Cravings can be a real challenge when you're trying to lose weight. I can help! Coaching is where it's at for managing cravings because willpower is short lived. Learning how to manage cravings with our brains, rather than managing it be controlling our environments is the way to food freedom.
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More from Well with Lisa:
Welcome to Eat Well, Think Well, Live Well; the podcast for women who want to lose weight, but are tired of counting and calculating all the food. I'm your host, Lisa Salsbury. I'm a certified health and weight loss coach and life coach, and most importantly a recovered chronic dieter. I'll teach you to figure out why you are eating when you aren't hungry, instead of worrying so much about what you are eating. Hi, welcome back to the eat well, Well live well podcast. This podcast, as you probably figured out is brand new. So clearly I don't have a bunch of listeners yet, but I imagine that if they did this topic would be one of the most highly requested ones. So don't you just love it when influencers are like, oh, I've gotten so many requests for this. I've just gotten so many questions about this. That's kind of how I feel about this topic, but in all seriousness, I do know that my clients struggle with cravings. So I'm guessing my listeners do as well. So, if you could request a topic before you even knew this was a podcast, I'm pretty sure this is the one you'd request. So let's jump right in. Let's start by defining a craving. I define a craving as an intense desire caused by your thinking. This is an emotion or a feeling, depending on which word you like. We can have cravings for lots of things. Shopping, gambling, sex, exercise. But today we're going to just stick with cravings as they relate to food. Usually when we have a craving, we are wanting to eat something that we aren't physically hungry for. That's the most typical kind I want to talk about. But I also use the word urge interchangeably with craving, and sometimes I do prefer to use the word urge because it's more broad than craving because it encompasses the desire for say having additional helpings, not just the desire to eat sweet or salty items when we're stressed. But the desire to eat also when you're bored or sad. Confused tired or just eating any type of food when you aren't physically hungry. I want to clarify that when I'm talking about the desire to have seconds, for example, having extra helpings here as a craving or urge. I use that word seconds in kind of air quotes, because what I'm talking about there is when we've gotten to that positive three on the hunger scale, that enough feeling. Then anything after that, any eating that happens after that point? Would be considered a craving or an urge. It's a desire to have more food beyond our physical hunger. I think that word urge encompasses this situation. Well, 'cause craving sometimes, sometimes make us think of wanting to eat. Something sweet or salty, for example, when we aren't currently eating already. So an urge can be that push to just continue eating more when we are already eating. So. Either way when we talk about cravings, especially to each other, as women, we often say things like we just couldn't help it. We sort of feel out of control around food. Like somehow we're eating against our will. And if feels really frustrating. I remember being in the gym a few years ago and I was stretching next to some women and we were talking and one guy was saying, you know, I buy bread for my kids seen, which is so there it is on the counter. And I mean, how do I not eat the bread? And I really did feel for this woman. She wasn't asking for coaching. So I didn't jump in and tell her, you know, that's just a thought, but. What I really just noticed was she thought that was her only choice was to eat the bread because it was there. Like she didn't have any other option, but to give in to her cravings. And we often talk about bread or cookies or chips. Like, it's just, well, it was there. Like I had to eat it. I have to get all of that stuff out of the house or I will eat it all. Which reminds me of another client. She would tell me, well, I made cupcakes this weekend and I had two but I didn't want to eat the rest. So they throw them away. And again, that felt like her only choice. She was thinking I can't have them in the house or I absolutely will eat them all. Incidentally, this made her family kind of bad. That that was her solution. Um, but of course we were able to work on that and I taught her some of what I'm going to teach you in this episode. So these two examples of either I have to eat it because it's there or I just have to throw it away. I often seem to be our only options. But really there is another way. And like I said, that's what I'm going to teach you today. So actually we have three options when it comes to food and cravings. We can react. Resist or allow, and I'll go through each one of those. When we have a thought about the food. And the emotional response feels very urgent. Like we must obey it. We react by eating. Our brains are pretty sure that we might die. If that urge is not answered. Not really consciously. We might die, but unconsciously, the brain is sure that this negative feeling of unanswered desire is pretty serious. So we respond by eating that's reaction. Reaction is also a pretty basic biological function. Meaning we see food or we feel physical hunger and we think, oh yes, food sounds good. And we react to that thought by eating it. So there's really nothing huge. That's gone wrong here. There's nothing wrong with reaction. This is actually our brain working as it should. The problem comes when that reaction of eating. Leads to overeating or eating beyond physical hunger or comfort. So I'm