designated eating place).  This eating place is the only place that has a strong association with food.  Also you will have fewer ants (and pounds)!
    • Make eating a sole-focus activity and give it your full concentration. Put down your gaming, step away from the computer, get off the telephone, and just concentrate on eating.  The more you disassociate food with other activities, the more likely you are to not allow outside cues to dictate where and when and how much you eat
    • Eat at the same place, with same utensils, sitting down each time. This decreases  extraneous eating associations that can sabotage our efforts

One of the most distressing aspects of ‘uncontrolled urges’ is that as we succumb to them.  We have a sense that we are not in control, making us stressed.  With each change in behavior (and change in urge levels), we gain a sense of increased CONTROL over our lives. . . and that is a good feeling, isn’t it?

What are some nifty ways YOU control undesired urges?  Please click on the “Leave a Comment” link next to the date at the top of the blog under the headline. I’d love to hear from you!

By Dailey Grainger, PhD, ARNP, founder and CEO of Next Health Now, a Nurse Practitioner in the forefront of helping make America healthier.

Consider new ways of eating

Some of the easiest and simplest strategies to portion control, appetite management, and appropriate mindful eating.

It DOES make a difference what you eat and drink out of. 

  • Want to drink 25-30% less juice, soda, wine or other beverage, without even noticing it? Simply use a tall, skinny glass instead of a short, wide glass. A project at Cornell University found that everyone poured more fluid into a short, wide glass, even experienced bartenders!
    • Drink out of tall, skinny glasses
  • Get rid of dinner plates, and replace them with salad plates (8-9 inches across). When you place the same amount of food on a salad plate that might look lonely on a dinner plate, the mound of food tricks your brain into thinking you are eating more (even though you may be
    4eating the correct portion of food). It increases satisfaction without the extra calories.

    • Eat all meals out of salad plates
    • Eating on a blue plate results in eating less
  • While we are getting rid of things, get rid of serving dishes on the table. When there is extra food sitting around, easily accessible while we may be socializing at the table, it is simply TOO EASY to keep eating even though we may be full.
    • Ditch serving dishes. Put food directly on salad plates to be taken to the table, with no unnecessary access to seconds.
  • When you get really serious about training your brain to eat appropriately (not mindlessly), limit the places where you eat so that your brain associates food with a certain place, with appropriate cues for eating.
    • Eat only while sitting down at your designated eating place. That means no mindless tasting while cooking, “shopping” in the pantry or refrigerator and munching there!  If you are going to eat it, put it on a plate, sit down at your “eating place”, and eat it.
    • Eat only from your specific salad plate.
    • Office is for work; TV is for viewing;  car is for transportation.  No eating in your office, car or while watching TV.  (Soon, you will notice that you no longer associate food with these places, and you are healthier for it).
  • Retraining the brain to eat less can take many forms
    • This suggestion is hard core . . . eat everything with a utensil. Yep, cut that sandwich in small bites and eat it with a fork.  Boredom may set in to deter your eating the second half!!! Yes, an apple can be eaten with a utensil. . .
    • When you feel hungry, had you ever thought that you might be thirsty instead? Drink a full glass of ice water, wait 10 minutes, and if you are still hungry, then go ahead and eat.
  • Want to boost your metabolism for several hours?
    • Drink 16 ounces of ice water within minutes of awakening. The body expends calories just to warm the water, and hydration (necessary for fat-burning) is begun for the day.
  • Change the way you eat to make eating more
    • Visualize what you are going to eat BEFORE you take a bite. Look at your food. Allow yourself the time to smell your food.
    • Then take a bite. REALLY taste it. Notice the texture of your food.  Notice how the tastes develop in your mouth.
    • REALLY enjoy your food.
    • Eat until there is a natural “pause” in your eating. During that pause, consider whether or not you wish to eat anymore.  You COULD eat more,  but are you really HUNGRY for more?
    • Reflect mindfully on the food that you just ate, and thoroughly enjoy the memory of eating appropriately.

What new ways of eating have you used that have been particularly helpful to you?  Please click on the “Leave a Comment” link next to the date at the top of the blog under the headline. I’d love to hear from you!

By Dailey Grainger, PhD, ARNP, founder and CEO of Next Health Now, a Nurse Practitioner in the forefront of helping make America healthier.

