Monday, January 5, 2009

The C word....

Cravings? Ever have 'em? Nah, never, right? If you have, you're not alone as over 50 to almost 100% of people studied have experienced food cravings or an intense desire to eat a specific food. Did you know that the top 3 most craved foods are: carrots, celery, and broccoli? I'm kidding here. What do you think they are? Based on recent research findings, craved foods tend to be rich in calories, fat, and carbohydrate. So, chocolate, ice cream, cookies, potato chips all fit into this category. People also tend to crave salty foods, too! The underlying cause of cravings is still not well understood though recent research points at different factors such as learned behaviors (i.e., habits) given certain situations or stimuli, short-term calorie restriction, and the release of feel-good chemicals in the brain in response to eating certain foods among other things. Regardless of the reason they exist, the fact of the matter is that many of us have cravings, and cravings can wreak havoc on one's mind and efforts at weight management.

Did you know that the average craving can last anywhere between 5 seconds to 15 minutes? Seriously. I know. It doesn't seem likely because when we're in that craving moment, it can feel like an ETERNITY, and that's why many of us typically raise the white flag to them swiftly. The good news is that these things can actually pass pretty quickly. If we actually take the time to allow ourselves to make an informed decision, we will better manage our cravings. Get rid of them? Not necessarily, but managing them, now that's realistic! So, what do you do?

1) STOP! - The first step in managing cravings is to take notice! Put yourself on guard. Realize that you are experiencing a craving. Imagine a huge STOP sign or a red light or a whistle going off giving you the warning signal.

2) relax... Now's the time to take a deep breath or two.

3) Ask - In order to make an informed decision, you need information. So begin to ask yourself a few questions. What is it that I'm craving? Am I hungry? What happened when I consumed this food before? What will happen if I do it now? What do I really want?

4) Decide - Your decision can go either way. After pausing long enough to consider the options, you allow yourself to make a more informed decision. You can choose to go ahead and fulfill that urge and eat the food. Or you can choose not to. You are not {good} if you don't eat it or {bad} if you do. It's not a moral issue! It's a decision, and it can be a simple one. It just takes time to develop the habit of becoming more aware of the cravings and making more informed choices about whether or not to satisfy them.

Based on my experience with many clients, I've found that following these steps has helped many better manage their cravings. It doesn't make them go away. No, I'm not sure there's a cure for them...yet! But it can make the situation much less stressful and allow enough time for the person to reflect on the decision while the craving actually either subsides or a final informed decision is made not to consume the food. All I can say is practice, practice, practice!

Now about that chocolate...


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