It’s Wednesday night, you just finished dinner and sat down on the couch to watch the latest episode of Big Brother and you think.. “you know what would be really good right now... Ice Cream!” Next thing you know you’ve run to the closest grocery store to pick some up and you’re a pint deep in delicious salted caramel ice cream when your favourite player just got voted out of the house...
Let’s talk about cravings.
By definition, food cravings are an intense desire or urge to eat a specific food. With 97% of women and 68% of men reporting episodes of food cravings, they are extremely common.
Are cravings bad? Not necessarily. But I think it’s important to look at the drive behind the craving.
Recent research has found the food cravings are largely related to three areas of the brain – hippocampus, insula and caudate. The memory areas of the brain associate a specific food with a pleasurable reward. Adam Drewnowski, Ph.D., noted that “food cravings arise to satisfy emotional needs, such as calming stress and reducing anxiety.”
Many people use control-based strategies such as suppression or distraction for food cravings. But I largely disagree with the tactic. Research has actually found that mindful eating and acceptance-based regulation to be more impactful and beneficial. Acceptance-based regulation is that of accepting your cravings fully without actively trying to change, avoid or control them.
An acceptance-based approach requires a non-judgmental attitude towards your craving and allowing yourself to sit with the emotions that accompany the craving. This approach promotes the willingness to experience your current emotional state, and the craving without actually acting upon it.
5 Key Steps to Combating Food Cravings
1. Identify the food you’re craving.
2. Why do you want it? Do you still want it if you eat it mindfully? (That is slowly while savouring eat a bite.)
3. Is there an emotional connection to your craving? Or maybe a habitual response? Can you disrupt the link between your craving and eating behaviours?
4. Cravings are often fleeting and may disappear if you don’t act on them. How strong is the craving? Is there something else you can do that would satisfy you?
5. If you still have the craving, try satisfying it with a small portion of the food you are craving but the key is to eat it mindfully.