Fighters Guide: How To Control Your Cravings

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Life of a Fighter

Control Your Cravings


 The Thanksgiving Hangover

The feasting is over. The turkey has disappeared: roasted and hot, microwaved leftovers, then cold sandwiches and eventually croquettes or thrown into soup.

You climb on the scale with trepidation and breathe a long sigh of relief when the dreaded poundage fails to appear. Before you relax and think you got away with it, remember that your sneaky little body is playing its usual tricks to ruin your fighter training. Two or three days of Spartan eating will make you feel virtuous again -until you step on the scale and find you’ve gained 5 pounds. “Fraud” you shriek. “I’ve been so good!”

Remember the holiday feast? It has finally caught up with you as you knew, deep down, that it would.

What to do?

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We all need brief periods of self-indulgence – it’s part of the human condition. Expect a setback on your weight loss goals and let that knowledge mitigate your disappointment. Then continue on your diet with the assurance that a special occasion blip doesn’t define your future. Enjoy the memories of a family gathering while carefully planning your next week’s intake.

Appreciate what you have accomplished so far and avoid loading yourself down with guilt and self-reproach.

Get back on your program as quickly as possible because (sorry to bring this up now) Christmas is coming and the goose is getting fat.

Holidays Challenge: Keep Off Those Extra Calories

Thanksgiving started off the holiday season that will end on New Year’s Day.  During this time of the year, most people struggle with their diet, especially with all the tempting holiday goodies that are being served left and right.  It is expected that most of us are going to overeat during these holidays, but experts advise Americans not to throw good habits out the window during the holidays. For some people, it’s like a bleep on the screen. Holidays should not serve as a green light to a six-week indulgence that precedes and necessitates the trip back to the gym on the second day of the new year.  

For people who have problems with obesity, this can be a very difficult time as it can really throw them off target. Studies have shown that seasonal weight gain during the holidays is a slippery slope.  One can easily add up ten pounds during the season. While three ounces of white turkey meat has only 130 calories, a serving of sweet potato casserole can give you as much as 330 calories. Stuffing has approximately 107 calories, a slice of pumpkin pie has more than 300, and a piece of pecan pie has 500 calories.  

Dietitians recommend that instead of drinking alcohol and other high-caloric drinks, try to enjoy eating pies and turkey with lots of water. Help yourself with a  reasonable portion of meat, vegetables without the high-calorie sauces, and a few small bites of desserts. Eat slowly. But don’t get stuck in guilt if you’ve eaten too much. Feeling guilty only makes things worse. It may lead you to totally abandon your diet and make haphazard decisions to resume weight loss plans in January next year.

Walking around the block can help you lose those added calories. It would take 27 minutes of walking to burn the 97 calories in an 8-ounce serving of cola. A really fast mile would burn 125 calories. But it’s not enough to cover the 2,000 to 3,000 calories in an average Thanksgiving meals alone. And we still have Christmas and New Years Eve parties to go.

Have a plan of action by visualizing the meal beforehand. Decide ahead of time what food to eat and what to avoid. Eating while sitting is advised to make you feel fuller rather than standing which easily keeps the food down. Eat from a plate to keep things in proportion rather than off a tray, which makes you lose track of how much you already had.

You don’t really have to deprive yourself of all those holiday goodies. Simply practice moderation. When you get offtrack, returning to an exercise regimen and having the right eating portions can help you get back on the road to a healthier diet and holiday spree.
A pound you gain and can’t remove is a pound for life. Extra pounds that come from extra calories are not easy to melt away. So, have keep that plan of action to avoid getting those excess pounds during the holidays. Carefully choose what food to eat.  Eat leisurely, and savor those holiday goodness.

Tips For Healthy Eating During The Holiday Season

The time from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day has to be the hardest few weeks to stick to a healthy eating lifestyle or any diet for that matter. We are constantly tempted by sweats, treats and just way to much food in general. I would like to share a few tips with you that have helped me in the past to stay on track between now and the end of the year.

