Smart Ways to Indulge Your Cravings

Rather than stifle a hankering for a treat, the best move may be to enjoy small, strategic bites.

eating cookies in kitchen

Medically reviewed in January 2021

Updated on November 28, 2022

Dreaming of a hazelnut thumbprint cookie? Truth is, the best move may be to go ahead and enjoy a taste. Here's why:

Research shows that trying to stifle a craving can often make it grow bigger—to the point where you can't resist it. And when you finally cave in? You may end up gobbling far more than you'd like.

Do the mat: 1 vs. 100
Yep, having one cookie now may save you from having 100 cookies later. Especially if you are the type of person who tends to be preoccupied with dieting and thinking about the foods you "should" or "shouldn't" be eating. In a study, female college students were asked to sit alone and think about chocolate, avoid thinking about chocolate, or think about whatever they wished. Afterward, they sampled different chocolates—and a pattern emerged.

The diet-focused women who had been asked to avoid thinking about chocolate ended up consuming the most.

When to say 'Yes'
So here's the key if you want to enjoy the tastes you love while still maintaining a healthy weight: Pick your battles. The longer you struggle to resist a certain treat you've been craving, the more dramatic the rebound may be.

So allow yourself an occasional, sensibly sized treat. And afterward, don't feel bad, advises Keith Roach, MD, associate professor in clinical medicine in the division of general medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College and New York Presbyterian Hospital.

"Okay, you had the cookie. Now, don't beat yourself up about it," says Dr. Roach. "Because if you do, you're more likely to do something you'll really regret. Instead, actively enjoy—and don't feel guilty about—eating that cookie." Then move on and continue living healthfully.

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