EAT THE FOOD YOU CRAVE

Last updated on May 10th, 2019 at 10:13 am

Eating patterns that are too restrictive may actually work the opposite way, opening the gates to cravings wide open. We simply seem to crave what we can’t have.

Instead of helping us resist and forever refrain from eating our crave foods, our inner rebel sticks its greedy head out in search of what we’re taking away. The mouth doesn’t wanna miss out on the goodies either. The tongue and tastebuds love all sorts of flavors and textures. Don’t fall into the deprivation trap!

Photo by Rod Long. Thank you!

What’s been tremendously helpful to me is to include the crave foods in my eating lifestyle. It may sound weird if you have a history of overindulging, but this has been remarkably helpful. And I always have something tasty to look forward too. Our relationships with crave foods don’t have to be all or nothing.

Eat the foods you crave, but try not eat them when you are caught in the midst of a craving. This makes it easier not to get lost in mindless eating. After having explored the root cause of your craving, the triggers, you may choose to eat (mindfully) or not to eat. Perhaps there’s an alternative, a more constructive activity to do. Something that you enjoy perhaps? Or there may be something else than the food you crave you or your body truly needs.

But come on! Not even a tiny taste first?!

What I have noticed is that when I crave something like crazy, such an entire box of donuts, giving in just for a teeny taste fails to extinguish the craving. And sometimes giving in can even lead to binging whatever’s left. I have a confession to make: in the past I would sometimes end up going on “munching sprees” after having given in to cravings. Of course this doesn’t mean your show is going down like mine. You know your inner crave critter better than me.

I have to be clear here. When you include the foods you often crave in your lifestyle and plan when to eat them, navigating through cravings that show up every now and then, will get easier in time. You, along with your tastebuds and mouth, will remember that in not too long, you will get to eat and enjoy these foods.

WAIT IT OUT

Okay, back to the mindful decision. Waiting out the craving, exploring the various aspects of it and identifying the trigger, creates a gap between the initial impact moment of the craving and the subsequent eating. You want this gap. It’s part of breaking apart your autopilots around food and craving. As mentioned earlier, part of this process is gaining awareness of the triggers.

MINDFUL EATING

Instead of entering an “eating trance” where afterwards you can’t seem to remember where the food went, eat slowly and mindfully. Really taste the food. All the nuances. The textures. Take a closer look at the food. Smell it. What does it smell like? Sweet? Savory? Chew slowly. Eat simply because you like the experience of eating, not because you try to regulate your emotions. On the other hand, we all regulate ourselves with food from time to time. It’s perfectly normal to give in to cravings. Eating mindfully can bring you out of your head and into the present moment.

A MINDFUL PORTION

Do, however, mind the amount. Drastically reducing the amount of sugary products such as chocolate or marshmallows (drool), was another major step for me. One study reported that it was necessary to address the frequency of eating a craved food. Thus, it might help to limit yourself to one type of snack once a week. For a long time I used to have ten pieces of assorted chocolate and candies only when I went to the movies. Be creative with your rules or guidelines.

A MINDFUL SUBSTITUTION

Having plenty of experience with being triggered by eating crave foods – and then propelled into overindulging and overeating, I know too well how painful it is to end up in a binge. Even the thought or image of myself binging is scary – the shame, the regret. This brings me to another trick you can use if you’re craving something: don’t eat what you are craving, but replace it with something else that’s sweet (or whatever flavor your mouth is craving). For me, having this replacement waiting for me at home provides immediate relief. «Ah, I have some […] at home. Waiting is no problem».

A mindful substitution can be whatever doesn’t trigger you into overdulging. Photo by Jamie Street. Thank you!

THE DEPRIVATION TRAP

But don’t go all or nothing and start depriving  yourself of everything sweet or junky. You and me both tried this in the past already. How did it turn out in the end? Needless to say. We actually gravitate towards what we can’t have. It gets even more attractive.

The more you go «NO!», the more your inner rebel go «YES!».

If your intention is to cut down on sweets and eat healthy, instead of saying “no sweets whatsoever”, make a rule or guideline that allows you to eat sweets after a specific time. These are conditional rules. A rule I sometimes use is “sweets are okay after 8:15 PM – and the sweets have to be bought after 8:15 pm as well”. Writing this, I’m suspecting After Eight (the minty chocolate) has something to do with this.

Another example is from a past client. Her rule was to only have chocolate for dessert when visiting, or at her cottage on the weekends. Rules such as these ensure crave foods are never banned for life, but part of your lifestyle.

A DROP OF COMPASSION

Giving in to a craving or two is perfectly normal. In this day and age of ice-cream and burgers waiting around every corner, exposure to temptations is part of daily life. When you notice your friends shame and regret pop up, and that blaming voice starts sneering at you, remind yourself that giving in is a human thing to do. We all give in to craving of some sort. If it’s not to food, then to something else. Cultivate compassion.

BOTTOM LINE

In order not to fall into the deprivation trap, including the foods you crave in your lifestyle is key. There is nothing wrong with giving in to a craving, everyone does this. There is, however, insight to be gained from each encounter with a craving. Eat mindfully when you eat your crave foods, though. Lastly, have compassion for yourself. You’re just human.

Written by Justin