It’s 5 pm Costa Rica time, and I have finally arrived back from work. Right on queue, I sense a craving for sweets, specifically chocolate. “Come on, one piece won’t hurt. …” the voice of craving says. “It’s been a long day at work – I DESERVE a treat.” In fact, I’ve noticed that the voice has been saying this same message all week.
I'll admit I’m not perfect – even as a coach, sometimes I give into my cravings while other times I walk away (which feels great when I do!). When my emotional eating was at it’s worst, I found myself at the mercy of my cravings – unable to say no. What I recognize now is that when I’m not physically hungry, cravings for food often represent another need – perhaps something that my body, mind, or soul is hungry for at the time.
I have learned to be thankful for my cravings. They are clear messengers that something is off-balance in my body or in my life.
Perhaps it is a physical craving – such as the body’s call for water when it is thirsty or for a certain food if I’m lacking the vitamins/minerals. Or perhaps, the craving is emotional and spiritual. “If I’m not physically hungry right now, what is it that I really am needing?” For me, the 5 pm call-for-chocolate represented a way to relax and turn off my mind. I wanted a sure-fire way to feel good after a stressful day at work. Frankly, if it weren’t for the side-effects of weight gain and bloating emotional eating caused, I would be all for using chocolate as a primary means of stress relief!
In that sense, it’s important to recognize what positive purpose food is really serving for us - after all, we as humans always act from a positive intention no matter how self-sabotaging the action may seem. Would eating give us an energy boost, a way to zone out, or perhaps a sense of reward after a long day? Once we recognize the need being met, we can then find a non-edible substitute to replace the act of eating. After all, if food is the only thing we know to look forward to after a long day, no wonder it’s so hard to say no when the craving strikes!
So what might you make your non-edible replacements? Here are some questions to ponder:
1. What positive purpose is food serving in the moment? [energy boost, reward, sense of adventure/fun after a long day, way to zone out, etc. are just a few common ones]
2. What are the consequences of continuing to use food in this way?
3. How else might I fulfill the positive purpose without turning to food?
So this week, I invite you to watch your cravings when they do arise and be grateful when they do. You’ll often find they follow a predictable pattern each week and carry some valuable messages to bring your body and your life back to center.