Ever feel that sudden desire, or absolute need, for a food? Most people do at some time or another. This can be true hunger. However, when it is not associated with hunger, cravings for sugar and fat (calorically dense foods) can come because of stress or other feelings, habit, seeing or smelling a food, and for comfort. It is the thoughts and feelings that is the focus of this blog. Here are some strategies for dealing with these food cravings:
- Recognize the craving. Having food cravings is normal. Trying to ignore it, may not work, so have a plan to redirect your energy—text a friend, get up and move, listen to a favorite song, or meditate.
- Practice patience. Sometimes the strategy of saying ‘not now’ can work. Tell yourself that you can always have the food another time (on X date or time) if you still want it.
- Understand that thoughts are not facts. Just because you are thinking that a brownie will make you feel better, its immediate gratification is usually short-lived. Also, the lack of a brownie is not likely the problem. The real source of the craving may be feelings that need to be dealt with at some point.
- The food does not have power. Food only has the power you give it. You can move past the craving.
- Recognize the impermanence of food cravings, thinking of them as smoke, bubbles, or a wave at the beach. Although it feels very strong, imagining it as impermanent helps frame it in a way that can be helpful.
- Be kind to yourself. Although thoughts are not facts, they still can be rooted in difficult and emotional issues. Sometimes you might choose to eat the food, other times not. If you do, grant yourself some kindness, like a friend would, and move on. You won’t feel better by beating yourself up over food.
- Learn and practice other ways to meet your emotional needs and get pleasure.
- Reach out to others (eg, professionals, clergy, loved ones) to address your emotional needs. You don’t have to do this alone. Be brave (bravery is not a lack of fear, but feeling fear and still doing something)!
Food cravings can be extremely strong. Having a way to think about and deal with them can be helpful. Ultimately, dealing with emotions and feelings that may be at the root of the problem is the work that needs to occur. If this situation is familiar to you, please remember to be brave and reach out to others for help!
Happy and healthful eating,
Donna G. Pertel, MEd, RD, LDN