Many people starting a new dietary approach that is radically different from how they’ve eaten in the past struggle with staying on track with their eating plan due to cravings. They could be following a ketogenic diet to treat epilepsy or diabetes, an elimination diet for food allergies, a gluten-free diet for Celiac, a Specific Carbohydreate Diet for SIBO, or any number of other restrictive eating plans. For some, cravings are merely minor annoyances, but for many, cravings cause considerable distress and lead to overeating and perhaps even binge eating.
My goal with this blog series is to help you understand where cravings come from and then learn some healthy and effective strategies for minimizing cravings, all the while reducing suffering in your life and instilling a sense of calm and peace around food.
What is a Craving?
People have many ways of describing or naming cravings. Some people identify strongly with the word “craving” and describe it as a very strong desire to eat some food, typically “off plan”. Cravings can build over time, or seemingly come out of no where.
Other people may describe themselves as “stress eaters” or “emotional eaters”, being aware of specific triggers for cravings.
And even some deny that they have cravings, despite “needing” desserts or other sweet or pseudo-carby foods. They may use the terms: desire, want, need, like, or think about.
However you describe your cravings, they typically have little to do with true biological hunger (need for energy and nutrients) and have more to do with psychological and biochemical reasons. They have multiple origins and usually require a bit of work on your part to unravel and learn new skills.
Having studied psychology for many years as part of attaining my master of science degree from Bastyr University in both Clinical Health Psychology and Nutrition, I understand both the biological basis for hunger and the psychological basis for “hunger”, AKA, cravings.
Additionally, following a ketogenic diet myself since May 2015, I have experienced what you are going through, including intense cravings! I have learned a lot and will share all my tips and tricks for overcoming cravings and not just the “book learning” side of cravings.
Overcoming Cravings Series
Here are topics that I will cover as part of this series:
- Where do cravings come from? (5 senses, habit, situation association, addiction, thoughts, to numb/avoid/dissociate from feelings)
- What are “highly palatable foods” and why do they make it nearly impossible to resist overeating them?
- How does the addiction/reward center of our brain work and how can we use this knowledge to WIN over cravings?
- Don’t feed the raccoon! How fat bombs and keto-friendly desserts only reinforce cravings and make them come back with a vengeance.
- Finding a WHY that is bigger than your cravings.
- Mindfulness Skills: how labels and judgments cause cravings, how tuning into our physical and emotional feelings can minimize cravings, and how being in this moment (rather than worried about what we’re going to eat next, or guilt about what we just ate) reduces hunger and cravings.
- Emotional Regulation Skills: learning how to identify and feel emotions and feelings without turning to food.
- Effective Communication Skills: learning to talk to others in ways that we are more likely to be heard and understood. Often people who are ineffective communicators turn to food to “stuff their feelings” as a way of not having to confront others.
- Distress Tolerance Skills: how not giving in to every craving whim makes you happier in the long run. (This skill makes me think of Pink’s song “Try” with the lyrics “But just because is burns, Doesn’t mean you’re gonna die”)
- Transitioning to using food as fuel instead of entertainment or excitement. Here is where we explore feelings of being “bored” with food choices and what that means in our lives and begin to redefine our identity around our eating habits.
- A cool flowchart about Mood Dependent vs. Goal Directed Behavior that helps us understand why we keep using food to soothe, comfort, numb, or dissociate from our feeling and how we can learn to do something different.
And a lot more!
Where and when do you struggle with cravings? Which of these topics are you most looking forward to?
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