Many people report that when they start to eat clean – cutting out processed, inflammatory foods – they experience fewer cravings. But, cravings do happen, especially in the beginning of a lifestyle change. Your body is adjusting, and that takes some time. Either your food cravings control you or you master them. In this article, I unpack ways that you can master your food cravings with 3 specific approaches: awareness, action and accountability. It’s easier than you think.
1. Master your food cravings with awareness
A mindset approach
I have a few clients who have mentioned to me that they don’t know how they’re going to give up doughnuts or bread. But often clients tend to overestimate the emotional intensity of the change.
This is otherwise known as the Impact Bias. The impact bias is the propensity to under or overestimate the emotional intensity of an event. It’s a human bias that often goes unidentified. When we are planning to try something new, or there is a big change on the horizon, we expect the intensity of our emotions during the change to be bigger than what actually occurs. For example, giving up your favourite (unhealthy) staple, that one you have day in and day out, might seem like a huge ask. However, once you start, you realise it’s not as a big deal as you initially thought and the expectation of melancholy, frustration and challenge doesn’t actually occur in the intensity that you anticipated. The sky doesn’t fall, chicken little.
Ride the wave
Cravings are often fleeting. There is a natural rise and fall, and the rise of hunger often doesn’t mean food is an absolute necessity right now. The hunger pang is there for a moment, and then it dissipates. Noticing it, acknowledging it, and normalising the situation by saying to yourself, “don’t worry, this is normal and it’ll go away” helps to ride the wave.
Identifying what’s important to you
Eating is not only a response to physical hunger, it is often coupled with desire for comfort, connection and reward. Identifying what it is that your mind and body is looking for is a way for you to give it exactly what it needs. Does it want comfort or connection? Maybe you’re looking for fun and pleasure. Look for other strategies to meet this human need that are in line with your health goal.
Identifying your mental loopholes
Classic mental loopholes can get in the way of our health and wellbeing plans. Here are a few you might identify in yourself:
- Moral Licensing
- You deserve a doughnut because you’ve done so well this week.
- This doesn’t count
- One doughnut won’t hurt
- Arranging to fail
- You plan in a way that almost guarantees you’ll succumb to temptation e.g I’ll buy “regular” snacks for my family and I’ll just avoid them.
Identifying your mental loopholes is a way to gain awareness in how you might be sabotaging your efforts. A health coach can help you to overcome these mental barriers and create strategies to keep your well-being at top of mind.
2. Master your food cravings with action
Snack on movement
There is often physical agitation or energy that comes with cravings. Either you’re restless, edgy or agitated. You find yourself getting up from your desk and taking a walk over to your fridge. Mindlessly, you end up grabbing a snack. Moving can absorb this restlessness. For example, turn the music up and dance, go for a 10-minute walk around the block, hang up the laundry, or kick around a soccer ball with your kids. These are all tried and tested.
3. Master your food cravings by holding yourself accountable
An accountability partner can change everything. We’re social creatures that want to live up to what we say we’re going to do. Knowing that someone is waiting for a, “I moved instead of snacked today!” message can be a powerful motivator. You’re less likely to procrastinate or give up, and you’ll be able to celebrate the small wins which creates a positive feedback loop. If you want to lose weight or manage your lifestyle disease, and think that an accountability partner might be helpful for you. You can set up an introductory call by contacting me here.
Are you ready to master your cravings with awareness, action and accountability?
Next time a craving occurs, I encourage you to come back to this article and pick one or more strategies from these three approaches. Experiment with new ways of navigating through a craving and discover how it transforms it.