- in Blog by Melissa Costello
How to Decode Food Cravings
Food cravings can be tricky, because when they're happening, it can feel like nothing else but that certain food will satisfy you; you must have it right now or else!! The important thing to know is that our cravings have meaning and they are critical to understand when it comes to overcoming emotional eating or binge eating.
The real truth is, certain foods we crave show where we may be needing more attention in areas of our life that may be lacking, like self-care, self-compassion and self-respect.
This can be a hard pill to swallow, but it's true. Yes, food does change our physiology, and it can feel addictive, especially after a binge, but when you are having cravings, most of the time they are linked to emotions.
Food tends to be an easy solution in the moment. It changes our state quickly and there is a sense of instant gratification or comfort. Most of us will go for that feeling rather than truly facing what is really going on underneath the surface or addressing the challenge at hand.
It can feel overwhelming to address our emotional imbalances, so we head to the cookie jar, but that only lasts for a short while. There is no escaping it.
Emotional stress is a huge factor in most of today's disease in the body and mind. We are taught to deal with things, suck it up and move forward instead of slowing down to truly understand why we feel "off," stuck, isolated, ashamed or disconnected.
My 30+ years long struggle with emotional eating was linked to not only yo-yo dieting, but also my feelings of self-hatred, which all started when I was a young girl.
Growing up in an abusive household without safety and security, led me to believe that I was unlovable and that no one cared. This resulted in me feeling alone, isolated and not good enough.
Food (and sugar) literally became my friend. It was safe. It was the ONLY thing, in the moment, that made me feel better. But the feeling was fleeing and was no replacement for what I really needed. I was stuck in a vicious cycle.
I had to start to understand and decode my cravings, and know that I needed to give my emotional life some space and attention. Once I did that, I started to feel a sense of freedom I had never experienced before, and food started lose it's power over me.
To start to understand/overcome your cravings and what they mean, follow these steps to support yourself:
Step One to Decode Food Cravings
Take a Pause Before You Eat
Stopping to take a pause before you ingest any food, especially when you are in craving mode, will provide insight into why you want to eat. Take a moment to inquire within to see if something is upsetting you, or if you are tired, stressed or if there is a trigger present that is driving you toward the food. Do you need soothing, comfort, or to change your state?
Like I mentioned earlier, most cravings are emotional, especially if that specific food is ALL you can think about. If you were truly physically hungry, any food would satisfy you in that moment. It's important to look at what is driving your need to eat. For me it was always about loneliness, and feelings of general dis-satisfaction in my life.
The pause supports you in looking deeper at your cravings which is where your real healing with food begins. Giving in to cravings only keeps the cycle alive. When you are willing to get curious and inquire about what is truly happening, then you will being to understand why you crave the foods you do (read on to learn about what foods provide certain feelings and why you go toward those specific foods.)
Step Two to Decode Food Cravings
Give Up Dieting and Forbidden Foods
Dieting is one of the reasons why we have strong cravings, which usually leads to overeating and binge eating. Anytime we are forbidden to eat certain foods and we deprive ourselves, we are immediately put into survival mode, which makes us want that food more. We can be "good" for only so long until we go off the rails and give in to our strong cravings.
Dieting is also a distraction from looking at your behaviors and beliefs when it comes to food and your weight. Roughly only 1% of people achieve LONG-TERM weight loss with dieting. That's a VERY small percentage, which only leads to one conclusion: Dieting DOES NOT work!
The most important key is to know what's driving your cravings and what emotions are present when you are looking to raid the refrigerator or the cupboard. Let yourself eat the foods you love with total enjoyment and NO judgment. This will remove the forbidden-ness from them, so you don't feel so powerless.
Step Three to Decode Food Cravings
Understand What Your Cravings For Certain Foods Mean
There is a connection between the kinds of foods you are craving and what you are needing emotionally, mentally and physically. Yes, cravings do often come from deprivation, dieting and restriction, but they are also rooted in emotional needs as well. If you constantly crave the same types of foods, like creamy, sweet and gooey, or salty and crunchy, then it's important to know what those cravings mean.
Creamy, Sweet Foods: When you crave these types of foods, including chocolate, nut butters, pastries, ice cream, etc, it means you are needing comfort and soothing. These foods are often craved when someone feels alone, disconnected or needs some love and attention. They usually produce a feel-good chemical in your brain and change your state in the moment, even though it doesn't last.
Crunchy, Salty Foods: Cravings for foods that are crunchy and salty are usually related to people who are stressed out, anxious or angry. The act of crunching on food, helps to relieve stress. It is also a way to cover up and avoid emotional pain. In today's day and age, more and more people are stressed out from career, family pressures, finances and over stimulation. Eating these types of foods to excess will only lead to a lot of extra calories your body doesn't really need, which leads to feelings of guilt and shame.
If you find yourself cravings these types of foods often, it's time to take a deeper look and put some tools and strategies into place to help yourself instead of turning to food to numb out. Read on to Step 4 to learn how to do that.
Step Four to Decode Food Cravings
Get Support and STOP Trying to Do it Alone
The biggest thing that stands in the way of you ending your food cravings is YOU. Remember what I shared in Step 2? Most people who go overboard and give in to their cravings time and again, will swear to deprive themselves, start over again tomorrow with a diet, or give up that said food forever. This only leads to failure and disappointment, because it's NOT realistic. And it leads to you constantly breaking promises to yourself.
I spent years trying to overcome my food issues on my own, it wasn't until I got a coach who had been through the same struggles as I had, that everything changed for me and I started to understand WHY I struggled so much with my eating.
Take a look at where you have QUALIFIED support in this area, not your mom, boyfriend, husband or best friend. Even though they love you and want what is best for you, they don't have the knowledge or experience to help you truly break free and overcome your food and weight issues. Seek professional help, like a coach, especially one who has been through the same struggles and have come out the other side.
Lastly, remember that breaking these types of habits takes time, patience, consistency, commitment and a willingness to DO IT DIFFERENTLY. It may not be the fastest path to losing weight, but it will be the MOST sustainable one. As someone who struggled with emotional eating for over 25 years, I know firsthand that YOU can have freedom!!!
ARE YOU READY TO BREAK OUT OF THE VICIOUS CYCLE WITH FOOD?
I work with smart, busy professionals, just like you, who are frustrated and tired of the vicious yo-yo dieting cycle. I help them to stop dieting and radically transform their relationship to food so they can say bye-bye to diets once and for all, and find their natural body weight. If you're ready to finally BREAK FREE, learn more about my private and group coaching to see how you can finally create the life you have dreamed of that is free from diets and food struggles.