Food cravings can look so different for everyone. Some people interpret cravings as a sign of nutrient deficiencies, for example: “I’m craving chocolate so I must be low in magnesium.” While other people think that having cravings means having zero willpower and try to white-knuckle it through until they eventually cave in and feel so guilty afterwards.
Although cravings could be based on an imbalance of nutrients, they can also come about from other factors.
First, you’d need to identify if your craving is a true craving or rather an IMPULSE.
A true craving is more of a slow burn that you fixate on for days because it’s been a long while since you’ve last enjoyed a specific food and nothing else would satisfy that craving except for the real deal (like who really believes that a chia pudding is going to make a good substitute for cheesecake?).
Whereas an impulse craving is a sudden urge, it comes on suddenly and will burn out on its own if you let it.
So should you indulge cravings or ignore them? The answer depends on what your craving is really telling you.
Usually, sudden or constant cravings are brought upon from:
- Under-eating during the day
- Over-eating processed foods/sugars
- Poorly balanced meals
- Lack of sleep
- Very restrictive diet (having a good and bad food list)
If the factors listed above are addressed first, the likelihood of having impulse cravings diminish.
Our brains tend to be more wired to respond to impulses than to think beyond them. Practice asking yourself “Am I actually hungry?” whenever you have the urge to eat. If the answer is no, ask yourself, “Why do I want to eat this?” If your answer is something like “Because it’s there” or “Because it’s what I always do,” consider experimenting with not having the food to see how it feels.
One way of dealing with impulse-type cravings is by using a mindfulness-based technique known as “surfing the urge”. To do this, imagine your craving as an ocean wave.
“Surfing the Urge” can be used to avoid acting on any behaviour that you want to reduce or stop. Some examples of behaviours may be: smoking, over-eating, substance use, social media scrolling, spending money, lashing out at someone, etc.
To surf the urge, you must pay close attention to the urge without trying to change it or get rid of it.
Instead of distracting yourself from the urge or trying to avoid it hoping it will go away, instead take a really good look at it and sit with it for a while.
“Surf The Urge” by asking yourself:
- What does the urge feel like right now?
- What does the urge feel like in my body?
- Where do I feel this tension in my body?
- What thoughts are running through my head?
Sit with the sensations for at least one minute and ride it out – don’t feed it or fight it or judge it. Just acknowledge it, notice it, and watch it, staying present and curious about it … and it should pass within 30 minutes. If you give in, forgive yourself. This type of skill can be quite uncomfortable and requires a lot of practice.
If you tend to stress/emotionally eat to restrict or soothe a feeling, urge surfing can be a useful technique to help you identify the feelings coming up and possibly finding other healthier coping mechanisms to manage the emotion itself instead of turning to food. Examples: going for a brisk walk, taking a nap, receiving a hug, spending time with your pet, taking a bath, journaling, calling a friend, watching comedy, etc.
And if you keep urge surfing, over time the urges will diminish and disappear.
If you need help working through the factors that cause your cravings in the first place, schedule in your free 30 minute discovery call so I can learn about what is getting in the way of your goals and recommend the best plan for you!