1) Make sure you eat before you go to any holiday gathering. You know you will be tempted by all sorts of unhealthy but yummy foods. Make sure you don’t go overboard by eating something that is good for you before you go. Try to make sure you are not hungry when you arrive, or you will be much more tempted to overeat as well.

2) Drink some water before you go and alternate higher calorie drinks like alcoholic beverages, eggnog or hot chocolate with water while you are at the holiday party. Drinks can have a lot of hidden calories in them, so watch out. Diet sodas are another good option.

3) Fill you plate with some good ì foods first. Pick some raw vegetables, but go easy on the dip. Turkey breast, and lean ham or pork roast are other good choices. Don’t forget a nice plate of salad with a low fat dressing and some fresh fruit for dessert.

4) Don’t cut your favorite holiday treats completely out. If you don’t allow yourself the occasional small indulgence, you will be much more likely to break down and binge on all those cookies and treats. The key is to enjoy small portions or bites of your favorite foods. If you have a soft side for chocolate chip cookies then go ahead and indulge, but limit yourself to one a day or every few days. Of course the same applies if you prefer cheesecake or gingerbread men.  Eat several small meals a day. This old tip holds especially true during the holiday season. We tend to skip meals and indulge in one large holiday dinner with the entire family. Don’t starve yourself all day. Get some snacks in and most importantly start your day with a good, healthy breakfast. You will be able to enjoy your holiday more by stabilizing your blood sugar. You don’t want to spend the day being grumpy from not eating for hours, or be the first ready for a nap after overeating.

5) Use the busy shopping season and burn some extra calories. If you are heading to the mall, park a little further away, or take your time and do a round of window shopping all through the mall before you buy. Every few extra steps that you take count. Just don’t reward yourself afterwards with food. For extra motivation to get more walking in, consider wearing a pedometer.

6) Take some time to relax. The holidays can be a very stressful season if we let them. Many of us (including myself) tend to overeat or medicate ourselves with food when we are stressed. Work in some extra time just for you. Sit in front of the fire with a good book or your favorite magazine, go get your nails done, take a bath or go for a walk. Do whatever works for you to calm you down and help you distress.

Above all, enjoy the holidays and remember they are not only about food, but more importantly about family spending quality time together. Treat yourself to some new holiday candles, listen to your favorite Christmas tunes, or go for a drive through a lit up neighborhood this year. Have fun during this special time of the year and enjoy that occasional cookie.

The Holidays: An Emotional Feast

Every year, I swear that I will be thin enough to wear my smallest dress to the office party. And every year, I don’t quite make it. Oh, I can usually get into it by the beginning of February after a diet-obsessed, guilt-ridden January, but it doesn’t mean as much then.

Why are November and December so toxic to our weight control efforts? Certainly there is abundant food available during the month long celebration from Thanksgiving to New Year. It is the season for non-stop parties and gifts of food from colleagues, friends, family, and customers.

But more than just the food, there is a special atmosphere that descends on the Western World at the end of November. Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa whatever the celebration involved evoke the onset of primitive emotions. We wax nostalgic over the holidays we recall from childhood. We turn towards family and traditions that have been absent from our thoughts for the rest of the year. We indulge ourselves in the joy of giving and receiving.

Cookies, and chocolates, and gift baskets bursting with preservatives, which we would politely refuse during any other time of the year, are now gratefully accepted in the spirit of the season. Food we would normally avoid ñ creamed soups, fruit glazes, gravy, fruit breads, honeyed hams ñ appear as comfort foods, warming and welcoming. Our sophisticated and world-weary veneer fades in the face of traditions that make us feel whole and contented again.

The goodwill we feel demands a context and a continuity that was established many years ago. Each December, we trot out the same old carols, enjoying the familiarity of tunes we learned to love sitting next to a glittering tree and a roaring fire. For a month, we emotionally step back in time to reconnect who we are with who we were. Despite its current crass commercialism, we need the holidays to remind us of our roots, our values, and our beginnings.

So this year, I am going to throw myself into the fray, eat whatever I want, and let the chips fall where they may. I can always wear something else to the office party and there will be innumerable occasions in the New Year when I can attain caloric virtue through deprivation and denial.

