Welcome to Day #9 of the Love Your Food series! We’ve talked about a lot of great ways to improve your relationship with food this season and are excited to add another to our list – dealing with food cravings! For many, this is a great place to start when it comes to developing a healthy relationship with food. Yet learning to love the food you eat is a complex progress. Be sure to read other posts from this series to get your relationship on the right track.
Cravings aren’t usually viewed as a positive. Instead, we view them as negatives, as something we can’t control. But believe it or not, cravings aren’t the enemy and we can make peace with them and the foods they call us to.
We often classify them as the enemy because they get in our way. They get in between us and our short-term weight loss goals. They cause us to break the rules and then feel bad about giving in or failing to stick with our overly rigid plan. Yet cravings aren’t the problem. Our dieting mentality is.
Fad diets have morphed our way of thinking when it comes to food. Instead of viewing foods as part of a bigger, holistic picture we begin to classify some as good or permissible and others as bad or forbidden. Unfortunately, when we start to view foods this way, we often start to feel deprived and our cravings for those forbidden foods can overtake our thoughts and actions. We find ourselves in a place of desperation; a place we don’t want to be because desperate thoughts tend to lead to desperate actions.
Many diets also promote restriction. Restriction of calories and often various food groups as well. This can lead to feelings of excessive hunger and further deprivation. These feelings can be so intense that you can trigger a primal urge to overeat. Overeating can throw your diet plan off track and, even worse, cause you to feel incredible guilt for the perceived lack of self control.
Instead of fighting your cravings, make peace with them! Chances are, they aren’t going to go away. Your body just isn’t designed that way. Make peace and move on. Let those cravings work for you by:
Being honest about what foods you LOVE. Knowing what foods you enjoy, whether for their nutritional benefits or simply how they taste, is an important first step in making peace with your cravings. If you know what foods you enjoy, you can then incorporate them into your meal plan in appropriate amounts. Instead of avoiding them until you can’t avoid them anymore, this method will allow you to stay away from feelings of deprivation and desperation. It’s a great first step towards improved craving control and having a better relationship with all foods that make their way onto your plate.
Making the most of it. When you give into a craving, you can prevent yourself from going overboard by staying in the moment. Enjoy and savor each bite and monitor its satisfaction factor. You may find that even after as little as three bites, you are completely satisfied.
Pairing up a less nutritious food with a more nutrient dense one. If your favorite food offers little nutritional value, it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it. After all, enjoyment should be a part of the eating process. So instead of avoiding these types of foods altogether, consider taking a smaller portion and pairing it up with something a little more nutrient-rich. Brownies pair up well with fresh berries and fresh salsa often goes well with your favorite tortilla chips. Get creative and see what sort of duos you can come up with.
Allowing them to signal progress. Although giving into cravings can often be viewed as a negative, lets change the way we think about them. If you experience intense cravings, start to think through what those really mean. Are you allowing yourself to get overly hungry throughout the day? Maybe you need to revamp your meals or snacks to incorporate more nutrient-rich foods or perhaps you simply need an extra meal or snack added to your routine. It’s also possible to grab food or crave it for other reasons besides hunger. Boredom and stress are two other common reasons we often seek out food. Listening to cravings can help you discover what your body is really trying to tell you and may lead you down a path of self-discovery.
Not letting them hold you back. No matter what, don’t ever let yourself feel guilty for giving into a craving! Leave it at the table. Guilt does no one any good and your food decisions should never be wielded to punish or reward your behavior. Let it go and start anew.
Day 9 Homework: Go back and examine the list of foods you love from day 1. Has that list changed in anyway? Are there any new foods you would add or any foods you would erase? In the comments below, share your thoughts on cravings. How do you handle them and what do they mean to you?