Navigating Cravings with Mindfulness
Cravings are part of the human experience. We all crave something at different points in our lives. The cravings for certain foods are particularly strong at times, especially when you are trying to lose weight. There are many causes of strong cravings for particular foods or flavors that can make navigating them seem tricky. However, gaining a deeper understanding of how cravings work allows you to mindfully respond to your cravings.
Navigating Cravings with mindfulness means:
- Acknowledging cravings as the arise
- Exploring the origin of cravings
- Proceeding from a place of empowerment
Exercising mindfulness gives you the opportunity to make a decision to act or not to act on those cravings from a place of rational thought instead of impulse. It gives you the opportunity to put your primal mind on hold and allow the thoughtful mind to be in control.
Having cravings are normal and have to be expected. Cravings are not always bad. They are often clues that we may not be getting the nutrients we need. However, acting on them in unhealthy ways can cause problems for some. Investigating cravings is a great opportunity to treat the cause, not the symptom. Being aware of the different factors that may contribute to cravings helps you explore the choices that are best for you. If that is eating a bit of ice cream or opting for carrot sticks, then at least you have made the decision from a place of thought and deep contemplation.
Mindful tips to manage cravings:
- ACKNOWLEDGE THE CRAVINGS
If cravings arise, acknowledge them and give them space. Ignoring cravings often gives them more power. When you make certain foods off-limits it can have the opposite effect. It can lead you to be preoccupied and less equipped to control yourself when you around them.
- EXPLORE THE ORIGIN
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Is this craving occurring alongside a particular emotion or physical feeling?
- Is this craving for an unhealthy food, like chips, sugar, fat?
- Is this craving linked to a habit?
- IS THIS CRAVING OCCURING ALONG SIDE AND EMOTION OR PHYSICAL FEELING?
Stress, fatigue, loneliness, and even boredom can lead to particular food cravings. Reaching for food in these circumstances may alleviate those unpleasant feelings but only for a short time. Doing so establishes an unhealthy habit and may in fact alter brain chemistry if done so on a consistent basis over a long time. It is better to find alternative methods to manage unpleasant emotions and feelings.
- IS THIS CRAVING FOR A BLISS POINT FOOD?
When it comes to exploring the origin of your cravings, there is another important aspect to consider in terms of which foods you’re craving. In this sense, not all foods are created equal. In order to make an empowered choice about these foods, it’s important to know that certain foods – called Bliss Point foods– are designed to be craved. Of course, it’s fine to enjoy these foods at times, in moderation, it is important to be aware of the power that some of these foods may hold. Processed foods that contain refined sugar, fat and salt, are designed to trigger the feel-good neurotransmitter in your brain called dopamine. Often, this combination is created mathematically to appeal to the most people. It is important to understand that the more sugar people consume, the more they prefer it. In a way, you build up a tolerance to sugar – requiring you to seek out more concentrated sources or consume larger amounts to create the same pleasurable eating experience that it originally produced. It is important to ask yourself whether or not the food you are craving is actually for real food?
- IS THIS CRAVING TIED TO A CERTAIN HABIT?
Sometimes people simply desire a food or snack because they’re used
to having it at a certain time or place. You may find yourself drawn towards a particular food out of routine. For example, it’s common for people to feel a drop of energy in the late afternoon and reach for sugary snacks or drinks. Eventually, you may start craving snacks during this time of day simply out of habit. Rather than acting out of habit, take a moment to check in with your body. Ask yourself, am I truly hungry or is something else going on? A brief moment of mindfulness may be enough to help you distinguish between craving something out of habit versus craving due to actual hunger.
Cravings are something we all experience from time to time. Using mindfulness techniques can help you better navigate them when they arise. Pay attention to what your body is trying to tell you. Acknowledge cravings as they arise and proceed to deal with them from a place of insight not instinct. For more tips and strategies on how to manage weight management issues, visit our website at www.behaviorchangecenter.com.