Coping with cravings
I attended a health fair this weekend that was sponsored by our State Senator, Maria Collett. I was honored to host a table and to speak on the topic of nutrition and disease prevention. I’m excited and grateful for the opportunity to reach so many in the community.
This community presentation made me think a lot this week about unhealthy habits that can lead to weight gain and disease, like eating too many sugar-laden, high fat, processed foods. We are also in the middle of a fast food restaurant battle with fast food chains vying for the title of who can create the tastiest chicken sandwich, including one from KFC that includes fried chicken wedged between donut buns, yowzah!
Traditional diets don’t teach about coping with cravings or helping people to manage difficult moods or feelings that can lead to eating large amounts of unhealthy foods, like the fried chicken donut sandwich. They just say, “don’t eat it.” For so many of my clients, the problem isn’t knowing what to eat. It’s knowing what to do when the craving strikes for something they aren’t “supposed” to eat, especially when that craving is strong. This is where diets fail us.
As a way to start establishing healthier coping mechanisms, when you are reaching for cookies or chips or struggling against a craving, check-in with yourself and ask the following questions:
Are you really hungry? Do you feel physical hunger? How long ago did you eat?
Are you thirsty?
How are you feeling right now? Are you tired? Stressed? Bored? Anxious? Sad? Lonely? This one can be tough to figure out!
If you answered yes to any of these questions, ask yourself if there is something else besides food that would meet that need? For example, if you are tired, would resting help? If you are feeling anxious or stressed, would something like deep breathing, mediation, or yoga help?
Does “waiting it out” decrease the craving? Rate your craving on a scale of 1-10. Wait 5 minutes and check back in. Is your craving stronger or has it slowly started to decrease? Cravings don’t last forever.
Is there something else that might satisfy you?
I’m continuing to think about some of these techniques for managing cravings and difficult emotions that lead us to mindlessly overeat. Most importantly, if you do give in to the craving, understand that this is a process that takes time and be gently and forgiving with yourself. Undoing decades of habits is a hard job and won’t happen overnight.
The next time you are craving something, ask yourself these few questions and take notice of what happens. What you practice will only grow stronger.