This year, I’m going to have guilt-free, unalloyed, and omnivorous fun.

How To Avoid Holiday Weight Gain The holiday season is undoubtedly a time for rejoicing. Unfortunately, the average adult does a little too much celebrating during this time of year, which leads to extra baggage when the New Year rings in. Festivities that include indulging in extra helpings, snacking on seasonal treats, and little to no workout time all contribute to the increase in dieters in January.

So, this holiday season buck the trends and avoid the Seasonal Seven (the average weight most of us will gain between Thanksgiving and the New Year). That’s one trend you don’t want to participate in!

Even though this time of year may bring upon additional stresses and challenges, there are ways to find balance and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Though at times it may seem impossible to bypass the season’s traditional foods, there are many ways to partake in the fun without increasing your pant size. The festivities don’t have to be eliminated or avoided. You can have a fabulous time while also maintaining your weight and your fitness regimen.

Moderation is the word of the season. It’s the secret to achieving a fun but also healthy holiday time. With a moderate approach both to what you eat (or don’t eat) and how much exercise you do (or don’t do), you can avoid packing on weight AND also partake in all the fun of this time of year. So this season, get a head start on the New Year instead of starting January with extra pounds to lose.

Here are some tips to help you during those hectic holiday weeks:

  • Create a plan ahead of time. Before the holidays sneak up on you, create a plan for incorporating fitness and good nutrition into your daily routine. Evaluate your holiday schedule and then determine how much time you will realistically have available to devote to working out.
  • If you work in an office setting be prepared for the deluge of guilty treats your co-workers and other business associates will graciously want to share. Stash your own healthy snacks in your desk so you won’t be tempted to overindulge when your grumbling stomach demands a 3:00 snack time.
  • Don’t put your fitness goals on hold until the New Year. If you can’t exercise as often during this time period as you normally do, adjust appropriately. Don’t use the excuse that since you don’t have time for your full workout you just won’t workout at all. Instead accept your limited availability and simply reduce the frequency and/or duration of your exercise. Its much better to cut your fitness time in half than to completely eliminate it.
  • When attending a holiday function, try to eat ahead of time to lessen your hunger. If the party is in the evening, eat breakfast, lunch and a snack before hand (just as you would on any other day).  Since you have eaten meals earlier in the day, you’ll be less tempted to go overboard and eat everything in sight. However, if you instead starve all day long attempting to save up all your calories for the party, you will be so famished by the time it begins that it will be difficult not to overeat.
  • Schedule your workouts. Mark them on the calendar and set-aside time to complete them. Consider them as important as any other appointment or event you have marked on your calendar.
  • At holiday dinners, skip the gravy, dressings, and high-calorie condiments.
  • On days that you really lack motivation or simply do not have time for your complete exercise routine, commit to do just 10 minutes of exercise. You’ll probably end up doing more than that once you get started. Even if you only end up completing 10 minutes, that is still a lot better than zero minutes.
  • When at a party, scout out healthy food options rather than doing a grab and run on all the unhealthy selections. For example, vegetable sticks (without dip), fruit pieces, plain chicken pieces, etc. Then move on to some of the less healthy (but yummy) offerings. You will be less likely to overindulge on these foods if you have already filled-up on some of the healthier items. Yet, you will not feel deprived or unsatisfied.
  • Exercise at home. You’ll be more inclined to follow-through on your exercise commitment if you don’t have to drive somewhere to do your workout. Plus, you won’t waste any time on driving, parking, the locker room or waiting to use equipment. Working out at home requires very little equipment (it even can be equipment-free) and is quite inexpensive.
  • Avoid wasting calories on alcoholic beverages. The average alcoholic drink contains 150-200 calories per glass. Indulge in just 2-3 drinks and you’ve drunk the equivalent calories of an entire meal. If you partake in these beverages, choose wisely. For example, instead of having a full glass of wine, try mixing half a glass of wine with sparkling water or with a diet soda. This will help cut your calories in half.
  • When running errands or shopping, be sure to pack some healthy snacks to have on-hand. Then after you work-up a big appetite, you won’t be tempted to grab something at the mall food court or the fast food restaurant on the way home.
  • Don’t linger at the buffet or in the kitchen. If you loiter in close proximity to all the guilty temptations, you’ll struggle to keep from unconsciously shoveling food into your mouth.
  • Focus on socializing. Remember one of the great things about the holidays is spending time with friends and family. During get-togethers’ spend the majority of time sharing conversation instead of sharing desserts. Hopefully these tips will help you find a balance between staying fit and also enjoying the fun of the season. Remember, moderation is the key. Have a great holiday season!

