Not being in control of our cravings can make you feel like there’s something wrong with you. You might feel like you just don’t know something that everyone else has mastered. I know how disheartening this can be. You want to lose weight but something keeps sabotaging your progress.
Friend: “Hey want some cookies?”
Me: “No thanks, if I have one I’ll want the whole sleeve…”
If this is you and you feel like you have little control over your eating there is nothing wrongwith you. It’s totally common AND fixable!
Today you’re going to learn the three most common reasons people give in to their cravings and how to overcome them! Once you understand these core concepts you’re one step closer to controlling your cravings and achieving your weight loss goals.
Let’s begin shall we?
Reason #1: You rely on will power
First things first, don’t expect to get rid of your cravings altogether. This can’t be done because cravings are a NORMAL part of being human. Everyone gets them but it’s what we do when we get them that makes a difference.
The first mistake we tend to make is trying to use our super-strength willpower to save the day. But as you may know, will power can fail you. But why is that? Well, will power is like a muscle that gets tired from overuse.
Let me give you an example. Let’s say you’re on a diet where you can’t eat x, y, z. Monday morning you use your will power to say no to a co-working sharing the forbidden food. Wednesday night you have to turn down your partners’ request to order in the forbidden food. You’ve been doing this non-stop all week - exerting your will power to make ‘good’ choices. Now it’s Saturday night and you’re home alone. Then it happens, you crack under pressure and overindulge. What happened in this scenario? You tired out your will-power muscle.Will-power will not save you from your cravings.
So what do we do instead? Well that brings me to the second reason.
Reason #2: Because of biology
As human beings we are wired to soothe ourselves. We are designed to avoid pain and seek pleasure. And this is what’s happening when it comes to cravings.
There’s a cravings cycle that occurs. Normally the cravings cycle goes like this: you have a TRIGGER (like the time of day or an emotion), which leads to a BEHAVIOUR (like eating, drinking, or smoking), which causes a REWARD of happy hormones to be released so you feel relief.
Trigger --> Behaviour --> Reward
Sometimes the behaviour we choose isn’t exactly the best for us. In the case of cravings we’re associating food as a form of relief from our triggers. When you’re not aware of this, it can lead to mindless binge eating where you don't feel in control.
To fix this cycle you have to disrupt it. You do that by changing the behaviour. I know that sounds easier said than done. The trick is to find an uplifting way to soothe yourself. Choose an activity that makes you feel good. One that you can get into and it keeps your mind and/or body busy. If your craving is not related to hunger than it’ll go away in about 15-20 minutes.
Some examples of things to do to keep you busy are:
working on a project you’re passionate about
playing with a pet
playing a board game
calling a loved one
playing an instrument or video game
exercising or gardening
cleaning or organizing
By understand this cycle, you can regain control. You can choose to replace the old behaviour of eating with something else.
Reason #3: We love to label.
Many of us like to label food as good or bad. There are two ways you’re shooting ourselves in the foot when you do this. The first is the forbidden fruit effect. When you label something as bad or off-limits it increases your desire for the very food you’re trying to avoid. Think about your teenage years or when we went through a rebellious phase in life.
When someone tells us no, we don't take this very well. Why do you think bad boys have such a high appeal?! We’re told ‘don't date the bad boy he’s no good for you’ and that makes us want him even more! And the same thing happens when you do this with food.
The second thing that happens when you label food as good or bad is the guilt and give up effect. When you eat this bad food you take on that label and think of yourself as a bad person. This can make you feel guilty which increases the odds of you throwing in the towel because you already screwed up. We tend to assign moral value to food. When we do this, we inherit our value as a person from food.
What you need to understand there is no good or bad food. Food is just food. You have more nutritious food and less nutritious food but that does not make one better than the other on a moral level. The food you eat doesn't determine your value just like the clothes you wear don't dictate whether you are a good or bad person.
You can take back control of your cravings by not letting food control your self-worth. Instead you can flip the script and say it like it is. For example, “this food is something I tend to overeat.”This way you can stay flexible and grow into the person you want to become.
Bonus Reason: Our current food environment
We’ve been trained to believe we can’t trust our bodies. If we don't have strict rules to follow we’ll go off the rails and fail. I’m here to tell you that, that doesn't have to be the case. You’ve simply lost touch with your innate ability to control your eating and the good news is you can find it again.
Trust me when I say there is nothing wrong with you for not having control over your cravings. You are battling so many obstacles that so many of us aren’t even aware of. Think about it, we have food marketing, 24/7 food availability, bulk food stores, and so many different choices. We are living in a food-obsessed, food-everywhere all the time culture.
Once you see this you can start to be a little bit kinder to yourself and build the way you want to respond to the food environment that we’re in right now. I hope to educate you and give you the skills you need to feel empowered.
Here’s to you and your success!