How to Curb Cravings
We recognize a craving when an urgent need for something “specific” hits us.
For me, this hit came when I used to see a yellow bag of M&Ms. I would spot it in a vending machine, and had to find a coin. I bought big bags for friends every time we went for cards or a game night and snacked mindlessly while the stakes of the game got bigger! No ounce of willpower in sight.
So how do we go about breaking this complicated cravings code?
To help me conquer my tough M&Ms craving, I asked myself the following questions, which you too might want to explore around your cravings:
Have you been depriving yourself from it (were you ever deprived of it)?
According to the “theory of suppressed thinking” the more we try to stop thinking about something, the more we think about it, and I did-compulsively.
Deprivation also triggers the famine response, so I would overeat M&Ms whenever I found them.
I promised to no longer deny myself M&Ms and clearly communicated to my body that I can consciously buy it (not gift it) whenever I want. And I did. Then I went to work on these next questions:
When was the first time you had it? Who does it remind you of?
When M&Ms were launched, my younger sister and I received gifts and coloring books. The colorful nutty chocolate that “didn’t melt in your hand” reminds me of my sister and of the great time we had together then and how much I miss her.
To me this was about love and joy. However as an adult, those good feelings were unconsciously tied to chocolate (because of this memory). So I had to learn another way to re-experience my joyful memories without the M&Ms.
I learned a visualisation technique (visualization is the picturesque language of the subconscious mind) that worked wonders:
Look at the food you crave or imagine it in your mind’s eye. Allow yourself to feel all the good feelings for a moment. Next, see yourself gathering all those beautiful feelings into a ball of light around your heart. Now send this ball to the heart of the person who reminds you of those good feelings. See this ball reach their heart and grow bigger and more luminous, and then see them sending it back to you. Allow it to fill you up and then send it back bigger and brighter. Keep this exercise going back and forth until you feel complete and then look back at the food. Re-evaluate the craving and repeat.
The urgency to eat my chocolate decreased. However, cravings are also connected to other, less positive emotions, and I needed to dig deeper.
Were you a good girl for eating it?
Yes, I ate the one with the peanuts. My younger sister only wanted the chocolaty ones and somehow I related the peanuts to being the big girl (the proud child logic which you too need to consider when looking into any of your emotional responses).
I used the tapping technique here (watch the video in my article “The Surprising Way to End Emotional Eating” on how to tap). The setup statement I used this time was “Even though I am choosing to no longer eat my peanut M&Ms, I am still a wonderful big girl!”
I know it sounds funny, but we are talking to our younger self that is still stuck in this craving, and tapping is a documented method that works.
My cravings relaxed but they were still triggered when I got stressed, so I kept asking.
What is it about the texture that you enjoy?
The crunchiness! According to Alexander Lowen (founder of Bioenergetics which you can read more about here), anger, which creates tension in the jaws, could be the result of “biting back the words.” No wonder I needed something to bite.
If you are wondering what texture has to do with emotional eating, think of how mother’s milk is always tied to nurture, and people who crave creamy foods including avocado and nutella may be craving that exact feeling. Anodea Judith in her book Eastern Body Western Mind discusses how tension in the jaws could be triggered by an anxiety from hearing loud voices as a child. The same person may have also resorted to biting as a childhood defence. Craving crunchy food is the grown up version where the body actually craves relieving the tension (and maybe tune out the loud voices in our heads).
Lowen suggests “pushing a rolled towel back towards the molars until it creates a gag effect. The idea is to help relax the “temporal-mandibular joint” (to be specific) and that did the trick!
Reading the above, this seems like it’s a lot of work, but each one of the above exercises takes a maximum of 1 minute to complete.
I didn’t go about this at once. It took me a few weeks to reflect and test different techniques, as I wasn’t the expert I am now.
So be kind to yourself, take it easy and once you get through your first craving, you will get that taste of freedom that will empower you in so many other areas of your life.
And don’t forget, I love questions, let me know how this goes for you!