A reader posed a question to me recently:
“What is your strongest food craving? Mine is chocolate, followed by something salty (usually potato chips.) What is your best suggestion on how to curtail it?”
Great question. Unfortunately, as you probably know all too well, there is no easy answer. Well, there is an easy answer (Just don’t eat it.), but that’s not a realistic answer. Ignoring our food cravings can sometimes feel like a losing proposition, so how do we curb the cravings?
Let’s start at the beginning and get to the heart of this question: I have a few “strong” food cravings. I love, love, love chocolate in just about any form, but I also adore pasta. My family probably eats pasta for dinner at least three times a week — topped with tomato sauce, piled high with sauteed veggies, baked with cheese. You name it, and we’ll eat it if it’s sitting on top of pasta. And, as you know, pasta is not exactly a friend to the diet-conscious, especially this middle-aged woman facing new lows in the metabolism department. Add chocolate to the mix and you’ve got a diet disaster on hand. Especially when I don’t “do” diets very well, or at all.
Enter “Cravings“ (the book, not the feeling). During the writing of this book, I really tried to follow my own advice, which meant eating more mindfully and taking stock of what I was thinking or feeling every time I wanted to rummage through the pantry for a snack (one of my real weaknesses since I work from home, and the pantry is always just a few steps away). Using the practices outlined in the book really changed my relationship with food. And when I get too far from those practices, I can feel the old food feelings creeping back in, so this needs to be a lifelong shift — in a good way.
If you love chocolate, give yourself permission to eat chocolate (as long as you don’t have a health issue, such as diabetes). Eat it without guilt or judgment, but don’t overeat. I know, that sounds impossible, but just give this experiment a try: For one week, allow yourself one small square of your favorite chocolate after dinner each night. Eat it mindfully — smell it, look at it, savor it. Don’t do anything else while you are eating your piece of chocolate. Be fully present. Don’t think about how many calories are in it or whether you “should” be eating it. Remove all those attachments from this piece of food. You may find that you are just as satisfied by one square eaten mindfully with joy than by a whole bar eaten mindlessly while watching TV — and with shame or guilt attached.
Suddenly chocolate doesn’t become something to fear or avoid but something to enjoy and anticipate. I did this just yesterday. I wanted something sweet after lunch. So I broke off one segment of a Hershey’s dark chocolate bar and ate that. It felt indulgent without really being all that bad for me. Win-win. Curbing the cravings begins with awareness. Start there. (And let me know how it goes.)