Let’s talk cravings. Do you ever feel totally frustrated, completely overwhelmed, or just plain defeated by your cravings? Whether it’s sugar cravings, late night cravings, or pregnancy cravings, this is one of the biggest “problems” clients come to me looking for solutions to. And I get it, I’ve experienced them all.
Let me explain why I’m using air quotes for these “problems”. What might be the biggest secret to finally getting them under control is understanding that they’re actually not a problem at all. Really, they’re just information – and extremely valuable information at that!
As a first step, shifting this perspective can make all the difference between cravings feeling like an ongoing, losing battle, and a tool to actually help you approach them with ease, knowing exactly what you need when cravings strike.
You can watch the video below for all the goods, or if you’re the reading type, keep scrolling:)
Before we dive into the to-do list, let’s talk a little bit about the psychology of cravings. Because the way that we think and feel about our food choices can have a significant impact on not only our mental health, but as a growing body of research is showing, our physical health too. In particular, constantly experiencing stress, guilt and pressure around our food choice can lead to increased Cortisol levels.
Cortisol is a hormone that can suppress our immune system, increase storage of fat tissue (particularly around the belly), and increase risk of chronic diseases like Diabetes and some cancers. So as you can see, it’s definitely worth addressing in the big picture of our overall wellness.
So what can you do?
SHIFT YOUR MINDSET
Next time you notice an overwhelming craving coming on, try approaching it with curiosity vs. judgment.
How does this help?
When we experience stress about a food choice, our body jumps into fight or flight mode – our brain takes over and we shut down communication with important cues, including hunger cues, fullness cues, and satiety.
LEARN TO DIFFERENTIATE BETWEEN THE 3 TYPES OF CRAVINGS/HUNGER
(as borrowed from the course Cravings Change)
Stomach Hunger or Physical hunger: This is our body sending us signals that we need fuel or energy. It often feels like a grumbling stomach, or might show up as irritability or fatigue
Mouth Hunger: When we crave a particular aspect of a food or eating experience (salty, sweet, crunchy or brunch with friends)
Heart Hunger: Triggered by emotions. This can be any emotion from sadness, stress or anxiety, to joy or celebration.
So as you might imagine, three very different types of cravings call for three very different “solutions”. Learning to understand and differentiate between the three can definitely take some practice, but with a bit more understanding about our cravings, here are 5 Tips to help you Manage!
This applies primarily to Stomach Hunger and could mean:
Eat more volume
Eat more regularly throughout the day
Eat more balanced meals
What this comes down to is balancing our blood sugars. If we go too long between eating or eat meals or snacks that digest quickly, our body will start to send a physiological signal to eat (aka – what we may automatically blame as a craving).
If we deny this physiological signal (hunger) it will build and build, becoming stronger and stronger until we listen. This is what often leads to feeling out of control, eating large portions, eating past the point of fullness or satisfaction, or an intense urge to binge on highly processed, energy-dense foods.
- Add an afternoon snack to bridge the long gap between lunch and dinner
- Pack a lunch the night before or set a reminder in your phone or calendar to make sure lunch doesn’t get skipped on busy days
- Balance your meals, including fat, fiber, and protein in each one. This combination slows down digestion and gives a slow steady release of sugars into the bloodstream vs. the spikes and drops that lead to cravings
This is helpful for Mouth Hunger. When you notice a craving, which element of the food is it that you’re seeking? It could be:
Get curious and see if it’s that exact food you or if there a variety of food that could satisfy your craving. Or maybe, you just need to….
All too often we get caught up in trying to fix, deny or change our cravings. But giving ourselves permission to enjoy exactly what we’re craving is an important part of developing a healthy relationship with food!
- Identify what you’re cravings
- Give yourself permission to eat and enjoy it!
- Eat it mindfully
- Dish it up vs. eat out of the bag or jar
- Tune in to the flavors, smells, and textures
- Eat without distraction
Because we are all so unique and different, getting curious about which emotions trigger us, and how those emotions feel in our body can really help when it comes to developing other strategies to soothe those emotions.
- Do a body scan
- Tune in to your thoughts (did something upsetting just happen? Are you noticing certain food rules or beliefs popping up? )
- Tune into physical sensations coming up in your body (anxiety may feel like tightness or emptiness in your stomach which can feel similar to hunger)
- Create a list of tools that help you soothe the different emotions you’ve noticed as triggers (taking a bath, journaling or meditating, calling a friend or loved one to talk it out)
Take the morality out of eating! There are no “good” or “bad” foods, and you are not a “good” or “bad” person for eating or not eating certain foods.
When we remove that pressure from ourselves, it allows us to take a step back, peel away some of the guilt and pressure, and support ourselves to make decisions around food that will truly nurture us body, mind, and soul!
So What next?
Keeping a food diary with a thoughts and feelings journal is a really helpful tool to gain a better understanding of what your body’s telling you and what you need.
I’ve created this template to help you get started! Just click below for your free download.
I hope you found this helpful! I would love to hear your thoughts and of course if you have any questions or more helpful tips please leave them in the comments below. Feel free to share these tools with anyone you think might find it helpful!
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