Mindful Eating and How to Manage Cravings

Mindful Eating, and cravings. How to change your mindset around a craving!

The definition of CRAVING as stated by Merriam Webster, is “an intense, urgent, or abnormal desire or longing”. That about sums it up, when you’re crazily ripping apart your kitchen for something sweet or salty during that time of the month, doesn’t it?

Cravings can be physical, like the PMS chocolate tornado, or emotional, when we just want to bury sorrow in a bucket of ice cream, or spiritual, when we feel lost, alone and confused.

When we get upset or stressed, we may also want to push away these feelings, and food becomes a great tool for shovelling emotions away, or, down into the stomach.

In a moment of emotional struggle, do we really care, about the information out there of what sugar, salt or fat does to our brain and bodies? 

In that moment, if we aren’t tuned in, we aren't present, and the feelings we aren't acknowledging consciously, are being eaten. So having information, say, about the effect of sugar and our brain, may be completely useless.

I can remember carving the first slice, taking the first forkful. The rush of whipped sugar speeding through my bloodstream. It felt like teetering on the ledge of a roof off a skyscraper, exhilarating and terrifying. The split second decision between balance and oblivion.

What I cannot remember, however, is the exact moment I made the decision to eat the whole thing.
— It Was Me All Along, A Memoir by Andie Mitchell

Andie Mitchell's book, It Was Me All Along, A Memoir, hooked me from the introduction. I related to her childhood of self soothing with food, a slim brother, and dysfunction. I just started her book, and this quote stuck with me. Ms. Mitchell's memoir is so honest, painful and deeply personal.  If I keep writing, I'll be in spoiler alert mode:)

What to do when the emotions run high, cravings set in and eating seems to be the only go to?

Here are 5 tips to help. 

1. Get into the craving.

When you're in the middle of a huge wash of cookie dough fantasy, tune into your feelings and your hunger. You are in need of some comfort. What could you give yourself besides food? Having a list at the ready, of things that nourish you OTHER than food, can be one strategy to have nearby, once a craving hits you like a hot flash in winter.

Switch up your behaviour to nurture yourself without food. Many experts recommend trying deep breathing, walking, yoga, some other distracting behaviour that doesn't involve food. If you can, write down all the things that can bring you joy and soothing for the next time the craving hits you.

Go through the list and try a substitute. Have something simple and easy on the list. "Go to the gym" is great, but if you are in the frame of mind where one of your inner voices (oh we haven many right?) is telling you that’s too much work, have a swap, like "take 5 deep breaths". This can be done immediately, quietly at work, or wherever you are. The goal is to interrupt the thought process around the craving and bring you into consciousness around your need for food.

2. Can you have a 'lil bit, if this is possible?

Slowing down while you enjoy your square or two of dark chocolate, one cookie, or a small serving of the most satisfying treat you are thinking of, can help you tune in to your food and relish the taste and texture. This is a mindful tactic for all meals.

It takes time for the body to tell the brain, "hey, I've had enough." You may find yourself surprisingly satisfied when you put the fork, or the cookie, down, move the cell phone away from you and REALLY taste your food. Eating slowly allows you to experience food with all your senses and experience the pleasure of eating. Learn more about Mindful Eating here

If you currently feel like eating a little bit isn't possible, or that you will berate yourself for your behaviour after, then try to …

3. Shift your mindset.

When things trigger unpleasant feelings withing us, and a tendency to shop or eat the feeling away arises, try to shift your thinking. Instead of pushing the feelings away, try what author Andrea Leiberstein suggests, in her book Well Nourished. Having “open allowing attention, helps counteract the energy of struggle and resistance that arises when we try to avoid a feeling or judge it.” Instead of pushing, change your mindset to welcome your feelings, and just notice, without judgement, what you are going through.

4. Make sure you are feeding your body REAL food.

If you aren't getting nutrients, your body will cry foul and ask for MORE food. When you are not eating enough nutrients, the body thinks it hasn't been fed.

Our taste buds get used to the engineered flavours in processed food. Our lives are very busy, and grabbing food on the go is sometimes a necessity. Make your choices as nourishing as possible, but try to leave a little room for fun food, so that you don’t dip into a restriction mentality.

5. Hydrate as best you can.

You have probably already heard that thirst can mimic hunger. Drink your water. Sip through the day, including upon waking. So many benefits come from hydration, including better skin, flushing and hydrating the body, decreased fatigue and increased energy. Coffee and tea have a diuretic effect and remove more water from your system.

Remember, it isn't a reflection on your ability and willpower if you enjoy certain foods. The key word here is ENJOY. Savour the flavour, slowly, with focus on what you are seeing, smelling and tasting. Slow down your eating.

Even if you lose control and binge on more than a serving (or two) of whatever, it doesn't mean that you have "failed". You may have just mindlessly ate. We all do that. You may have eaten some feelings. There is alway a new choice around the corner.

Drop your guilt and shame and acknowledge that you are human and you are just BEING. Move on, journal your thoughts to let them go, and don't use your negative voice to punish yourself! 

If you are curious about Mindful Eating Coaching, and how it can fit into your unique life, schedule a free discussion with me, right here!

Be Well, Be happy, and...
Be Kind to Yourself,

Tanya