So You Want to Stop…Eating Your Kryptonite Food

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So You Want to Stop…Eating Your Kryptonite Food

Even the most committed health devotees have them: a kryptonite food. Your kryptonite food is that one delectable food, savory or sweet, that is decidedly indulgent, definitively unhealthy and seems to be wired directly into your brain’s “eat more” neurons. It’s that food to which you are so vulnerable, you find yourself completely helpless to resist – so you don’t.  One bite, and it’s a wrap. It’s the food that you feel has the most potential to totally derail your “eat right” efforts.

I know multiple people who say pizza ranks as their kryptonite food – the prospect of eating a single slice is almost laughable to them, no matter how hard they try. In my world, one truffle-oil drizzled french fry begets about 3 or 4 dozen more.

About 15 years ago, I lost about 60 pounds – and have kept it off. I can recite a laundry list of food-related lifestyle changes and fitness habits I credit for being able to stay on track, but mindset management ranks among them. Here are a few tricks, tools and insights for how you can keep your own kryptonite food from derailing your efforts to eat healthfully:

1. Indulge and enjoy, on occasion.  One night of indulgence every once in awhile will neither kill you nor will it totally destroy your health and fitness goals. In fact, studies show that indulging intentionally in your food kryptonite once a month has the power to help you stave off the cravings that tempt you to make it an everyday occasion.

But here’s the rub: indulging in your food kryptonite will not help you manage your cravings if you do from a place of guilt, shame and self-deprecation. Instead, plan to indulge and commit to savoring every bite. You’ll be less likely to lose control when you do eat your kryptonite food and you won’t walk away from your indulgence feeling depleted and deprived.

2. Rethink it. Don’t imbue your food kryptonite with so much power. Instead, stay conscious about it. On the days you indulge, read the ingredients list, the nutrition panel and track your kryptonite in your food diary before you eat it. Knowing what you’re eating will help you make the decision to take every bite as long as it’s actually worth it – and will empower you to stop eating when you think the trade off no longer sorts out in a way you’re okay with.

Also, learn and know what you like about your kryptonite food, so you can really enjoy that characteristic and get it out of your system. For example, I like the crust of all those artisanal breads, but their high glycemic index is not so great for my blood sugar levels. So I slice it thin to get more crust with fewer calories than a big thick slice. I also add olive oil and fresh vegetables to my occasional bready treats so that I get full faster, with no blood sugar spikes.

3. Come up with a go-to alternative. To curb the everyday cravings, explore other foods that that may capture the essence of your kryptonite food. If you love salty, snacky fries, see if a handful of kalamata olives or homemade sweet potato fries does the trick. If you love the crunch and the hand-to-mouth back and forth of eating chips, try a beautiful bunch of vegetables and vegetable chips with an assortment of yummy, yogurt dips.

4. Hydrate and satiate. It’s common to feel like snacking when you’re actually thirsty. It’s also common to eat much more of a kryptonite food when you’re actually hungry. Try this Anti-Kryptonite Action Plan

  • Every time the craving hits, drink two glasses of water first and wait 10 minutes.
  • If you still have the hankering, have a healthy snack of almonds, fruit, olives or vegetable chip and wait another 15 minutes.
  • Then track one serving of your kryptonite food in your food diary to see how the numbers add up.
  • If the craving persists, eat and enjoy a single serving, savoring every morsel to the absolute fullest.

5. Hook your craving to a healthy habit. If you’ve been indulging in your craving every day and are trying to break the habit, try hooking the craving to a new, healthy behavior. If you’re trying to make your nightly bowl of ice cream a once-a-week occasion, when you’d normally reach for the ice cream, take the kids or the dog out for a 15 minute walk instead. And if you track the walk in your exercise diary you’ll get credit for both breaking your undesirable habit and building the new one!

6. Stay well-rested and well-fed. Well-rested people have vastly more significant stores of willpower and self-control than people who are exhausted. Same goes for being well-fed: your brain needs nutritious food regularly in order to help you be the executive of your life and exercise optimal self-control. If you’re trying to work on making big changes to your food or fitness habits, make sure you’re getting a great night’s sleep and are getting sufficient calories and nutrients (our Nutrition 101 series is a great place to start learning good nutrition basics). It’ll help you have the self-control you’ll need to level up your eating patterns.

