Cravings can show up in a number of ways. We can crave specific foods, textures, flavors, even certain times of the day can bring on cravings (3pm slump anyone?).
If you’re into reading up on nutrition, I’m sure you’ve seen lots of different tips on how to handle cravings. Things like going for a walk, drinking water, reading a book, taking a bath, chewing gum or doing intentional breathing are all common suggestions.
Ok, cool. Positive distractions have their time and place, but what about actually satisfying a craving? I’m going to help you get really mindful about why cravings could be popping up for you and how you can realistically handle them.
Craving Culprit #1: You’re feeling deprived or you’re fearing that deprivation is coming.
This is especially common when we’re starting a new diet. Our minds almost automatically start to think about all the foods we’re going to miss out on. This sends us immediately into scarcity mode where we panic about not having the foods we want available to us when we want them.
This just happened with one of my coaching clients who LOVES pasta. She asked me if she could have some with dinner and I said something to the effect of “yes, of course, just watch the portion size”. I got a text the next morning that since I told her she could have it, it actually made her not want it anymore. Hah!
What to do:
Remind yourself that no food is off limits and you can grab any food you want at any time… because it’s not, and you can. We have a HUGE abundance of food at all times. You can actually satisfy any food craving you have pretty much 24/7, so when scarcity mode sets in, remind yourself that it’s NBD, you can chill out and if you choose to satisfy the craving, the food can be at your fingertips most often within minutes.
Craving Culprit #2: You’re bored.
Sitting in front of the TV is a HUGE trigger for so many of us. Before we know it, we’re craving chips or popcorn and walk into the kitchen, knowing we’re not actually hungry, and grab something to munch on anyway.
What to do:
Step one is to acknowledge that you’re craving something because you’re bored. If you’re not physically hungry (light gnawing or rumbling in your stomach) then you probably don’t actually need to eat. So now you have a choice. Eat anyway, or don’t. Neither way is “wrong” or “bad”, you’re just simply realizing that you are making a mindful choice.
Craving Culprit #3: You’re overtired.
When we’re running low on sleep our bodies will typically crave something that will give it a good boost. This mean things like sugary snacks (candy, chocolate, pastries) and carby foods (bread, pasta, etc). Anything that will make us feel “up” and energized is what our body will seek out.
What to do:
Grab a coffee or tea and give yourself a little caffeine boost and drink a big glass of water along with it. Both the caffeine and some extra hydration can work wonders to boost our energy a bit and help us pass on the mid-afternoon trip to the vending machine. Also, get more sleep!
Craving Culprit #4: You’ve created a habit around the food.
This was big one for me! Every day after lunch and dinner I’d have a couple peanut butter cups from Trader Joes to satisfy my sweet tooth. It dawned on my one day during my Fueled Up Jumpstart challenge that I didn’t actually want the peanut butter cups, rather, it was more of a habit. It was more of an automatic response than an actual desire for the food.
What to do:
To figure out if the craving needs to be satisfied or not, give yourself a few minutes. Sit back, get busy and check back in a few minutes later to see if you actually still want the food. What will happen most often is we’ll forget about it all together. If after about 10/15 minutes you still truly want to satisfy your craving, go for it. I put this into practice myself and now I’m having the pb cups just a few days a week instead of a couple times daily.
Craving Culprit #5: You’re stressed/sad/angry.
Much like being overtired, when we are feeling emotionally charged, our default can be comfort foods. Things like mac & cheese, pizza, chocolate, wine…these types of foods (and drink!) can actually make us feel pretty amazing in the moment. Comfort food can make us feel relaxed and destressed…for about 5 minutes. If we overeat (or drink!) we just end up feeling crappy, bloated and sometimes guilty.
What to do:
Acknowledge that this is an emotional craving and know that no food will cure whatever negative feeling you’re having. The only way through is to actual work through the hard feelings. Write them down, call a friend and vent, cry, whatever release you need, do that. Another good tip (and my FAVORITE one) is to get and give hugs J Hah I know, it sounds ridiculous, but think about the last time you were really hugged. Doesn’t it just make you feel…loved? When we hug, feel good hormones are released plus it feels super loving and safe.
Craving Culprit #6: You’re actually hungry or need to eat more throughout the day.
If you recently started a new diet plan or weight loss program, or you’re suddenly craving foods that you hardly ever thought about before, there’s a good chance that you need to look at what, when and how much you’re eating throughout the day.
What do to:
Keep a food journal for a few days and look at what you’re eating, when you’re eating and how much you’re eating. If you have a coach, they should be able to help you fill in the blanks and beef up your nutrition a bit. If you don’t have a coach, I would suggest upping your fat and protein intake a bit, especially in the meals surrounding when the craving hits, and see if that eases the cravings a bit.
One last note.
Remember that a craving is NOT an emergency situation despite how it might feel sometimes. Anytime we feel an intense pull or NEED for a food, there’s a really good chance it’s for emotional reasons. So first, check yourself. You actually won’t die if you don’t eat the chocolate and it would probably benefit you to do some introspection and check out what’s going on internally. Second, if you decide to satisfy the craving, enjoy it and practice a moderate approach to eating the food.