Ever feel like you need chocolate this very minute?
If you’ve ever tried to ignore a song that is stuck in your head in the hopes of getting it out, you know how difficult it can be. Cravings are exactly the same – that’s why trying to manage cravings by ignoring them doesn’t work. Even worse, research shows that women who tried to stop thinking about food (like chocolate) eat significantly more than those who didn’t. Ouch!
Studies have now shown us why cravings happen – cravings are a result of restricting foods, i.e., dieting.
You know the little kid who wants ice cream just because his mum told him he can’t have it? Turns out our minds behave the same way and forbidding foods increases our desire to eat them. The more we try to control ourselves, the worse the craving gets until we end up binging on cake, ice creams, chips or cookies.
I’ve been there, craving “junk” food every night after work. What started as cravings turning into overeating and stuffing myself until I was uncomfortably full, sick from so much food and guilty for breaking my diet. It’s a vicious cycle and the only way to break out of it is to stop dieting. Not only did this help me finally feel happy with food and my body, it also magically stopped cravings. Now I can eat chocolate, cookies and chips whenever I want and have them around the house without even thinking about them.
To stop dieting without the stress of gaining weight requires us to develop a healthy relationship with food and our bodies. Try this 3-step process to slowly transition out of dieting and find your happy balance.
Step 1: Relax around food
Most of us are too uptight about food- we count calories and macros, we feel guilty about eating anything that doesn’t fit in our meal plan and we aim to have the perfect diet day.
Rather than being so rigid, start by loosening up around food.
Don’t have “good” and “bad” foods – it only makes us want the so-called “bad” foods even more. Instead, eat everything you wish for happily and without limiting yourself. You’ll soon see that you won’t really binge on junk food like you fear because you are not restricting them in the first place.
Stop with “cheat” days or meals – they make us feel like we are punishing ourselves and make it so much harder to enjoy the food we eat every day. We deserve each meal to taste amazing, so don’t just reserve tasty food for weekends or cheat meals – add plenty of herbs and spices to your meat and vegetables, indulge in a freshly baked sourdough or a perfectly ripe fruit and have a cookie after dinner if you fancy.
When we remove all of the arbitrary rules of eating and go back to how we used to eat as kids, eating what we love and loving what we eat, it’s easy to find the right balance between health and food.
Step 2: Discover the joy of eating again
Eating can be blissful, calming and joyful when done right. Just watch a child eat a lollipop and you can see how much they are enjoying their experience of eating.
You too can reconnect with your inner child-like joy for food by eating mindfully.
Eat slowly, savoring the different tastes and textures of the food you are eating.
Go out for Friday drinks and long Sunday brunches – gossip to your heart’s content, eat hearty food and focus on enjoying the company (instead of worrying about the calories on your plate).
Eat not just one but two or three pieces of grandma’s apple pie slowly tasting it until you feel satisfied.
Buy the best dark chocolate, that expensive bottle of wine and treat your mind and soul to feeling relaxed around food, just like you would on a beach holiday in the Bahamas.
When you nourish your mind and soul, filling up on happiness mentally and emotionally, your physical body will respond by feeling active, vibrant and strong. You will no longer have cravings, you no longer have to fight to control yourself around food and the nightly binging will vanish.
Step 3: Start trusting your body to eat right
Food, like we just read, is more than the physical energy that we need to live our life. It nourishes us emotionally, helps us thrive and makes us happy.
The only reason we fear food is because we think it will make us fat. This is because we don’t trust our bodies to know when to stop eating. It’s not that we do not know how to eat but that we’ve forgotten it.
We are all born with the ability to eat just how much we need at any given moment. If you look at a child, they eat when they are hungry and stop when they are full. Sometimes they want chocolate and at other time, they’ll eat fruits and vegetables. You may notice that your friends who are happy with their weight also have no trouble controlling how much they eat – they simply leave food on the plate once they are full. These people are still in-touch with their satiety cues, and they trust it to stop them eating when they are full.
Unfortunately, years of dieting has made our bodies forget this natural satiety mechanism. Instead of counting calories to tell you how much to eat, let your body guide you instead – eat when you are physically hungry and stop when you are full. Notice how you feel when you eat fresh food versus junk food and let your body guide you towards your food choices.
When you eat this way, you’ll automatically stop eating when you are full and choose foods that make you feel good from the inside.
Summing It Up
Cravings then are just a symptom of dieting and a natural mechanism for our bodies to get back into a state of balance.
By stepping out of the diet mindset and embracing food whole-heartedly, you can crush cravings and start to enjoy food again. Will you give it a shot?