Bronnie and cravings – dietflex

Bronnie and cravings

Craving imageSo many people are familiar with cravings that it seems to be an ordinary part of life. Going on a ‘diet’ only seems to makes cravings intensify, but are the cravings physical or emotional?

Bronnie has been fighting cravings for a few weeks now. Staying strong, she resisted and rightly felt proud of that achievement, but at the same time still had the desire to “have a taste” of something she felt she ‘shouldn’t’. After 10 weeks following her new healthy eating pattern, the question is whether Bronnie’s cravings are physical or emotional?

Physical cravings are ones where your body is giving signals that a particular food is needed. Specific areas of the brain are affected by cravings as well as addiction – to food or to drugs. With food, it is most often sweet foods that are craved, frequently chocolate.

In the early stages of making changes to food choices, physical cravings can be a problem as the body makes changes to specific enzymes and hormones. The good news is that they last usually only a day or two, but sometimes up to two weeks. Knowing this and being forewarned can be helpful in getting through the relatively short period of discomfort before settling comfortably into a healthier eating pattern.

Giving in to a physical craving simply lengthens the amount of time it takes before your body is comfortable without that food.

Emotional cravings may come about through feeling deprived, not being ‘allowed’ to eat a food, or simply seeing someone else eating a food that you know you ‘should not’ eat. There is no true physical component to it; instead you feel that you want it rather than need it. It may be a result of remembered tastes, taking you back to a fondly-remembered time or place, or the temptation of a favourite food.

Giving in to an emotional craving has different effects for different people:

  1. Some give themselves ‘permission’ to eat a food they crave; and if this permission is proactively given – before the craving arises – it is often easier to resist the craving.
  2. Some give in to the craving, eat the food and enjoy it, feel satisfied, and get right back on track with their healthy eating.
  3. Others give in to the craving only to feel intense guilt and disappointment at their lack of will power or discipline. Their response then goes one of two ways:
    a. They berate themselves and then get back to their healthy eating patterns.
    b. They berate themselves and give up, with internal dialogue such as “You’re hopeless and will never be able to lose weight anyway. Why even try?”

So what did Bronnie decide was right for her? She initially thought that she could have a taste and then get straight back on track, and was confident that this would work for her. As a result, she had some lemon curd (“but not the base”), resolved her feeling of deprivation and is back on track. Despite not losing weight this week, she is feeling better and the cravings that have been plaguing her have disappeared.

The key to effective management of emotional cravings is to be honest with yourself and determine which of the above categories you fall into. Once you have a clear idea of how you’re likely to react it is easy to plan a strategy to successfully deal with your cravings.