How do I overcome urges to eat?

To answer this question, we first need to understand why we eat in the first place. It’s probably safe to say, you likely already know the answers to that question. We eat for energy. We eat to stay alive. We eat to nourish our bodies. And, we eat to preserve our health.  There are social reasons too, such as a business lunch or a dinner party with friends. There are cultural reasons’ such as the Fourth of July BBQ and Thanksgiving dinner. And, of course, we can never forget to eat a piece (or two) of the traditional birthday cake during a celebration.  Eating is even focused around religious observations like Easter dinner, Passover, or a Bar-mitzvah.  And, for some of us, eating plays a role in our romantic activities as well the infamous late night dinner date or breakfast in bed.

But why do we sometimes feel the overwhelming magnetic attraction to stop by the local fast-food joint and grab a double-cheeseburger and fries? Why do we feel the need to super size our meals when we’re depressed or have had a bad day? Where does the desire to gulp down every last bite of a restaurant meal whose portions are grossly over-sized come from? Why do we feel the sudden urge to raid the refrigerator late at night looking for anything fattening or sweet? And why do we feel the need to mindlessly munch on “snack-foods” from the nearby vending machine during the middle of a workday… when we’re not even really hungry?

If you’ve ever experienced any of these common scenarios, you’re not alone. Thousands of people every day, including me, battle with these sudden “urges” to eat. The truth is, in most cases, these desires are driven primarily by our emotions and, in some instances, physiologically, by our brain chemicals. Either way, the two are intertwined more closely than some people and scientists think.

Typically, “urges” to eat are first driven by our emotions. Emotions so strong, they can easily override our common sense or desire to do the “right thing”that is, to eat healthy, nutritious, moderately low-fat foods. So, why, when we are working so hard to improve ourselves and striving to build a better body do we allow ourselves to fall into these “mindless” eating traps?  Eating like we are… well… out of control. We are supposed to be different than that, aren’t we? We’re supposed to be perfect, right? We’re supposed to be healthy and always eating only what’s on our prescribed list of “approved” foods, isn’t that correct? Well, I’ve got some news for you…

“Once we can accept that we are not perfect and determine how to overcome those emotional “urges” when they do arise… we can keep ourselves on the right path to a lean, strong, healthy body.”We are not perfect. We’re not always going to eat the right foods! We are going to make mistakes. You know it, and I know it. The good news is, once we’ve become aware of that fact, we can begin to accept that we are not perfect and determine how to overcome those emotional “urges” when they do arise… and keep ourselves on the right path to a lean, strong, healthy body.

Eating Success Strategies
Now, let me share with you what I believe is the most powerful strategy you can use to help overcome any challenges that typically arise or are associated with “emotional eating.”

From here on out, I will refer to these as “Eating for Success strategies.”  Here are the strategies to help you overcome your emotional urges to eat:

We eat for a range of different reasons, besides trying to build muscle and slash body-fat.

Of course, we already know the importance of eating smart. So why do we sometimes crave “bad” foods? Overeat? Or eat when we’re not even hungry?  The answer to those questions is not so simple. However, as the latest science has shown, unless you’re one of the small percentage of people who have a genetic tendency to produce higher-than-normal amounts of the “hunger” hormone, ghrelin (or the newest appetite-stimulating gene, recently discovered in France, called GAD2), there’s an overwhelming amount of evidence to support the fact that your personal psychology plays a prominent role in determining when, and how much, you “feel” the need to eat.

