7 Essential Steps to Ending the Food Craving Cycle
by Cailin O'Hara, MAcOM, LAc, Dipl OM
I had pizza and ice cream this weekend... in the same day. I had a craving for a few days, so I went for it. And you know what? It was fun, and the world didn't end.
Believe me when I say that I not only understand the roller coaster of food cravings, but I've also learned the way through and off of that wild ride.
Cravings are often a signal that we are in need of nourishment. If you struggle with food cravings, chances are you feel frustrated and defeated when you give in and eat foods that you think you shouldn't. Maybe it happens when you're in high-stress situations or when you get home from work and want to unwind. Maybe the cravings come on at night when you're feeling lonely or bored. Whenever or however it happens, the pattern is the same: the cravings strike, you feel out of control, and you wind up eating foods you label as "bad."
Here's the thing- cravings aren't to be feared or hated. You are not out of control. Cravings are actually an important signal from your body that it needs help. It's not getting the nutrients it needs. On a deeper level, you aren't getting what you need. You might be feeling out of balance, overworked and over-stressed. You may be neglecting your health or your emotional needs. Whatever the case, your body and your being are pleading for your attention. So, how do you answer your body's cravings without overeating and going down the spiral of feeling ashamed and getting upset with yourself for "failing?"
It's easier than you think. But it absolutely must start with you genuinely being interested in your well-being. You have to begin by approaching yourself and your cravings with kindness and patience. The more upset you get with yourself for eating a bag of chips or a handful of cookies, the more likely you are to perpetuate the cycle of cravings -> over-eating -> guilt -> cravings.
(Be sure to read this article if you think you may have a problem with food or your body image: Disordered Eating or Eating Disorder: What's the Difference?
And seek help from a licensed mental health provider if you or someone you know has signs of an eating disorder.)
Here's my top 7 list of simple, effective ways to help you end the cycle of food cravings and cultivate a healthier relationship with yourself...
7 Steps for Healing Food Cravings
Enlist the support of your friends, family or partner in tackling this list. Even better, do it together. And remember that acupuncture and Chinese medicine are powerful tools to help harmonize your system, improve digestion and reduce food cravings, too. Weekly treatments will make a big difference.
1) Remind yourself that you are OK
This is the most important step! Don't demonize yourself for eating foods you crave. Don't make your life harder by being hard on yourself. Your cravings will likely only get louder if you belittle yourself. Negative self-talk (like "I can't believe I just ate that. I'm such a failure. I'm so fat") is actually a form of self-abuse... and it can be very damaging. Stop neglecting yourself and your needs. Instead, try approaching yourself with curiosity, patience and gentleness.
To help balance food cravings, start by developing a healthier relationship with yourself and get to know your needs. Ask yourself these questions:
What am I craving in my life?
Dr. Cailin O'Hara, DACM, LAc, Dipl OM, is a nationally board certified Doctor of Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture, herbalist and coach. She is based in Phoenix, AZ.