Yes, it is that time of the day when all of a sudden, the impending threat presents itself! Is it a stinky diaper (not this time), is it the whining kids (possibly), or is it those ravenous food cravings that seem to keep you wallowing in your dieting stupor (yes!)? We all have them, and you know what, it is nothing to feel bad about. However, I am going to offer several different ways to decode, outsmart and manage these food cravings so you are not afraid of them the next time they roll around!
1. Embrace the Craving: Yes, I said invite and embrace the craving! It is nothing to be feared, we all have them, and you will gain the confidence when you learn to understand and manage them! I promise! When you notice yourself having a particular craving, use it as an 'informative' experience. What are you noticing about how you are feeling? What are you noticing about the environment around you? What are you noticing about the types of foods you are being enticed by? These are all super helpful pieces of information to help us ultimately decode and then better manage the origins of your cravings.
2. Understand the Craving: One main way to differentiate cravings is to understand 'stomach hunger' and 'mouth hunger'. Stomach hunger represents true hunger and when we feel these hunger signals, we definitely need to eat. Mouth hunger, on the other hand, is the need to put something in your mouth, very much like having the munchies. You may not really be that hungry, but you just feel like eating!
On a scale from 0 to 10, we should be eating around a '7', with 10 representing extreme hunger and 0 representing no hunger at all. We are trying to avoid a situation where we are too hungry as it will take our body some time to register that the food has satisfied us, leading to over-eating. Or, a situation where we are eating without hunger, which can also lead to over-eating since we are not really attuned to our hunger cues.
Next time you are experiencing a craving, I want you to assign your craving a number (0 to 10) and define it as mouth versus stomach hunger. Decoding your hunger in this way will allow you to gain greater awareness about your cravings and thus, better able to manage them.
3. Manage the Craving: Now that we have understood some dynamics that may play into our experiences of cravings, now we need to figure out how to best manage them! However, this will depend on the reason for your eating behavior, including the awareness of your environment, true level of hunger, and ability to cope with stress. If you are experiencing true hunger (stomach hunger), your body may need nourished with a real meal versus snack items, which often lack appropriate nutrients and do not fill us up. There have been many situations where clients have reported grizzly-sized cravings, only to then discover they have not adequately eaten an appropriate-sized meal all day.
For others, you may just feel overwhelmed and stressed out and think you need a snack (avoidance), but by utilizing some of the strategies discussed, you begin to recognize your emotions might be guiding your cravings. In this situation, it will be important to identify other coping strategies that can be used instead of using food as a temporary buffer to whatever uncomfortable feelings or situations are going on around you.
Overall, it is important to adopt a perspective of non-judgment toward cravings but instead, envision it as an opportunity to understand what you are thinking, feeling, and experiencing.
If you would like more information about emotional eating, fat loss mindset, fitness motivation, or body image, check out check out Dr. Machin's website at www.DrArianeMachin.com. She offers individual and group coaching, e-courses, and a 30-day virtual program for busy women called The Encouragement Café starting August 2015! You can also find her on Facebook!