See, our ability to control our eating has a great deal to do with our emotions, our personal psychology. Or, what I call “emotional triggers.”  It can be extremely helpful to become very aware of the psychological factors that may be negatively influencing your eating habits. Awareness is the first and most important step. Maybe we eat in response to different emotions. We get upset or angry at our spouse or have a dispute with a co-worker. We get depressed when a loved one passes or a cherished relationship ends. We’re bored at night or during the weekends or lonely and living alone (and it’s just you and the fridge!). It’s as if food is supposed to suddenly “fix” these feelings or solve your problems.

Not a FAT chance!  As you know, if you’ve experienced any one of these emotional triggers, eating food in response to them DOES NOT make you feel any better afterward. In fact, oftentimes you feel downright guilty because you know you’re more “in control” than what you displayed by eating so mindlessly. And more often than not, you’re angry at yourself too, because you likely ate an entire pint of Ben & Jerry’s New York Super Fudge Chunk ice cream, topped it off with a bowl of Frosted Mini-Wheats, and set yourself back on your course to your new body.

To minimize emotional triggers that cause you to crave unhealthy foods, I suggest you keep a food journal, writing down everything you eat each day for about one week. When you eat uncontrollably, or mindlessly, simply write down how you were feeling when the urge to eat hit.

“To minimize emotional triggers that cause you to crave unhealthy foods, I suggest you keep a food journal…”Once you become aware of an emotional issue that repeatedly causes you to go into a tailspin of eating mindlessly, you can actually turn that awareness into action to control the issue. See, every personal insight you can collect then becomes an opportunity for a careful choice in the future. And a mindful, careful choice is the key to gaining control over your urges to eat, and thus, instead of eating “comfort foods,” you can make the right decisions, smarter decisions, when it comes to maintaining balanced, healthy food choices.

By understanding that awareness of when and how your particular emotional responses are triggered, you’ll quickly discover the reasons for many of your choices in the past. And possibly more importantly, you’ll gain an appreciation for how your past choices may have led to current, sometimes careless eating habits. In other words, you’ll learn when poor eating habits derailed your progress in achieving your physique development goals and how they may have been better dealt with, more wisely and more consciously.


So, now we’ve come to the $64,000 question: How should you respond to those sudden, uncontrollable urges to eat? Well, let’s start with some very effective preventative measures… strategies I’ve used for some 15 years now to keep me on the right path to a better body.

Eat smart. Not less. Try to consume five to six protein- and carbohydrate-balanced meals each day. It amazes me how many times I’ve given out this advice, yet at the same time, I find it’s continually overlooked.  Besides the scientific fact that by eating small meals throughout the day, you can keep brain chemicals (i.e., hunger hormones) and insulin (along with blood sugar) levels even, in doing so, you will undoubtedly suppress those uncontrollable emotional hunger cravings.

Also, cutting calories, or eliminating food groups altogether, such as all carbohydrates or all fats (recommendations often found in traditional diets), is the absolute WORST thing you can do. Limiting calories and/or food tells your mind that you’re depriving yourself… and shortly thereafter, your body will crave those forbidden foods. In essence, you’re more likely to psychologically “want” to eat them and, consequently, more likely to binge on them. That’s besides the fact that once you reintroduce them into your diet, you’ll easily put back any pounds you lost.

“…cutting calories, or eliminating food groups altogether, such as all carbohydrates or all fats (recommendations often found in traditional diets), is the absolute WORST thing you can do.”Research shows that by consuming five to six protein- and carbohydrate-balanced meals each day, eating every two to three hours while you’re awake, is the optimal way to keep your body in a fat-burning mode, supply your muscle tissue with plenty of the nutrients it needs to rebuild itself, and defer any hunger cravings that could otherwise arise. One great way to achieve this is by using a meal replacement. These powders are convenient and provide your body with all of the essential nutrients of a whole-food meal without all of the hassle of shopping, preparing, cooking, eating, and cleaning up after a regular meal. Think of meal-replacement protein shakes as fast food for the 21st century. They are extremely convenient and work exceptionally well to fulfill your daily nutritional needs.