 

Write it down BEFORE you eat it

Brains are habitual organs, and those habits that you want to ADD (and undesired habits you wish to alter) can be increased/minimized if you “fool” your brain into thinking it is hardly changing, AT ALL.  Somewhere between the 12th and the 20th time that you do a new behavior CONSISTENTLY and PERSISTENTLY, it becomes a natural habit. Each time you replace an undesired behavior with a desired one, the undesired habit weakens.  But until the brain “recognizes” that this is a new habit, it tries to retain the old pattern. Gently train your brain to do write a listwhat YOU want it to do.

Write down what you eat BEFORE you eat it.  This uses a different part of your brain…to decide what to eat prior to eating.

  • Visualize the food in your mind. (Closing your eyes and focusing inwardly on what you have decided you are going to eat)
  • Decide just how much you are going to eat.
  • Write down the food, amount and, if desired, the approximate calorie count, amount of sodium, saturated fats, etc., or any other ingredient-item of interest to you.
  • Then slowly eat your food, savoring every bite or swallow. Don’t put the next bite into your mouth until you have completely chewed, swallowed and ENJOYED the last one.  Yes . . . this DOES take a while!
  • This applies to everything that passes your lips (munching while deciding what to eat, nibbling while you are cooking, licking that spoon ALL count as FOOD TO BE RECORDED!).

Research shows that people who write down what they eat prior to eating it, lose twice the amount of weight as people who don’t write down their food.

Using a different part of our brains in decision-making increases the inner resources we have….that inner ability to be more in control of our behavior.  You can feel good about making these very small changes that will help you reach your goals.

After awhile, you will notice that you are NATURALLY eating more MINDFULLY, slower, and actually ENJOYING your food more.  You will also notice that you will remember to pick up that pencil PRIOR to eating.  I remember long ago that I wrote down 2 chocolate chip cookies, and as soon as I saw that, I was vaguely repulsed, and marked through the “2” and wrote “1” instead.  Just seeing that I had made a healthier choice helped me remember that incident…enough to share it a decade later with you.

Have you ever kept an Eating Diary?  How did it work for you? Please click on the “Leave a Comment” link next to the date at the top of the blog under the headline. I’d love to hear from you!

By Dailey Grainger, PhD, ARNP, founder and CEO of Next Health Now, a Nurse Practitioner in the forefront of helping make America healthier.

 

 

 

Protect yourself and your family against “optional” gastric illness

Poison upsets our stomachs . . .

No, I am not talking about food poisoning, but a more long-lasting poison that is brought about by emotional stress endured while eating. You know how it goes, you sit down face-to-face with family members at the dinner table, and the first thing that comes to mind is often a correction, a criticism or an actual put-down.  Each “downer statement” inevitably causes stress (probably in EVERY person at the table), and this comes at a vulnerable time when we are eating and beginning to digest our food.

Family meals should be a time for friendly chatter, sharing, laughing and enjoying each other. In families where the dinner table was a place of 2scolding, strife and punishment, children had a greatly increased tendency to develop gastrointestinal problems as an adult. All negativity (sometimes necessary, though) should be addressed AFTER a meal when everyone has adequate nutrition to their brains, are less reactive, and, therefore, more resilient. Preserve mealtimes as a time of peace, and a haven away from stress.  Also, when there is conflict during a meal, people tend to either overeat or refuse to eat (neither of which works!).

We know now that there is a correlation between stress, sodium retention, and inflammatory processes leading to chronic illnesses. When we are in control of the UNNECESSARY stress that might be injected into family meals, we can make the choice to no longer PAIR stress with eating. It sets up maladaptive habits, and it makes us (and our children) more vulnerable to chronic illnesses and diseases.

Do you remember, perhaps, as a child, dreading the dinner table because all “sins” would be laid out and addressed, taking second place to the healthy food that was served? Stop an old “family tradition” of misusing the dinner table.

Replace it with:

  • Healthy, single-ingredient foods
  • Laughter, jokes, recounting funny stories of the day
  • Intelligent conversations of interest to family members
  • Concern for the well-being of all at the table

Joe Kennedy made it a priority to provide stimulating, intelligent conversation at the nightly dinner table where Bobby and Jack Kennedy ate, even inviting diplomats and authors to the table to “educate” his children.

“Every time you are tempted to react in the same old way, ask if you want to be a prisoner of the past or a pioneer of the future.”
~ Deepak Chopra

Dailey Grainger, PhD, ARNP, founder and CEO of Next Health Now, a Nurse Practitioner in the forefront of helping make America healthier.