How can chocolate wield so much power over us? A piece of candy should be no match for a living, breathing human adult. But many of us, despite our best efforts, still find ourselves scarfing down bar after bar.

Before we get into how to curb your food cravings, it’s important to remember these cravings are a product of some dietary or lifestyle imbalance. The earlier we can find out what’s lacking, be it exercise or a sufficient supply of fat, protein, or carbohydrates, the easier time we’ll have saying no to our cravings. In the meantime, cognitive therapists and nutritionists have some tips to get us through the day guilt-free.

1. Check It Off

Holding yourself accountable is the best way to avoid cravings, says Judith Beck, psychologist and director of the Beck Institute. And the follow-up reward may be just as important. She offers the simple method of writing down the numbers one to 20 on an index card. Each time you experience a craving and successfully avoid it, cross off one of the numbers. If you cave, you have to start back at one.

“Most people have a sense of helplessness. They think if they have a craving there’s nothing they can do about it,” Beck told Medical Daily. “But they really just haven’t learned how to prepare themselves mentally before the craving, to remind themselves what to do during the craving, and how to give themselves credit for resisting that craving.”

Each time you cross off a number, you’re giving yourself a small reward. The added incentive should help make cravings seem less important in the face of a long-term goal, Beck says. Hard work is important, but so is appreciating the fruits of your labor.

2. Swap Textures

Our brains don’t just get pleasure from how food tastes, but how it keeps our mouth busy while we eat it. Crunchy chips are an interesting sensation for our tongues and teeth, cracking them apart and mashing them up. But they aren’t the only crunchy foods that tickle our brains’ fancy.

Nutritionist and author of The One One One Diet Rania Batayneh finds a healthy substitute in texture can help suppress certain cravings. “Yes, a crunchy apple is definitely not the same sensation as a crunchy cookie, or baby carrots may not have the same level of satisfaction as a bag of chips,” she told Medical Daily. “However, you may find that over time the apple and the carrots will do the trick.”

3. Get 'High'

Research suggests there’s something in the air, or lack thereof, that makes cravings go away. People who spent a brief period of time at high altitudes were found to eat less and lose more weight than when they were at lower altitudes. The reasons behind the reduced food consumption is still largely unknown, although popular theories point to a fluctuation in hormone levels, particularly leptin levels, which control feelings of fullness.

This is noteworthy because the body’s normal response to weight loss is to lower its leptin levels, not raise them. Our bodies want to bring energy in, just in case we need it, so as our weight goes down, typically we should expect to see an equal and opposite rise in hunger levels. But getting “high,” for one reason or another, produces the opposite effect.

4. Play Tetris

Our brains don’t like to focus on more than one thing at a time. Though it can be a nuisance, we can exploit it when we want to stop cravings from getting the best of us. In a recent study, people who played a game of Tetris saw their food cravings drop off 24 percent more than another group that was made to watch a loading screen. Tetris was too complex to let cravings take over, the researchers argued. People were literally too busy to be hungry.

Beck supports this idea. Distractions can be a useful tool in getting cravings to go away, she says, whether it’s completing a Sudoku puzzle, playing a card game, or painting your nails. Some people may even benefit from creating a “craving box,” to hold all the things that can pass the time as soon as the moment strikes. “By the time you polish your nails and it dries,” she said, “the craving has gone away.”

5. Avoid See-Food

Brian Wansink of the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab wants people to put snacks out of plain view. He harkens back to the grade school joke, telling people to avoid “see-food.” A study he and his team conducted in 2006 showed that receptionists reached for the candy 71 percent more often when the bowl had an opaque lid versus a transparent one. It was the act of seeing the food, Wansink argued, that compelled the subjects to eat.

It’s important to remember that cravings are seldom moments of hunger. The brain recalls a memory of enjoying a certain food, its texture, and the context in which we consume it, so it assumes the food will make us happy again. The principle is similar to the Tetris case: The more we see food, the more we think about it. And the more we think about it, the stronger our cravings get.

6. Set Reminders

We feel bad when we give into a craving because it means we’re letting down some other side of ourselves — a side that sets healthier goals and wants us to eat accordingly. Beck encourages people to write down these goals, and to refer back to them when cravings begin to appear. “We have people make a list of 10 or 15 of the most important reasons to them of curbing the cravings,” she said, “and then we have them read that list every morning and pull it out right before vulnerable times.”

A disclaimer: The strategy doesn’t work if your list never makes it to paper. Mental lists too easily get caught in the shuffle, and might even fall to the very cravings they are designed to suppress.

7. Hoard Candy Wrappers

If you do decide to indulge, trying using trash collecting to your advantage. Each time you decide to “cheat” (or, to use Beck’s language if the case is severe enough, “make a mistake”) keep the wrapper of whatever it is you gave into. Put each one in a glass jar so you can see how much you’ve eaten, whether it’s more than you’d like or, if you’re getting better at resisting, less than you had before.

It goes back to the accountability factor Beck talks about. Cravings get us into trouble because we forget how much we’ve eaten. One more chip is never a problem, of course. But abide in that mantra enough times and before you know it the bag will be empty. Visual cues help bring that mindlessness back into perspective.

A Parting Shot

Ultimately, fighting cravings day-in and day-out is far more mentally taxing than coming to terms with them. If you can acknowledge why you experience cravings, you’ll probably find they lose their power — seeming more like the minor inconvenience of a headache than major compulsions. The healthiest relationship we can have with food is one where it serves our needs, and to do that we have to acknowledge when we eat and for which reasons.

The chocolate may be calling out to you, but that doesn’t mean you have to answer.