not even talking about like binging. And are gorgeous, but just regular. I ate too much and I feel extra full kind of eating. Of course, this reaction gives us an immediate dopamine reward in the brain, which then perpetuates the cycle. Then when that happens over time, as you have an urge or a craving and you immediately reward it or react to it, that urge will intensify. So the next option then is resistance. This is what we do when we fad diet. Because what we decide is, okay, I want to stop reacting to food every time I see it. You probably don't use that exact language in your brain, but essentially that's what you're telling yourself. You're like, I'm going to stop eating this certain food. And often you have a laundry list of foods that whatever diet you're on is telling you that you can't eat. So we decide to use resistance to not eat the foods on this. No, no list. Resistance to that urge is using willpower and that puts us in a lot of diet mentality. It creates a lot of rules and it also feels pretty temporary. Resistance says things like if I can just hold on long enough to lose weight, then I can go back to my regular way of eating. Resistance thoughts also use language. Like I can't have that or I shouldn't, or I'm not supposed to things like that. If you've ever been on one of those six weeks, slim downs or whole 30. They have the length of the diet right in the name. This, which always just makes me crazy. These kinds of rules create temporary distortions to the way that we normally react to food. You are in resistance. You are white knuckling it, and really this typically works for only a short period of time. Ultimately, it ends up reinforcing the urge because we move into reaction. Even if it's sort of a planned situation, for example, those six week type diets or 30 days. You're white knuckling it until day 31. And then you go ahead and react to that food that you've been cutting out for that timeframe. So you can see how this resistance really is the willpower that we try to use when we're on a typical diet. Willpower is similar to a muscle. It wears out it just fatigues over time. Well, power can be effective in the morning, but generally by the end of the day, it's all used up. So it's not an effective tool for longterm lifestyle change, which is really what we're going for here. Right. We're aiming to eat like our future selves to who live at our natural weight. And resistance is not going to get us there. That brings us to our last option, which is allowing. When we are in allowing we actually allow an urge to be in the body and to be present with it. Without responding or reacting to it. This puts us in charge as an emotional adult. If you remember my last episode, we talked a little bit about our higher brain. Versus our lower toddler brain. Our toddler brain wants to have that food. Right. And when you are allowing an urge, you're using your higher human brain to allow that topper brain to scream without responding. So when we decide when and what we eat, we allow cravings to be present without reacting. Or resisting. So that's the key really? We noticed the craving. We choose not to respond to it with our higher brain. And we process that craving or urge as you would any other feeling. This is different than how we sometimes use the word allow in the English language. Sometimes we use this word, like I really wanted a chocolate chip cookie, so I allowed myself to have it. Or another one. I allowed myself to order the fries. That's not what I'm talking about here because allowing myself to have it is actually reaction, right. Because your brain is like, Ooh, cookie sound good. And you're like, yeah, let's do that. And then you frame it with this word. I allowed myself to have the cookies. None of that is bad. If you want to order the fries, knock yourself out. I'm not telling you not to eat cookies or not to eat fries. What I'm talking about is allowing the craving to be in the body. And moving towards it, recognizing it saying, Hey. I'm really wanting a chocolate chip cookie. And then not eating it. That's what I mean by allowing. Being honest with yourself, instead of saying things like I shouldn't be wanting that, or I'm not supposed to, I can't have it. All of that is resistance. Remember all of that comes from resistance language. Allowing says, I hear you body. I hear that you want a chocolate chip cookie. It's not on the plan for today. I'm going to feel what that feels like to want a chocolate chip cookie. And not eat one. Where in the body do I feel this craving? What does it feel like? What am I thinking that is producing this emotion of desire? Causing this to be a craving. That's how you allow the craving to be present in the body. And move toward it. We've all heard of Pavlov's dog studies, where he conditioned dogs to salivate for food when they hear the ringing of a bell. So they condition these dogs where they would ring a bell and then they would bring them food and the dogs would eat the food. So pretty soon they were able to ring the bell. The dog would start salivating prior to even eating or seeing the food because the dog knew the bell was associated with eating. So they condition them to be ready for food or have this anticipatory, what we might call a craving response when they heard the bell. What you might not know. Is that they went on in this study to decondition the docs. So they would ring the bell and not bring the food. The dog would salivate thinking he would be eating soon. They'd ring the bell, the dog would salivate. They wouldn't feed it. They de conditioned them so that eventually they rang the bell and the dogs did not salivate when they heard that bell. So this is called reconditioning or counter conditioning. Interestingly, they even managed to decondition