We all crave things from time to time. Many are the result of our habits: go to the movies- crave popcorn; eat a heavy meal- crave dessert. Some are the result of outside influences such as walking by a bakery and smelling the aroma of freshly baked bread. And others are normal everyday responses to our internal actual needs. Most of the time if we are watching what we are eating or trying to drop some weight, we are more aware of the cravings we have for things that we aren’t supposed to be eating. When we diet, we tend to get into a state of denial where we are aware of all the things we are denying ourselves even if in a normal state we wouldn’t be paying attention to them atall.
So how do you deal with these unwanted thoughts? Here are a couple of tips.
Know what you are craving and what triggers the craving. When I work with clients wanting to lose weight, I ask them to chart their cravings. I give them a very simple spreadsheet that asks them to note the following at the time the craving occurs: what the craving is for, what triggered it, when it happened, and what they did about it. Writing down what you observe is important because it forces you to bring the craving into your conscious mind and forces you to be aware of your behavior and choices. If you know what triggers your craving, you may be able to reduce or eliminate the craving by eliminating the trigger. For example, when I am trying to control my food intake, I generally avoid eating a meal that contains much meat or meat fat. Meat fat triggers a craving for sugar and desserts for me even though I am probably already full. Or, if I know that the aroma of cinnamon triggers a desire for a cinnamon roll, I include cinnamon somewhere in my diet (like on my oatmeal) so I am getting what I am craving while sticking to my eating plan.
Preplan. When you are considering a change of behavior such as changing the way you eat, it is important to do some planning in advance. I find I eat worse if I have not spent time on making a shopping list, getting food in the house, and preparing meals and snacks I can take with me. If I have food prepared to take with me, I eat better all day reducing the possibility of craving things because I am overly hungry and without good eating options. If I plan ahead, I can develop an eating plan that gives me foods that I like and that meet my nutritional needs, and I can make extra so that I have extras packed for meals the next day. Having food portioned and stored helps me because I don’t have to stop and think- I can just grab and go, so I’ve created my own fast food.
When you are limiting your food intake, it is the best time to use forms of nurturing that help you stay positive. Another way to preplan is to spend a little time developing and writing out a list of ways that you can reward yourself that are not food-based. Lots of times we reward ourselves with snacks, or a cookie, or a special coffee drink. But what are the ways that you can give yourself a reward or deal with being tired other than to put something in yourmouth? Make a list of these and take it with you so that you can have it as a reminder. Some of mine include taking a short walk, spending a few minutes meditating, calling a friend I haven’t talked to in a while, buying some flowers and putting them someplace that I can see or smell them, or getting a massage or a facial. All of these are things that reinforce and support positive aspects of me and take care of me without any relationship to food. Nurture goes way beyond food, though we tend to forget this.
Use and develop tools to support you.So what are your coping mechanisms, and how do they work for you? I’ve mentioned a couple of tools above, but you are likely to have developed your own strategies for supporting yourself.
One additional tool that I use and recommend is EFT or Emotional Freedom Technique. There is lots of information available on the web about EFT and how using this tapping method can reduce or eliminate both physical and emotional issues and problems. Tapping can be very effective for reducing or eliminating cravings, and it is very simple to use.
Here’s what you do:
1. Identify specifically what you are craving. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being overwhelming, identify the intensity of your craving.
2. There is a point on either hand for you to tap-it is the point between the little finger and the ring finger right in the webbing before the first knuckle.
3. As you tap this point with at least 2 fingers,you will be keeping your head steady, and slowly moving your eyes up as far as you can and down as far as you can at least 10 times. At the same time, you will be saying aloud what you are craving.
4. When you finish the tapping sequence, take a deep breath and focus again on the intensity of craving. It may have completely disappeared, reduced very significantly, or changed into a craving for something else. You can repeat the tapping sequence for any craving that you still have and then assess if your cravings remain.
What I have found is that cravings are generally eliminated with one tapping sequence if I have been very clear about what I am craving. I may not know what dessert I want, but I do know it contains sugar, so I tap on sugar. At best, the cravings completely disappear. Sometimes I find that they may go away and return in a little while, but I have learned to take advantage of this and do something else in the meantime to cause the craving to not return. For example,if I am craving dessert, I will tap and get relief. Rather than sit down and watch TV – my old habit – I will go outside, or do some little chore activity that moves my mind into a different space. In this way, I move past the craving and because the habit wasn’t reinforced, I am beginning to develop new habits of what to do after a heavy meal.
Be aware and don’t give up.Habits take time to develop, and the positive ones mentioned here will last a lifetime once you develop them. Remember that your cravings are not you, they are habitual memories that you hold in your body. And you can change or eliminate them in ways that reinforce you.