Managing Cravings

Everyone has them, how do we deal with them?

Written By Christopher Corden

1083 Words – 4 Minutes Read Time

Cravings are an odd one.

You have a goal, for context, we’ll say its weight loss, you’ve been eating well, you’re not hungry, you’re watching tv and all of a sudden, you’re opening a packet of biscuits.

The part you missed was getting up and grabbing them from the kitchen.

What the hell? I mean, it’s not like you needed food? You’ve eaten three meals! So what happened?

Well, it normally starts long before you’ve reached the stage of eating the biscuits.

Firstly, how did they get into your house? Heck, how did they get into your hand?! You’re excused if you didn’t buy them, but if you didn’t, you still knew they were there.

There’s a good chance that you’re not actually hungry, you’re more than likely just unstimulated mentally or stressed to high heavens. I know that sounds weird, but, here’s the thing, humans love dopamine, it gets us to do things again, and eating is a sure fire way to get a nice boost of dopamine. Especially if its something that’s high in sugar, fat, or both. It’s your brain saying, good job, that is going to keep us warm for winter!

If we’re stressed, we usually have low dopamine levels, meaning that a treat will temporarily mitigate that feeling of stress.

This creates a positive feedback loop associated with whatever caused the dopamine spike.

TV -> bored -> biscuits -> stimulated brain – not bored.

This can also go as follows:

Stress -> Biscuits -> Not stressed for 10 minutes -> Stress -> Mild Guilt -> Stress -> Biscuits. ( This is usually more damaging than just being bored. )

You can replace “Biscuits” with

crisp/chocolate/sweets/bread/ice cream/cake/cookies, you get the picture.

The next stage is the shopping, now, this is a tricky one for multiple reasons. A shop is one of those places that is designed to make you want to buy things you probably don’t need.

Some pretty clever people realised that with the right ingredients, texture, taste, packaging and marketing, people will buy biscuits, among other things. They love them! They can’t get enough of them! (You can’t change that. Keep that in mind.)

So, we probably can’t defeat cravings here, but you can have a rigid list of things to buy that doesn’t include them. That’s one solution, potentially, but it alienates you and your favourite food, so it’s not a good solution, we’ll keep digging.

They can’t be that bad right? That’s true, but they’re bumping up your calories like there’s no tomorrow…

Well, can we do something about that? Sure! Go for a walk. Be more active throughout the day, eat a bit less, accepting that to eat those biscuits, you may have to be a little hungry. Although, if you’re hungry, you’ll eat A LOT of biscuits, so, maybe something else?

The first step is identifying your triggers, are you craving because your stressed, or because you’re bored? It might even be both.

You won’t get rid of your cravings unless you get rid of the stress.

So, craving management is more about stress management or mental stimulation.

We’ll talk about stress first. We are in a chronically stressed society.

Firstly you need to identify what is stressing you out. This could be so many things, work, partner, traffic, training, not training, lack of nutrition, holding on to tension etc. You know yourself better, and more than likely you know what’s stressing you out. If you can’t figure it out, get out a piece of paper and try to nail down exactly what it is. It could be multiple things 🙁

Secondly, you need to find something that actively works to alleviate that stress. Action is the important part here, it’s all well and good to say “Jesus, I am stressed because of x/y/z” -> [Cue the Biscuits]. You need to have a contingency plan.

What works for others might not work for you, personally, I exercise, a lot. I even notice when I’m not exercising that my head just builds up stress. It’s hard to describe. I also like writing advice, good or bad it gets my mind off of things.

A very effective method is something that involves moving physically. Your physical and mental health are strongly connected, a healthy, relaxed body more than often leads to a healthy, relaxed mind.

Something I came across recently is what’s called progressive muscular relaxation. The concept is simple, you tense each muscle in your body, then slowly relax on letting go of the tension in that muscle.

Start with your lower legs, and work all the way up to your face.

So Calfs – Quads – Hamstrings – Glutes – Abs – Lower Back – Chest – Back – Shoulders – Arms – Traps (beside your neck) and finally scrunch your face like your angry with sand in your eyes.

Then let it aalll relax. Do each segment one part at a time.

Take a deep breath, tense for 5-10 seconds, then relax that muscle over 5 seconds while breathing out.

This works wonders at releasing a surprising amount of tension and even helps me sleep. Another benefit to this method is simply being still and somewhat calm as well as focusing on relaxing purposefully.

Your mind is a supercomputer, it takes in thoughts and emotions and creates your environment. Letting go of tension and stress can change a lot more than how you feel. Also, this is something you should repeat not only when you feel stressed. A good time to do it is before going to sleep!

You can also try; walking, improving your diet, exercising, calling someone to rant while you go for a walk, stretching out, meditation, diaphragm breathing (also a great one), improving your sleep, reducing your exposure to stressful situations, working on your mindset around particular things. Or all of these if you’re insanely stressed.

If the issue is that you’re bored, you would be better served to go for a walk (not to the kitchen), reading a book you enjoy, finding something engaging to watch on tv, learning a new skill. Keep yourself entertained and potentially, more importantly, is keeping yourself somewhat full. Increase the number of vegetables you eat per meal, if you do get a craving, try drinking some water first to see if it clears.

Lastly, sometimes it’s okay to have the biscuit. It always depends on your goals, but don’t let it be something you can’t control and don’t ever believe that it is something out of your control. Whether you believe it is or it isn’t, you’ll be right.

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