the salivation. By ringing the bell, presenting the food. So the dog could actually see it. And then taking it away without allowing the dog to eat it. Essentially, they managed to keep the dog from craving or anticipating the food. Even when the dog would see the food. They would ring the bell, bring the food. The dog would not salivate because he knew he wasn't actually going to be eating it. That's crazy. Right. Now, I know we're not dogs. Humans are smarter. We do have that higher brain as much as we love our little fur babies. We we are the smarter. We are the smarter species, but of course the dogs didn't have a choice in the matter because someone else was showing them the food and then not giving it to them. But we can learn a lot from this study of behavioral psychology. We want to be able to hear the bell quote unquote and not respond by eating the food. So, this is what I mean by allowing urges. We want to be able to notice the food. Oh yeah, that's good food. I do eat that sometimes. We noticed the desire to eat the food. Allow it to be present and not reward that desire with the food. When you practice this over and over the urgency will go down. You will decondition yourself and you won't need to either automatically eat the bread or throw away the cupcakes. You will see those foods. And the craving will get less and less urgent. You don't have to decline invitations from friends to go out because you're worried you might overeat. Or because you're worried you might eat something that's on the no-no list of your diet. You don't have to get rid of all your trigger foods or never buy treats. Your family likes or never be in the room when someone's eating dessert. You can simply notice that you have the urge to eat that. Not report it. And move on. A couple of reminders about how this allowing a craving works. It means you're going to move toward the craving. Instead of pushing it down. We actually want to feel it. I know that sounds terrible, but trust me on this. Pushing it down is not serving you. Be present with the discomfort. Of the craving. And then watch as it dissipates. The less, we try to push it down. At the more we try to bring it up and feel the craving, find it in the body. Describe it in detail. The easier it will be to let it go. One strategy is to not worry so much about your long-term goals when you're having a craving. For example, your longterm health goals or your long-term weight loss goals. Sometimes those things are just too far away. When you're first practicing this skill. You could try focusing more. Short-term just on how your body will feel shortly after eating. I'm already full I'm already at a positive three on the hunger scale. Maybe even a positive four from dinner. If I eat that brownie. My body will feel more full than what I want. So you want to kind of focus on that short term. How am I going to feel after a eat that thing? Will it cause bloating and cramping. Will I get a sugar rush headache. What will happen in my body shortly after eating. How long will I enjoy the flavor of that food? How quickly will it dissipate? Well, that pleasure dissipate. Some foods affect sleep or even being just being too full can affect sleep. Some foods can be inflammatory to some people. And so they might wake up with joint pain and stiffness. All these are short term and can help to focus on those. Like I said, when you're first practicing this skill of allowing other times, you'll want to think of your longterm goals, whether that be a weight loss goal or some other health-related goal, you can experiment and see which way works best for you. But I just find that most of the time we're focused on those long-term goals and we forget. To think about how this food is going to make our body feel in the very, very short term. Also, I want you to remember that. It's okay. And normal even to still have cravings. Cravings are not a problem. They're just an emotion to process. And as you practice processing cravings and allow them to be present in the body. Without responding to them. They will decrease in intensity. Think of a beach ball you have in a pool and you're playing a game where it can't come up to the surface, you're holding it under water. It takes a great amount of effort. You're pushing and thinking. I can't let this touch the surface. I'm not supposed to lose my grip on this ball. I've got to push it down. Once you were out and you let go, the ball pops up and goes away above the surface, right? Now imagine that ball is floating next to you. You notice that sometimes it bumps into you and other times it floats away. When you aren't trying to control it, it moves around the pool sometimes coming near you, but most often just floating into another corner. That ball is like our cravings. The more we try to push them down and resist them, the more effort it takes. And then when we let go of that craving or react to it, I think of that ball going way into the air. That's the reaction we have and often we end up overeating. After resisting an urge for a long time. If it's just floating next to us, we notice that it's there, but we are holding on so tight. It's not that the craving is completely gone. It's still there in the pool. But as we do this work of allowing it to be present without reacting. It can actually float away. It bumps into you sometimes. Like I said, it's normal to still have cravings, but we don't have to push it down. So, how do we get to this point? It sounds kind of like magic, right? That you just like walk through a room, notice there's cookies on the table and be like, yeah, I could have one of those, but it's not on my plan for today. I'm just going to be a person who wants cookies and is cleaning up the kitchen as well. You begin to be a person who's doing the