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Why and how we should embrace cravings

Embrace cravings? Really?!

Hear me out! If we fear our cravings, this is going to sound like the opposite of what we “should” do. Believe it or not, there are times when enjoying some of what you’re craving is OK, but I want to talk about willingness with cravings.

What I mean here is to allow your cravings to come and go. When we accept them for what they are, it’s easier for us to not allow them to control us. We are probably all familiar with that out of control feeling we can get when it seems like our cravings are taking over our minds, eventually leading to overindulging on whatever it was we are craving in the first place.

The other thing we don’t want to do is shove them down or attempt to “turn off” the craving. You may have also noticed that the harder you try to ignore a craving, the more you crave that food. It rears its head like an ugly monster. Someone tells you to stop thinking about the pink elephant. Of course your first thought goes straight to the pink elephant. Thats how ignoring a craving works.

It might help to also understand how it is exactly that cravings work in our brains. Cravings rely on our memory of certain sights and scents. They are also triggered by regions in our brains that are responsible for reward and/or pleasure. These intense desires to eat something are actually controlled by our overall health, life events, and daily habits.

So, let’s talk about some practical steps so that you can accept your cravings and move forward:

1. Be aware of the cravings when they appear. Say it out loud, “I am having a craving for (whatever food it may be at the time)” or, “I’m having the thought about this craving.” When you do this, you are externalizing or separating that thought from yourself. It might sound silly at first, but this is you actively allowing the craving to be, and can take the power away from it as well.

2. Don’t fight it. This goes hand-in-hand with point #1, but we want to simply let it rest in your brain and be conscious of it. Take deep breaths before running for the pantry. Ask yourself if there’s something deeper going on than just the craving. Is there an emotional pattern to when you crave this food?

Oftentimes we crave something when we are stressed or sad because of the memories we associate with the specific food we crave. When we notice this, we can gain more control over the cravings. Try journaling this out if that helps organize your thoughts!

Instead of shaming yourself for giving into a craving, say to yourself what you would say to a friend who told you they had a “slip up.” You probably wouldn’t tell them they were weak or have a problem, which isn’t true. Cravings are totally normal and happen to everyone, whether they admit it or not!

Normalize the craving and show yourself compassion. When we are kind to ourselves, we’re more likely to treat ourselves and our bodies with care, which means we’re less likely to indulge like crazy.

We can employ all of the behavioral tips like portion control, reducing stress, or eating regularly to reduce cravings, but the reality is that cravings begin in the brain. So, we need to learn how to address them mentally & emotionally as well - otherwise any habits or behaviors we try to stick to won’t be nearly as effective.

How have you dealt with cravings in the past? What are your patterns or tendencies that you’ve noticed? There is no judgement here! When we bring these habits to the light, it can help us work through them more easily and quickly, too!

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