7. Take baby steps toward your vision of a healthy lifestyle. Don’t try to overhaul every single thing about your lifestyle in one fell swoop. Researchers have found a phenomenon called ego depletion, which simply means that your brain has a set amount of mental resources you can use toward your behavior change goals at any given time. Neuropsychologists now believe that you can use these resources up if you try to make too many life changes at once.

If you’re trying to go on a financial budget, start working out for the first time, stop eating out and stop eating your kryptonite food–all this week–you’re not setting yourself up for success. Instead, pick one healthy habit to try to work on for a few weeks. Once it’s become a part of your daily life, move onto the next goal.

8. Understand the circumstances that lead to uncontrollable cravings. Think back to the times you most often find yourself eating your kryptonite foods in an out-of-control scenario. What are the common circumstances?  Does it usually tend to be at night when you’re home alone, or are you the most vulnerable at parties or social gatherings? Is it always after you’ve had an alcoholic drink or two, or after you’ve had a stressful day at work?

Once you become aware of the situations and scenarios that tend to exacerbate your vulnerability to your kryptonite food, you can solve for them in advance. Don’t keep your kryptonite food at home – make it harder to get to it. Make sure you eat and feel full before you show up to the party. Or decide to use the pizza party this weekend as your “splurge” day: track a full week of healthy meals and workouts in your diary, track a few slices of pizza before you go, and then indulge and enjoy.

9. Harness the power of social contagion. Social contagion theorists have proven that people with healthy friends tend to live healthier lives. You can harness the power of this truth to limit your vulnerability to your kryptonite food. Make friends who are healthy or trying to get that way, offline and in the MyFitnessPal community. If everyone else at the table is ordering a salad and fruit for dessert, you’ll be less likely to order the cheeseburger with an ice cream sundae chaser. Even if you do decide to splurge, maybe you can split dessert four ways, instead of each having your own personal kryptonite food show-down.

Also, commit to tracking even your indulgences, and make sure that you’ve shared your food diary with some friends on MyFitnessPal. People who connect with other MyFitnessPal users lose 3X as much weight as other users, and members who share their food diary with friends lose twice as much weight as others.

P.S. Want to read more?  Here are a couple of books that open up the science of changing habits and building your self-control “muscles”:

Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength | The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

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  • Amanda Turner Monocello

    that picture describes me perfectly! I love pizza but am going to start a clean eating lifestyle soon! Whos with me?!

    • teresa meadows

      How soon? You don’t sound serious. You’re on your own lady.

      • jahphotogal

        Wow, harsh! Was that really necessary?

        • Ddgirl

          Im trying to go Vegan this year. Three days on and enjoying every minute. Other family members (83 yr old mother, 65 yr old brother and his younger wife) have been doing it for 6 months and the results are miraculous. I wouldn’t have believed it if i hadn’t
          seen it for myself. I can recommend a few FABULOUS cookbooks if you like.

          • Mattman

            Yeah what are those cookbooks

          • Amanda Turner Monocello

            My good friend went vegan about six months ago and is loving it! She looks great and feels better! Good luck, keep us posted!!

          • Olga

            Please share the Cookbooks! My family and myself are currently vegetarians but we would eventually like to transition into veganism 🙂

          • danisa mishima

            yes please do! 😀

        • teresa meadows

          Yes it was necessary. I was not trying to be rude. If that is who she is comparing herself in the picture “perfectly”, (3 slices of pizza at a time?!) then she should’ve said I am going to eat clean beginning now! Or first thing tomorrow!

          • Mrshaines

            And you’ve really encouraged her…!

          • Amanda Turner Monocello

            Teresa, I was being a little dramatic. I like pizza. Its not necessary to be rude. I am down 20 pounds so obviously Im doing something right. If you cant encourage people, maybe you shouldnt post on a site that is meant for support!

    • Mrshaines

      Go for it!! I’m doing a 100 day fitness challenge – part of it is exercise, but I have to conquer my food problems! My kryptonite food is Walkers Sensations Roast Chicken and Thyme crisps… They only come in a share bag so I tend to eat the whole packet in one. Definitely going to try switching to olives and drinking water when I get the urge. My other half and I are going to have pizza night once a month – but I make the pizza so don’t get all the additives. I can share the recipe with you if you like..? Go for it!! No-one ever said ‘I regret getting fit!’ And remember, it isn’t about silly fad diets. It’s just about eating good clean food. X

      • Amanda Turner Monocello

        Thank you for the support and kind words! I would love the recipe! Im going grocery shopping today for my clean meals! I am down 20 pounds already so I just need to tweak my eating! We should chat and share tips!

