What do you do when you’re feeling overwhelmed by a food craving?
Cravings are waves. They swell and build, sweep you up in their force, crash over you, and then recede. If you can hang on through the build and crash, then usually the craving is either gone or so much smaller.
But it’s so hard to hang on through that tidal wave of craving – it feels so urgent, so powerful, and totally overwhelming. It feels like nothing in the world is more important than that caramel frappuccino or the muffin you know is sitting in the breakroom.
A client of mine recently called her cravings a ‘freight train’ that was impossible to stop, reason with, or slow down.
There’s no way you can ignore it, so how do you get through?
I asked 6 emotional eating and cravings experts the same question, and here’s what they had to say.
Warning: This is not a post about quick-fixes or handy hints. Cravings are not something that go away with a tweetable phrase and an ‘ah-ha’ moment. I know you want them gone, like, yesterday – and I wish this were easier too – but if you want to really beat your cravings, then it’s all about practice.
What’s your one best piece of advice for what women can do when they feel overwhelmed by an unwanted food craving?
Your life is not a random series of events
Mary O’Malley is an internationally acclaimed author and teacher – who just happens to have written (among many other epically insightful reads) one of my favorite books, ‘The Gift of our Compulsions’ which I use personally, and recommend all the time. It’s a fantastic approach to uncovering, befriending, and then ending compulsive behaviors – including eating.Her words have been endorsed by Eckhart Tolle, Neale Donald Walsch, and Christiane Northrup, M.D. Mary works to awaken joy, and to help you replace the fear, hopelessness, and struggle of compulsion with ease, well-being, and joy.
“Your life is not a random series of events, disconnected from one another. Rather, it is a highly intelligent and intentional process in which every experience speaks to you, giving you the clues to your healing. This is especially true with your compulsions. They are not just uncontrollable urges that are bad and wrong — they are messages from the depths of your being, and they are loaded with information. Rather than being lost in them, if you become curious about what is going on in your mind before, during, or after a wave of compulsion, you can gain valuable insights that will bring you the healing you so desire and deserve.”
Food freedom truly comes first by accepting ‘what is’
Jenny Eden Berk is a health coach and an Eating Psychology Coach who specialises in helping you achieve your health and weight goals while also getting to a deep place of peace within yourself. She especially focuses on how to have a beautiful relationship with food. She struggle with food and body herself, and now feels deeply peaceful and joyous with food. She’s been chosen to speak live at this year’s ExpansionLive in Banff Canada!
“Feeling overwhelmed with food cravings is common yet can feel very frustrating! Oftentimes we are faced with a battle between our dichotomous selves: The one who desperately wants to give in and eat said trigger food, and the one who is trying to look forward towards achieving their higher goals that may involve feeling more “in control” with food.
But, food freedom truly comes first by accepting ‘what is’ and digging in to understand the craving further. Is this a physical hunger you’re experiencing right now? Is this craving being cued by an emotional or soul need that is not getting the nurturing it requires in your life? While there is no panacea or quick fix when it comes to food cravings, taking a “stop, look and listen” approach serves to slow us down, respect what is happening right now for you on a physical and emotional level and peel the layers a bit so we go from acting on impulse and instinct to making choices that are grounded in rational, calm thinking done in a state of relaxation rather than stress or shame.”
Giving yourself the thing you really hungry for
Ali Dryja is an international Embodiment Counselor, licensed NLP, and yoga teacher (among other amazing things) who works with women to help them love and listen to their bodies and eat with self-kindness. She’s the author of the free Emotional Eating Survival Guide, and a regular contributor to MindBodyGreen.
She went all out and has a step-by-step plan for you, for when cravings hit.
1. Grab a journal and pen and place it on your table.
2. Make yourself a bowl or plate of the desired food. The food you actually want. Not carrots and rice crackers because they’re low calorie. Give yourself the real thing, but don’t sneak any bites! Do not eat from a bag, do not eat directly from the ice cream container. Make a portion for yourself and give yourself permission to make it big.
3. Sit down at a table with minimal distractions. Do not sit in your car, on your bed, or in a hectic environment. Consciously sit down at a table and make your setting nice. Light candles and play relaxing music if you’d like!
4. Eat. Take one bite at a time and chew. Place your fork down between bites and let yourself savor each mouthful. Take the next bite only when you have completed the one in your mouth. While you’re chewing, journal. Ask yourself what’s really going on. What you’re needing. What you might be scared about, stressed about, angry about. Give yourself permission to free-flow and get to the bottom of why you feel compelled to eat. Find out what you’re really hungry for.
Giving yourself full permission to eat while simultaneously uncovering what’s happening for you is an incredible way to use each binge as a learning experience. And the more you learn about why you’re bingeing, the less intense your desire to finish your plate will be. Soon, you’ll be sitting at your table with just your journal—or perhaps simply giving yourself the thing you really hungry for in the first place.
