5 Ways to Conquer Cravings

Posted by Jess
I don’t know about you, but every once in a while I fall victim to the attacks of cravings; especially during my lady time of the month, when it’s like gorilla warfare. And it’s not always chocolate. For instance, this morning I was craving Ramen Noodles. Random, right?

For me, a lot of it is psychological. I tend to be an emotional eater, as I associate feelings with foods. For example, I always have a large bowl of spaghetti, or cream of wheat, when I’m sad; and grilled cheese when I’m feeling nostalgic. This is actually a habit that I’ve struggled with for many years, and I am just now gaining some control over it. There was a time in my life where I would get upset, run straight to the kitchen, and devour like ten waffles! Fortunately, I’m passed those days, but every now and then it throws a grenade at me.

I’ve done some research, and while “keeping a food journal” and “drinking more water” are fine tips, these aren’t going to keep me from reaching for that bowl of ice cream tonight. So I’ve laid out 5 tactics that will help win the war against cravings!


#1 Know Thy Enemy
First, in order to win the battle, you must be able to identify the enemy; you don’t want to get caught in friendly fire! So here’s how to tell the difference between actual hunger, and cravings:

You know you’re experiencing a craving, 
when you feel an intense desire to eat a specific type of food and nothing else.

When in doubt, ask yourself, “Am I willing to eat veggies or fruit instead?” If the answer is no, then you’re most likely facing a craving and need to determine a plan of attack. (However, if veggies or fruit is what you’re craving then go ahead and eat your heart out! Those guys never hurt anybody!)

#2 Try Forehead Tracking
Have you ever had a craving where it’s all you can think about, and the more you try not to think about it, the stronger the craving becomes? Well according to David J. Kavanagh PhD, cravings become more intense when you visualize the food. In fact, visualization is a primary cause of cravings. So when you can’t get that strawberry cheesecake out of your head, try forehead tracking.

How to do it: Tap your fingers in an imaginary line across your forehead and follow each taping finger with your eyes.

Why this works: There’s a part of your brain (called the visuo-spatial sketchpad) that’s responsible for mental imagery; it’s the reason why you visualize and daydream about the food you’re craving. By tapping your forehead and following the movement with your eyes, you’re forcing this portion of your brain to pay attention to two things at once, and as a result it gets distracted; thus freeing you of your daydream about that doughnut. Think of when you try to talk on the phone and watch TV at the same time, you always end up loosing track of one…it’s the same concept.

#3 “When I have a craving, I will imagine ___________”
A study at McGill University showed that you’re more likely to reduce your craving if you replace the images of the craving with a non-food image. So think of an object, or an activity, that you can remember in detail (I think of watching the sunrise). Try to remember exactly what that object looks like … What does it smell like? … How does it feel? … Hold on to that image, and each time you feel a craving coming on say: “When I experience a craving, I will imagine [YOUR OBJECT GOES HERE].”

Why this works: In addition to overriding your visuo-spatial sketchpad again (see #1’s "why this works"), this also uses a technique called "implementation intentions", which is the hard way of saying: if ‘that’ happens, then I will do ‘this’.

#4 Imagine Eating the Food 30 Times
A study done at Carnegie Mellon University showed that imagining eating a food thirty times before actual eating it causes you to eat less of the food you’re craving.

#5 Hold a Yoga Pose
Getting up and doing a full fledge yoga sequence is best, but sometimes the anticipation of too much effort will make you avoid the activity all together. So instead, try holding one pose, like Downward Dog or Warrior Pose, and bring all of your attention to your breathing.

Why this works: A study done at the Seattle Children’s Hospital found that “food preoccupation may be reduced by focusing attention on yoga poses.”

BONUS: #6 Brush Your Teeth
Not sure why this one works, but it does!

What You Should Remember:
  1. A craving is an intense desire to eat a specific type of food and nothing else.
  2. Try Forehead Tracking to get the image of the craving out of your head. (This is done by tapping your fingers in an imaginary line across your forehead. Follow each taping finger with your eyes)
  3. When tempted by a sudden craving, replace the thought of food with another image, like watching the sunrise… or Ryan Gosling!
  4. Imagine eating the food 30 times before you actually put it in your mouth.
  5. Do some Yoga!

So, next time you find yourself under the attack of cravings, pull out these tactics, divide and conquer! Just knowing that you have a plan should make overcoming the urge so much easier. And if you have to throw in the white flag and surrender, don’t feel guilty; we can’t win every battle. But rest assured, next time you’ll be back, with vengeance!

So my fellow vigilantes, it’s your turn, what foods do you crave? And what do you do to thwart them? Do you have a plan of attack, or do you just surrender? Let me know in the comments below!

Until next time,

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