Understanding Food Cravings and How To Stop The Excuses

food cravings

When I think back to the time I weighed 300 pounds, I have to tell you, I don’t remember having food cravings. Sure, I always preferred certain foods to others, but I never experienced INTENSE food cravings and obsessions. I just mindlessly ate whatever I wanted to, whenever I wanted to.

I only experienced crazy food cravings when I tried to diet and restrict my food in the hopes of shedding some unwanted flubber.

I bet this has been your experience, too.

So, how did I lose half of my body weight and keep it off for so long without succumbing to eating habits of Slimer (anyone a ­Ghostbusters fan)?

I didn’t…

I’ve had many binge-eating episodes on this weight loss journey. And let me tell you, it wasn’t pretty. I felt like a bloated pot-bellied pig many times– rolling around in cartons of empty ice cream, brownies, cookies, and half-eaten pizzas. It’s a wonder my stomach didn’t just explode.

These days, binge eating is a thing of the past. I’ve finally been able to kick it. But from time to time, I still have food cravings. I don’t know if the longing for junk food will ever go away entirely. It doesn’t happen daily or even weekly—but it does happen.

Surveys estimate nearly 100% of women and 70% of men have food cravings of some sort. And we all crave for various different reasons.

Lusting for food is something that requires thoughtful dissecting and questioning. When I want nothing more than to chow down on a couple of waffle donuts (they’re so dang addictive), I always ask myself, “Why do you think you want donuts right now, Naomi?”

Here are the answers I almost always come up with:

“I’m low energy right now and experiencing a headache… maybe sugar will help.”

“It’s that time of the month… it’s a hormonal thing.”

“Habit. I’m used to going to the store all of the time to pick up something to eat or drink on my way home from work.”

“I reeeeeeally want one. Just this once won’t hurt.”

These are all excuses. The only answer that might have some merit is the menstrual cycle one.

However, these excuses DO lead us to giving in to those cravings. Here are some ways to minimize how many times we give in to food cravings:

 

“Low Energy/Headache” Excuse:

Do a quick review of your day—what did you have at each meal? Did you drink enough water? Did you take supplements (like a multivitamin, iron, d3, and magnesium)? What kind of activities did you engage in? Did you spend a lot of time hovering in front of your computer? Did you feel more stress than usual?

Address the problem, not the symptom—and prepare better next time! If you know you didn’t drink much water during your day, and you experienced more anxiety than usual, buy a bottle of water and drink it immediately. Find a quiet place to sit and relax. Practice deep breathing or meditation for a couple of minutes. You may find that you still have cravings after you’ve done this practice. However, the lust for food has probably decreased considerably, and you can likely find satisfaction in snacking on an apple to hold you over until dinner time instead.

If it’s close enough to your bedtime, just go to sleep. Seriously. It doesn’t mean you’re a loser if you decided to hit the sack a couple hours earlier than normal. If you feel low energy, you should be able to get to sleep relatively easily, and you’ll avoid making an unnecessary food choice you may regret later. You won’t miss out on anything by actually getting enough sleep for once.

 

“Bloody Mary” Excuse:

Track your menstrual cycle. Seriously. You may start to notice trends in your moods and cravings based on your cycle. When you start experiencing food cravings, check to see where you are in your cycle. You may be surprised to notice that cravings tend to begin 2-3 days before your cycle and end sometime during your period. It’s comforting to know that there’s nothing wrong with you or your willpower– it’s just a natural monthly occurrence.

Always try to eat wholesome real food as much as possible, but during this time of the month, you may need to give in to the ice cream at least once. That doesn’t mean it’s a free-for-all every day of your cycle. It means eating healthfully 80% of the time and indulging in those cravings 20% of the time.

 

“It’s Just A Habit” Excuse:

Once you recognize that stopping for food at the store or drive-thru is just a habit and nothing more—you know it must be broken. I’ve had many clients tell me that eating dessert has just been a habit that they grew up with in their family dynamic. It was never a real craving—just a habit that was continually reinforced every single day. To break a bad habit like this, you must replace it with another one. Instead of having dessert in the evenings, could you have a walk around your neighborhood, drink warm tea, talk with your partner or a friend, read, etc? Instead of driving by the fast food joint or grocery store, maybe make sure your dinner is already prepared and ready to cook as soon as you get home (or have someone else cook it?). I recognize that these are cheesy ideas, but they work if you take the time to reinforce the good instead of the bad.

 

“Just This Once” Excuse:

How many times have you said that to yourself? How many “one times” have you had? This is where food journaling is incredibly helpful. When you log all of the food you eat (including those indulgences), you’ll notice that those “just this one time” excuses seem to happen more and more frequently. Sometimes honesty is the best medicine to fend off a craving for the time being. If that doesn’t seem to work, go for the lesser of the two evils. What’s going to be a healthier option to the food you desire? Food swaps are king.

 

Or maybe you have the “I’m Bored” Excuse:

Many people snack at their desks at work during the day, mindlessly eat in front of the television at night, and graze all weekend long. We use food as a form of active procrastination so many times. We should be doing that work assignment we were asked to do. We ought to be studying for our exams at school. We could be spending our time enjoying a hobby or in the company of friends or family, but instead, we kill time and comfort ourselves with food first. To overcome this one, you must first acknowledge why you’re snacking. Then you must decide that you want to be present and mindful at this moment. Being present and mindful means not numbing out with food, drinks, video games, social media, television, or any other avoidance activity. When you’re fully engaged in the task you need or want to do, you have no time to think about filling an empty void with food.

 

What else can you do?

 

We all suffer from food cravings from time to time. You’re not alone. But they certainly don’t have to wreck your weight loss progress either.

 

Do you have a food-craving tip to share? I’d love to hear about it! Leave a comment below and let me know!

 

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2 thoughts on “Understanding Food Cravings and How To Stop The Excuses

  1. Sometimes I crave for something cold and sweet. Ice cream would make me feel guilty, so I make myself a Green Smoothie. Kale, ice cubes, almond milk, mango or what ever fruit at hand. And some agave syrup to taste.

    • Barbara, I do, too! In winter, I recognize that instead of wanting to feel “full”, I just want to feel warm. So, that’s when I drink warm teas.

      I think you have a great idea with the smoothies! I’ve certainly been doing those much more recently! My husband had a bad craving for ice cream last night, so I mixed up some coconut milk, frozen pitted cherries, honey, and cocoa powder to make a “chocolate cherry ice cream”. That did the trick!

      Thanks for commenting with your suggestion!

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