Let’s talk about food cravings!!
A few months ago I asked my Facebook group what they thought of when they heard the word “diet.” The responses were quite interesting and telling.
Over and over again I heard that they thought of having cravings for “bad” or “sinful” foods.
What about Sunday night, when you’re getting ready to start your next diet… How do you tend to eat? Ever heard the term “last supper eating” where you eat like you might NEVER see that food again?!?
But… craving food is a biological response! Craving a food is your body’s natural response to the cycle of restriction.
Restrict–>Crave–>Binge(or eat to the point of feeling uncomfortable)
A quick personal story….
Many years ago my college roommate and I would do these 30 day sugar fasts in an attempt to lose weight or develop “better habits.” Without fail we would go absolutely crazy at the end of those 30 days. You know what we started doing? We started saying that we’d stay off of sugar Monday through Saturday and we could eat sugar on Sunday, thinking that we’d be a little less crazy. Well… Saturday night at midnight we’d start eating sugar like crazy again. It was so predictable!!
Now I’d like to introduce the Dieter’s Dilemma. We we have the desire to be thin, we look for ways to restrict our eating or engage in dieting. Then cravings increase and we feel reduced self-control, then we have a loss of self control and experience overeating. Then this results in gaining any or more of the weight lost.
Let’s pretend that I’m with you, in a zoom coaching call and I’m asking you these questions:
- Is there a particular food or type of food that you find yourself craving?
- Do you find that you are craving it at a certain time of day?
I had a client in the past that found that she was “going a little crazy” with sweets at night… but felt like she had been “good” all day… so she wondered why she was feeling out of control at night. Well, this is still the restriction, crave, binge cycle just in a shorter cycle.
If you are restricting throughout the day – for whatever reason…in the name of eating a certain way, or sticking to a certain calorie, or just because you feel like you’re eating good and you’ve got willpower early in the day…You will often notice cravings at night – the cycle can just be a one day cycle…. So this client was restricting herself throughout the day and found that she was craving and overeating at night.
So what’s the solution?? You need to remove the restriction and the dieting needs to be taken out of the equation.
Now – a word of caution – some of you might say “I’m not dieting!” I hear this a lot from clients.
There is dieting that people will readily admit to, and then there is pseudo dieting.
Let’s do a little education around what dieting is in all of it’s forms…
- Counting anything… carbs, calories, points in an attempt to control your weight. I’m all for being aware of what you are eating and being in tune with how that food and the amount of it is making you feel physically…but if you’re counting you are tuning that level of awareness out.
- Eating only “safe” foods – foods that you have determined healthy or “good.” The client example above fits this category. She didn’t feel that she was dieting throughout the day, but she felt like she was eating safe foods. Usually safe foods, while you may not be counting, might have labels that make you feel ok eating them – such as low sugar, low fat or low carb. Maybe you know on weight watchers that certain foods have low or no points – that they consider “free” foods.
- Paying for eating “bad” foods – have you ever ate something that was on the bad list and you decided to skip a meal the next day or vow to never let that happen again and be extra good the following meal or day OR and this was mine – do extra exercise to burn off the high carb treat.
- Restricting food – when you’re feeling fat or have an event coming up and you just want to cut back – sounds innocent enough… but it’s not.
- Drinking coffee or a diet soda in the name of masking your hunger – and I would add any low or no calorie drink
- There are others, but I think you get the idea….
So what happens when we take dieting out of the cycle… it falls apart! Completely!
If dieting isn’t there… then cravings don’t happen or are far less intense… your self control is normalized… your eating is normalized….the whole cycle just stops.
It is a beautiful thing – I promise.
Now – a word of caution… The first part of the cycle – the desire to be thin… it may still be there. There might be additional work to do with that thought. That’s a topic for another post. We’ll get there I promise.
Another word of caution – you might find that you crave food during different times – hormonal changes related to your cycle or certain holidays or even the smell of something and you’ll find your attention being drawn to a particular food.The best advice I can give to you is to allow yourself to have some of that food if it’s available to you. You do not want to start back on the Dieter’s dilemma again – Do it with awareness… notice how the food tastes good to you. And stop when it no longer is satisfying to you.
This one action will do miracles for your body trusting you again. Your cravings will lessen because there is no scarcity around that food.
So back to our coaching session. I want to have you evaluate what motivates your food choices throughout the day.
Grab a sheet of paper and do this with me quickly – I want you to write down your first spontaneous answer… not what you think the right answer should be:
- What do you consider when you choose what food to eat?
- What feelings arise when you choose to eat food that is what I call “fun food” – it’s not of the highest nutritional value.
- How often do you crave “fun food”? Daily? Several times a day? Weekly? Rarely?
- How much fun food can you eat and still feel well physically? A medium amount? Very little? A lot? (remember to go with your first reaction here)
- How often do you allow yourself to eat “fun food”?
- How often do you eat more fun food in a sitting or in a day than you know your body can handle – that is, it makes you feel sick, a little queasy, bloated, tired, etc…
Ok, I know those questions and your answers will give you something to think about. You will gain more awareness when you take a step back and look at your patterns… with curiosity and not judgement.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
I’m a certified Intuitive Eating Counselor and NASM Certified Personal Trainer, and the owner and creator of Spendlove Coaching.
My own wellness journey led me to getting my Master’s Degree in Health and Wellness Coaching from Creighton University – Go Blujays!
I help my clients discover that they are the experts of themselves. Using the tools learned inside my program and during coaching sessions, clients learn how to shift their mindset, taking back the power they have lost to dieting and diet culture