Cravings and Mindfulness
Now that we have learned the basics of mindful eating, it’s time to look at what might affect our ability to be mindful: cravings.
Cravings vs. Hunger
Cravings are an intense desire or urge to consume a specific food. This is different from true hunger. Here are characteristics of craving:
• It’s a desire to eat a very specific food or taste.
• It appears when you are not physiologically hungry.
• It goes away if you distract yourself.
• It often triggered by negative feelings, such as stress or anger, or by a psychological or emotional response to food.
• It can occur even after you’ve recently eaten.
• Eating caused by it might lead to feelings of guilt.
Typically, we crave foods higher in fat, sugar, and carbohydrates, such as chocolate, pizza, and fast food. Studies have also shown having more food cravings is associated with higher intake of food and a higher body mass index (BMI).
How to Tackle Cravings
To determine whether you are actually hungry or just craving a certain food, try to do the following:
• Think back to the Hunger Scale and see where you are. If you are not sure, think of a food that you don’t really like. Do you feel like eating it? If you are truly hungry, you will be more inclined to doing this.
• Identify what emotion you are feeling and take steps to address the emotion—e.g. if you are stressed, this might trigger a craving for chocolate. Instead, try taking a long hot bath, taking a walk, relaxation exercises, or yoga.
• Drink a glass of water before giving in to a craving. You may be feeling thirsty, and it’s being manifested as a need for food.
• Satisfy your craving with a very small portion of what you are craving. If you are craving pizza, try a piece of toast with sliced tomatoes and a bit of cheese.
• Keep a food diary, it can help you identify cravings. You can note what you’re doing or thinking when you experience a craving. If you notice that watching TV triggers cravings for sweet foods, plan to do something else when you are in that situation. Keep your hands busy, take up crochet, write letters, or sort photos when you are watching television. Do something that will keep your mind off the desire to eat. If boredom is a trigger, make a list of alternate activities. When you get bored and want to eat, check out your list instead.
• Distract yourself. Cravings will go away after 20 minutes.
• Chew gum instead of snacking.
• Have a herbal tea. Peppermint can be a good deterrent for eating, as we associate the minty taste with brushing teeth and therefore, not eating.
The key to controlling your cravings is recognizing them. Think about times you experience food cravings, and try to come up with five things you will do next time when they occur. Write down those things on a sticky note, and put it in your purse, on your fridge, or on your laptop. Refer to your plan each time you experience a craving.
Tomorrow: We will look at willpower and how the lack thereof can affect our ability to be mindful.
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