Hello craving! I see you. What are you telling me?
Cravings can be mysterious creatures, popping up from (what feels like) nowhere, insisting on your paying attention NOW. Do something about me NOW. Do not focus on your work, your conversation, your book. It’s all about me me MEEEEE!!!!
Cravings come in different forms, and are interesting to get curious about. Really unpack. When we’re able to see them as giving us messages, rather than something to avoid, eliminate, or be a slave to, then they can help us to pay enough attention that we can take care of ourselves without falling into a cycle of being over-attached, or avoidant. Read More
When you’re willing to engage from a place of curiosity, rather than from judgement, it opens up opportunities for decoding cravings, for finding out more about them. Again, the aim is not to “get rid” of them, but to pause and make space for them so that we’re calmer and can respond from a place of respect and compassion rather than judgement.
I often find that cravings can come in a few different forms (and of course are unique to everyone). Warning – I have completely made up these different “groups” of cravings from the many experiences my clients have shared with me. Your experience may be different, and not fall neatly into one of these categories 🙂
Nutritional cravings – these are the ones that tell you when you need salty foods, or specific weirdo foods that seem pretty random. Chances are, your body might need these foods to correct an imbalance of some sort, or something you need to heal. Pregnant women know all about this 🙂
Memory cravings – these are the ones that we tend to turn to when we are seeking comfort from the past. For example, when we think about, or have contact with parents or grandparents, it can remind us of foods that we enjoyed as children. We may seek these foods as a form of comfort or to reignite feelings of pleasure that we’ve experienced in the past. At these times, acknowledging that we’re looking for comfort can be a great first step, before asking whether there are other ways you can seek comfort. Alternatively, by eating (and enjoying) the foods that have special meaning to you, you can make your own special connection to your past, which can be incredibly healing as well.
Sensory cravings – these are the ones that occur when we have a sensory experience of a food. For example, you may smell a particular food, and all of a sudden really want it. Or you see something, and all of a sudden that’s all you want to eat. Thanks pretty Instagram pics, you did take me to that amazing cafe, but sadly the food experience was disappointing compared to the pic. Boohoo. Which brings me to an interesting point. When we really feel like an eating experience doesn’t meet our expectations, or feels disappointing (as it did for me), then there is a chance we will turn to another food in an effort to feel satisfied, even if we’re not hungry. You can read more about food cues from a previous blog post HERE.
So what can you do about cravings? Well, nothing. And something. When I mean nothing, what I mean is that you don’t need to do anything urgent, in that moment. Rather, an alternative is to
1. Press pause – specifically, for a minute or two. Time is take a few breaths and find some space.
2. Consider your choices – this is where mindful eating can diverge into dietland (which makes me a bit upset!!). Some people advocate that this is where you specifically don’t eat, where you find “something else to do.” That is fine, as one of your options. Also eating what you feel like is one of your options. How this is different is that we’re not manipulating the situation so that you’re avoiding eating. Rather, we’re creating awareness, so that you’re in a position to make a choice in a calmer, clearer place. Which leads us onto a few options……
3A. You choose to eat. Aim to enjoy your food mindfully. Savour the flavours. Notice when the pleasure drops off. Fully engage. This is a fine choice. Go you.
3B. You choose not to eat, but to choose another suitable activity or task. Or do nothing but breathe. This is a fine choice. Go you.
Cravings are like text messages. The aim is not to ignore them, delete them or read them over and over again. But to read them once, step back and inject some curiosity. Be kind, be compassionate. Respond rather than react. If we want cravings to subside, we need to hold them differently.
Thanks cravings. But we’ve got a message in response….it’s not all about you