“Cravings are normal, especially for those who are dieting or attempting to restrict particular foods. They are nothing to feel guilty or concerned about.
Having a craving doesn’t mean you’re hungry. One difference between food cravings and hunger is that food cravings tend to be highly specific, involving intense desires for specific foods, while hunger produces a more general desire to eat almost any food that is available. Chocolate, ice cream, cookies, bread, and salty snacks are commonly craved foods. If only ice cream will do, it’s a craving, not hunger.
Common cravings are generally not indicative of specific nutritional needs, but are better explained by various psychological theories.3 Your body doesn’t need the food you crave. It is only that your brain desires it.
Cravings don’t last forever. You don’t need to give in to a craving, and you don’t need to completely eliminate it. All you really need to do is outlast it. Outlasting a craving doesn’t have to be difficult. You just need the right tools.”
Ways to Overcome Cravings:
“Focus Your Thoughts on Something Else
A craving is generally prompted by the sight or smell of a favorite food, or by an unpleasant emotion that brings on thoughts of a comfort food. When you continue to think of the craved food, you keep the craving alive. Your thoughts usually involve visual images — if you are craving doughnuts, you probably have an image of a doughnut in your mind. Now here’s the key to calming the craving: the part of your mind that holds visual images can hold only one image at a time. If you deliberately imagine something else, the new image will displace the image of the craved food, and your craving will gradually diminish. Sometimes, however, your craving is so strong you are unable to think about anything else long enough for the craving to subside. Next time you have a food craving, try this. Without looking at your hand, touch an article of your clothing. Find a seam and move your fingers across it. Notice the changes in form and texture that you feel. As you do so, images of the fabric will enter your mind and displace the mental image of the food you are craving. Continue this exercise for about a minute, or until the craving is gone.
Remember What You Really Want
If you don’t really want to lose weight, you won’t have much success, no matter how much effort you put into it. You will find ways to sabotage your own efforts and keep the weight on. Perhaps you are afraid of the attention or higher social expectations that having a more attractive body might bring. Maybe you are afraid that if you lose weight, you will no longer fit in with your friends, or that you will be rejected by family members. Maybe the extra weight helps you feel safe. Maybe being thin just doesn’t seem to be worth the extra effort that will be required. If you don’t really want to have a slimmer body, this book won’t do you much good.
On the other hand, if you really do want to lose weight, the emotional power of this desire can help you counter your cravings. Spend a few minutes and put your specific weight loss goal, and reasons behind your goal, on paper. Write on a small card what you really want (to be a certain weight or size, for example) and why you want it. Your motives might include health, relationship, or emotional benefits, physical goals (such as a desired hiking vacation), or other reasons.
When you experience a craving, look at the card, think about what you really want and why, and ask yourself if giving in to the craving would help you get there. Give it some serious thought for at least a minute, or until the craving is gone.
You can also use this tool to head off cravings before they occur. If you know you are going to be in a situation that prompts cravings, look at your card and spend a minute or so remembering your weight loss goal and reasons, then keep those motivating thoughts in mind as you pass through the tempting situation.
See the Food in a Different Light
Advertisers often use imagery to manipulate your perception of foods and induce cravings. You turn the page of a magazine and see a picture of a chocolate-glazed doughnut bathed in soft light, over a white tablecloth, poised next to a pair of luscious red lips. You can almost taste the glistening icing. You suddenly crave doughnuts.
You can use your own mental imagery to see the doughnut in a different, less flattering light, so it no longer seems so desirable. Try this. In your imagination, replace the red lips with a pair of doughnut-devouring maggots. (I’m making this up, and so can you.) Imagine a spot of green mold on the side of the doughnut. Replace the white tablecloth with a dirty sidewalk, the doughnut surrounded by flattened, blackened pieces of discarded chewing gum. Now imagine taking a bite of it. Taste the bitter mold. Keep this up for about a minute, or until the craving is gone.”