  • Lady Taz

    Ice cream is kryptonite. Period. Full stop. I cannot keep it in the house. My usual craving is late at night. I made myself a deal. If the craving is so strong that I am willing to change back into street clothes at 11pm to go to the grocery store and get “my fix”, then I do. I get the smallest carton, joke with the cashier about what aisle the pickles are on, then go home and slowly enjoy every calorie. This happens roughly once a month, and no, does not correlate with my cycle.

  • AllyinWV1959

    I confess I’m a Little Debbie Cake junkie! But, it’s wen three days LDC free! My greatest weakness is sugar. Any suggestions as to breaking the addiction ?

    • Fiona Fitzgerald

      Magnesium

    • AllyinWV1959

      Thanks Fiona

    • Wendz

      I like to have sugar free jelly with fruit in. Helps with the sugar craving.

    • susiechica

      We know its difficult to stop eating sugar because its so addictive. Aknowledge how hard it will be to stop and then go for it……….3 or4 days and you should be over the worst. Your body will let you off the hook after that time. Make sure you drink loads of teas and water.

    • missy

      I love sugar too and i work in a 24 7 bakery making mostly bite size desserts its horrible i buy chocolate dipped bannannas they are good for you and tottally take care of the sweet craving i havnt had sweets other that my bannannas in a month

  • TexasGal1

    My Kryptonite is cookies. The large, soft, oh-so-good bakery cookies. One cookie turns into twelve for me, and at 200+ calories each…. It’s a struggle, but now I allow myself two to three per month.
    I like this idea of logging first to see what it does to my daily calorie numbers. Perhaps that will be incentive to have just one. 🙂

    • donna

      I’m with ya. The comment your on your own lady” was rediculous. This is supposed to be supportive not judging. Congratulations on losing 20 pounds.

  • LOL

    Can eat a lot fruit? And Vegetable?

  • Karen

    Yeah, I think I should tell Oreo’s that we should start seeing other people…

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  • sharita2114

    I find if I keep health snacks in m fridge I can tell myself; ‘I’m not going to eat that, I’m going to have an Italian ice when I get home.’ I have avoided 3 ice cream cones with this method this week.

  • Pedro

    I sort of join 2 and 3 together. Think about how much you could eat of another thing (not necessarily an alternative). I’m thinking of that video on youtube by AsapScience “This is 200 calories.” I’m just going to make something up here. I’m not sure how accurate it would be. Anywho, I think, “Let’s see… I can have ONE smallish portion of a Cinnabon roll or I don’t know, 3 BIG bowls of great FRESH fruit salad. The kind that has all my favorite fruit. That said, I allow myself something sweet pretty much on a daily basis. Chocolate covered pretzels are my regular go to, but I have others. Fig newtowns with dark chocolate are another regular. Very nice article.

    Pedro

    Certified Personal Trainer with ACE

  • MorticiaBrowFace

    Great article and very motivating! Thank you! 🙂

  • MacNana

    Last night was pizza night so this blog was spot on! We were tired, grumpy, and too exhausted to cook a better meal. Won’t happen often. I do the “drink water” & take a walk with my dog. Lost 25 lb in 2014 & looking to do the same in 2015. No guilt, just less food, positive attitude, a bit of exercise daily (I’m 74 so exercise means walking). MyFitnessPal is excellent for preplanning meals and tracking nutrition. I tend to be low on the protein level; MFP helps me find & indulge in higher protein, lower carb options. This is the program I’ve been looking for for years. It’s great. Happy New Year to all.

  • Christina

    My addiction is green smoothies (blender filled with kale or spinach, coconut or tap water, bananas, and some combination of whatever fruit I have in the freezer. I’m trying to cut back on them, because fruit has a lot of carbs and sugar. But I’m definitely guilty of coming home and filling a blender with kale…and…you know how that goes.

  • Amirah

    Hmm suddenly got pizza cravings