Posts filed under Intuitive Eating

Why I’m Thankful for my Cravings

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.

“I wish I could stop eating, but I just love food too much!”

A few years ago, I was at Vegetarian Fest in Seattle where a vegan chef and author, Alan Roettinger shared what he believed it meant to truly love someone or something.  He shared that when he fell in love with his wife, he found himself paying attention so intently on how she moved, what she said, and what she did.  To him, to love meant to give complete focus and intention.  He brought that same focus to the food he made with love.

“I wish I could stop eating, but I just love food too much!”  I am guilty of uttering these words and have heard them countless times from friends and clients, who deep down are frustrated with the weight loss process.  Chances are though if you identify as an emotional eater or someone who is overweight, you probably don’t pay much attention to your food or at all.  In fact, you may find that you eat distracted perhaps in front of your phone or the TV.  Perhaps you may find that you are using food to go unconscious and to soothe, as is common in emotional eating.

So what if you agreed with Alan Roettinger’s definition of what it means “to love.”  What would it look like to truly love food?  Perhaps you would make your meal times special.  Perhaps you would place the food nicely on the plate, focus fully on how the food tastes, and be grateful for what it provides you.

Or perhaps, you’d discover what foods you truly like or dislike -  as one of my clients had in a mindful eating meditation.  Her infatuation with potato chips soon died after she fully tasted them and realized she didn’t enjoy the greasy residue it left in her mouth!

Latent within the excuse of “I wish I could stop eating, but I just love food too much!” is also the belief that we are powerless over food – that perhaps we don’t deserve our desires or that we are powerless in honoring both our desire for pleasure and enjoyment in eating and the desires and goals we have for our bodies.  But what if it didn’t have to be so black and white?  What if it was possible to honor both the experience of eating and desire to love and nurture your body?  It is in finding this sweet spot that we can begin to move closer to our goals in a way that is sustainable.

So readers, I invite you this week to notice what you’re noticing. 

If love means full presence and focus, where are you consciously and unconsciously sending your love?  What in your life are you focusing on and caring about that really does not deserve your time?

If you truly loved your food this week, how would you your eating experiences be different?  If you truly loved yourself, what would you do differently?

I would love to hear your comments below.