My favorite meal replacement/protein supplement is called Body Key Meal Replacement Shakes and protein poweder .  The BodyKey™4 Plan is the weight management approach that’s designed to fit your lifestyle. Make four better choices every day with shakes, bars, snacks, and exercise– in any combination.

Make better bad choices (if it comes to that!)

Here’s an example: whenever you get caught on a three-hour plane flight, and you weren’t prepared (leaving your protein/nutrition bar or snack at home) hey! I’m just as guilty, and your only choice is the airline’s mystery meat sandwich… as crazy as it sounds, eat what the airplane serves you. Now, before you think I’m crazy, here’s what I mean by making a “better bad choice”…

In the above scenario, you’re faced with literally NOTHING in your stomach for three or maybe four hours. Then, there’s the strong likelihood that once you land and retrieve your luggage, you’ll make a B-line for the nearest fast-food joint and gobble down EVERYTHING in sight.

That’s clearly not what you want!

So, to keep this from happening, simply eat what the airlines offers you; however, here’s what I’d suggest to make it truly a “better” bad choice: drink water, take half the bread off of the sandwich, don’t spread on the mayonnaise, and don’t even look at that little slice of cheesecake or cookie served on the side.  Now, believe it or not, in that instance, by at least eating SOMETHING (halfway nutritious), you’ve just made a better choice.  This goes for having a night out (e.g., dinner and drinks with your friends). Instead of gulping down two or three beers, have a glass a wine. Instead of chomping down on the bowl of deep-fried tortilla chips in front of you, ask the server for some plain corn tortillas, and dip them in the salsa. Instead of allowing the restaurant cooks to douse your vegetables in butter, tell the server you want them steamed (with no butter!). And last, go for the non dairy based dressings if you can when you order your salad.

Making “better bad choices” like these is really as simple as that.  Once you begin to put this strategy into practice, you’ll quickly see how easy it is to follow through, no matter what your circumstances. Plus, you’ll feel much more in control.  Plan and prepare your meals in advance.

If you fail to plan, you might as well plan to fail. Seriously. While I recognize that most of us are too busy to prepare healthy, low-fat, nutrient-rich foods every day, six times a day (I’m included here!) , don’t make the mistake so many others make, which is to plan their workouts but eat “accidentally.” If you fail to follow a proven nutrition strategy, your chances of building a better body are pretty much slim to none.

One possible solution I’ve used over the years with great success is for my wife and I to prepare our meals for the week on Sunday night and then store them and freeze the rest. Cooking in larger quantities will take the pressure off of you having to shop, cook, prepare, and clean-up after several meals throughout the week. Plus, as a bonus, by shopping like this, you’ll likely save more money on groceries too.

In addition, by being more prepared throughout the week, you won’t have to “think” about what you’re going to eat or how you’re going to get your food… you only have to consider when to eat it. It’s a simple solution to a complex problem that many, many people suffer from each and every day. It’s a shame to see so many people put in such hard work at the gym and then follow a haphazard eating pattern. Being prepared with healthy, nutritious meals will ensure you’re not the guy you see every day standing by the break-room vending machine, slamming in 50 cents to get his daily lunchtime candy bar. Following this strategy, you won’t look and feel like him either.

Now it’s time for you to get to work. That means, it’s time for you to take these THREE success strategies I’ve described and put them into your daily practice.

Remember, all successes and failures in life are based on habit. Those who are unsuccessful have the EXACT same biological make-up as those who are successful. The only difference is, successful people follow successful habits, and unsuccessful people follow unsuccessful habits. It’s really as simple as that.

My hope is this exercise has enabled you to identify a number of useful, actionable, and motivating strategies for creating your own success… so you can now overcome any emotional eating habits you might have had and stay on the right path to building your absolute best body!



  • 1National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12612163?dopt=Abstract
  • Food Addiction in Humans J. Nutr. March 2009
    vol. 139 no. 3 620-622
  • Individual Differences in Reward Drive Predict Neutral Responses to Images of Food 26(19): 5160-5166; doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0350-06.2006 http://www.jneurosci.org/content/26/19/5160.short



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