Cravings are a symptom of a brain that has been re-wired
Susan Peirce-Thompson, Ph.D. is the powerhouse woman behind Bright Line Eating, the only food addiction program I have faith in. Her online program has helped thousands of people lose weight and get “happy, thin and free” from food addiction. Susan’s new book, “Bright Line Eating’ provides a roadmap out of addiction and into living the life you know you were meant to.
Amidst all her book-launch craziness, Susan was amazing enough to contribute this advice on beating cravings.
“When an unwanted food craving arises there are a few things you can do to resist it.
The first is smell peppermint oil. I’ll sometimes brush my teeth, because that flavor or scent of peppermint has been clinically proven to kill hunger that isn’t rooted in the body’s genuine need for fuel. The second thing I reach for are distractions: go for a walk, do laundry, read a book, even healthy food prep can be a good distraction until it passes. Avoid commercial television, because you could see some food porn that might trigger your brain past the point where you can resist. The last proven tool is gratitude. When you take sixty seconds to run through everything you are grateful for it shifts your brain away from what you want to what you have.
Above all, though, cravings are an important thing to look at, because they are a symptom of a brain that has been re-wired by our modern sugar and flour-heavy diet to demand foods that don’t benefit us. One of the many joys of cutting those foods out of my life ten years ago is that I went from having daily cravings to weekly cravings, to monthly cravings to rare cravings. So if you feel like cravings are a daily part of your life that is a sign that bigger changes might be in order.
And if you’re in a weight-loss phase now and your brain is demanding the foods you are trying to wean it off of, just be patient. Treat your craving brain like a tantruming toddler. Distract, deflect, but don’t give in.”
The first step is to ensure that you are eating enough food
Christie Inge is a Master Energy Healer and Life coach, who in her own words is a “straight talkin’, magic making, project manager for your life.” And she 100% delivers – if you’re feeling like your unwanted eating or cravings are coming from the nagging doubt that something is just ‘wrong’ with your self or your life, Christie is the woman you want.
“Every action is an attempt to meet a need. Finding the core need under the cravings and then learning to meet those needs in a more effective, and proactive, ways can greatly reduce them.
It may come as a surprise that the need under most cravings is the need for sustenance, as in, the need for food. Most women have been conditioned to hate their bodies, and therefore, undereat. This happens with women of ALL shapes and sizes, even when they aren’t dieting or restricting food “on purpose”, and is the number one predictor of binge eating and emotional eating. This isn’t a matter of willpower; it’s a matter of physiology and trying to “push through” that only furthers the binge-restrict cycle. So, the first step is to ensure that you are eating enough food to fuel your body and heal any restrictive mentalities around food.
If you have healed your restrictive mentality around food and are definitely eating enough and you still have emotional cravings for food, then, you may want to start looking at the more emotional needs. In my experience, other than under eating, the most common reason women eat emotionally are unmet needs for love, safety (comfort), and rest. As women, we are taught that it is more noble to take care of other people over ourselves, and so, when we start to work with these needs more directly, it can also poke at our wounds of deserving and worth.
So, my best advice would be to explore your cravings and needs with a heavy dose of self acceptance, compassion, and grace.”
The only way to stop the cravings is…
Me! I’m a recovered emotional eater, psychology graduate and a certified Eating Psychology Coach who works with smart, sassy ladies who are totally frustrated and confused by their torturous relationship with food and out of control eating to get them in control and free from food torment. I’m also the author of the 7-Day Emotional Eating Plan, and the creator of the popular ‘Killer Meal Planning Course’, which teaches you how to easily plan meals without stress or overwhelm (especially if you’re an emotional eater).
Your cravings are not about willpower, weakness, or a lack of control. If you magically had more of those things, the cravings wouldn’t go away – they’d simply intensify until you had to listen. That’s because cravings are a messenger – a loud, invasive, and unwanted messenger. They’re trying to tell you something, and once you’ve learned to hear past the mess, the shame, the guilt, and the control issues, only then can you hear what your deeper self is asking for.
The cravings might be a symptom of
- Food addiction
- Unmet nutritional needs
- Lack of pleasure
- Need for human connection
- A cry for attention from your physical body
- Emotional needs that aren’t getting filled
The only way to stop the cravings is to find out the ‘why’ behind them and then address that need in a non-food way. Click here for more info and a free worksheet about how to get started with this.
The answer is unanimous (though not what you want to hear):
Your cravings can’t be crushed in one fell swoop. There’s no magic trick or expert secret. Beating your cravings is truly a lot more about joining them, listening to them, and then giving them what they really want.
So, what do you need to do today so you can stop fighting and start listening?