things that you are already doing and feeling the craving. We don't have to like sit on the couch and meditate about the craving. We're just a person who's writing an email and wanting chocolate. Get curious about why you're thinking food is going to make your situation better and move toward it instead of criticizing yourself or trying to push that feeling down. We just want to be present and curious. I like to also think of examples where we didn't eat the thing. For example. There is a cookie on my counter right now that is marked with my daughter's name and a note, please don't eat. I have noticed that cookie pretty much every time I've walked through the kitchen. And my brain has been like, you should just have a little bite of that cookie. But her asking me not to have it. Is actually more powerful than my desire to have it. I noticed the craving for the cookie, like thinking I would like a bite of that. But my relationship with her is more important. I don't want her to come home from work and be like, who ate my cookie? I trusted you guys. I trusted my family not to eat this when I said to not to right when we have that relationship with ourselves in the same way. If the relationship with myself was as trusting as I am with my daughter or as she is with me, just leaving me a note was enough for. For her to believe that I would not eat her cookie. What if that was enough for ourselves? What if we just wrote ourselves notes? I call 'em food journals and we were able to trust ourselves enough to eat what we say we are going to eat when we are doing this. And we are getting to a lot of trust and building that relationship with ourselves, managing cravings honestly becomes so much. Do you see how this is not the same as using willpower? Willpower says I can't, I shouldn't, I won't. Willpower is resistance. Whereas urge processing or allowing the craving is kind and open and doesn't use any of that negative language. Another good analogy here is back to that tantruming toddler brain. Brooke Castillo who's one of my teachers described it like this. I think of a toddler in the grocery store, screaming for candy. If you reward the screaming with the candy, the toddler learns that screaming is an effective way to get what they want. If we resist the toddler. If we argue and scream right back then we become exhausted and eventually give in. When we allow the toddler to have their fit or allow the urge without reacting. Or trying to get this kid to stop crying. When you allow it to do what it does without complying or resisting, it will eventually stop. This is exactly what we need to do with our urges. That's the end of her quote. As you think about that tantruming toddler. I know if you've had kids, you know how hard it is to ignore a tantrum. Notice it's there, but don't reward it or push it away. As you consciously allow it to remain, it will actually extinguish itself and drift away feelings only last about on average 90 seconds in the body. It's not actually going to hurt you to let that desire go unanswered. The more times you do this. The more power you're going to have over it. And that's not willpower. That's actual power, meaning it's going to diminish. Not only that, but the more we stop reacting to our cravings, the less frequently they will come. I want you to try allowing an urge to be present instead of answering it with food this week. I love to actually write these down when you're first starting on this or working on it. Every time you allow a craving to be present. I just want you to write down what that food is. So you might just write. August 15th. I don't actually know when this is coming out. So I don't know if that date is right. But do you're just going to write today's date. And. Brownies. And then write tomorrow's date and donuts. When you get to a hundred, typically that'll result in about a 15 to 20 pound weight loss, depending on how much you have to lose. This is because processing our cravings for food that we do not need. Because we're not physically hungry for it. Is the way we're going to number one, get to food, freedom and number two, stop overeating so that we can reach our natural weight, because remember, I'm not talking about processing cravings for food that we are actually need to eat. Everyone needs to eat. That's not what we're talking about here. We're talking about. The cravings that are happening for food, that we are not physically hungry for. I hope that helps you with your cravings this week. If you have any questions on this, feel free to DM me on Instagram or send me an email. You can find all that information in the show notes. You can also find a link to schedule a free strategy session with me. So if you want to get really clear on some of the cravings that you might be having personally, or maybe you feel like I didn't cover. Things that happen to you with cravings. Or you just have a situation that you want to get a little bit clearer on. I'd love to talk to you about that. On a free strategy session call. So be sure to check out my calendar and find a time that works for you. All right, I'll talk to you next week.
Thanks for listening today. If you're ready to get some personalized help from me, I'd encourage you to schedule a free strategy session. Visit www.wellwithlisa.as.me or find a link in the show notes. We'll talk about where you currently are with your weight loss goals, and I'll give you some actionable tools. You can start implementing right away. Before you go, make sure you subscribe to the podcast so you can receive new episodes, right when they're released. And if you're learning something new, I'd love for you to leave me a review. Thanks again for joining me, Lisa Salsbury in this episode of Eat Well, Think Well, Live Well. I'll talk to you next time!