Hands up if you’ve tried pretty much everything to kiss goodbye your food cravings and had very little success so far?
With mindful eating, you don’t need to spend plenty of time and energy on crushing your cravings completely.
Do you tell yourself that you absolutely can’t have a particular food and then find that it works against you in the long term as the craving intensifies?
Think of it this way: if I were to tell you not to think about a pink elephant, guess what immediately pops up in your brain? No matter how hard you try, it’ll be difficult to shift the mental image of the pink elephant!
Your cravings can be a little bit like this too. Denying yourself completely, often means that your cravings don’t magically go away, even if you make a concerted effort to distract yourself. It’s common for them to actually get stronger … a lot like the thought of the pink elephant.
When experiencing a craving you may adopt a “now or never” attitude. If you give into the craving you may find yourself eating more than you intended to as you could think that it’s your last opportunity to eat the food you were craving.
There’s another problem with craving ultra-processed foods: according to research it affects your hunger hormones, Leptin and Ghrelin and makes it harder for your body to recognise when you’re genuinely hungry or genuinely full. Unsurprisingly, this means eating a lot more than you would otherwise … usually involving other unhealthy foods.
Another finding from the same research involved the speed at which food was being eaten. The group of participants that ate the ultra-processed food tended to eat more quickly, compared to the non processed food participants. This lead the researchers to question whether speed was a big factor in the brain being able to recognise signals that they were full.
How mindful eating turns the tables on cravings:
The tool of mindful eating brings an awareness into your eating experience. Mindful eating is all about slowing things down and bringing every one of your senses into the equation.
By eating mindfully you’re not letting your cravings take control but you are allowing yourself a little bit of what you are craving and taking the opportunity to savour it. Your brain knows that there will be other opportunities to satisfy the craving so the “now or never” mentality isn’t a big issue. The end result? It’s much easier to bring your cravings in check and to end up eating less as a result.
Mindful eating can lift the lid on why you’re having cravings in the first place. Stop and look at the thought you had when the craving hit. Once you recognise the thought, you may decide that you don’t even need to feed the craving as you don’t have a genuine physical need to eat.
Some tips to start your journey into mindful eating:
- Eat using your senses:
Appreciate what you’re eating and pay close attention to the smell and look of your food before you even put it into your mouth. If you’re eating junk food, being more mindful of the taste and the texture of the food could make you aware of how salty, sweet or just plain processed the taste truly is. Chances are, it’s going to be a lot less appealing once you become aware of this.
2. Chew your food before you swallow it:
When you take that first bite of something you’ve been craving, resist the urge to dive straight into the next one. Put your cutlery down in between bites. The more you chew each bite before swallowing, the better for your digestion. Taking more time to savour your food helps you to enjoy it more and sometimes, you’ll realise that your cravings weren’t quite as strong as you thought and you’ll feel satisfied after just a few bites.
It’s not always easy to get to grips with mindful eating, especially if you’re used to eating quickly and not tuning into your body’s hunger signals. Over time, it gets a lot easier to overcome unhealthy relationships with food, including cravings, overeating and emotional eating.
According to the results of a 2014 study, a mindful approach to eating can help to build a healthier relationship with body image and curb “disordered eating” such as binge eating. From a cravings perspective, many of the women who took part in the study also reported that they spent less time yearning for high fat and sweet treats.
If you’re struggling with cravings, mindful eating could be the lifestyle change that helps you to get back in control of your eating habits and spend more time enjoying what you eat.
Medical Disclaimer: All information contained in this blog is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent health problems. For all serious health issues, please contact a medical or nutrition practitioner. The information provided in this blog is based on the best knowledge of the author at the time of writing and we do not assume liability for the information within this blog, be it direct or indirect, consequential, special, exemplary or other damages.