Cravings! (Give It To Me Now!)
Remember the old cartoons ─ how they'd portray conflicting thought patterns with an angel and a devil? Those characters would suddenly appear on the shoulders of our protagonist, each pulling him in the opposite direction.
"No, stay strong!"
"You know you want to..."
"Do what's right."
"Once won't hurt you..."
Yeah, we have all been there. Take food cravings. They are not only our worst enemy, they can seriously disrupt concentration, positive outlooks, and goals. Occasional treats are no big deal, but cravings are obnoxious distractions that actually pull us out of the present moment.
Flinders University (Australia) scientists Eva Kemps and Marika Tiggemann published their craving related research in Current Directions in Psychological Science (a journal of the Association for Psychological Science) several years ago (sciencedaily.com). They consider the difference between actual hunger (when any food will do) and very specific cravings ─ when you need coffee oreo ice cream or jalapeno chips! With specific cravings, you visualize, in a big way... and it's those images that take over...
In fact, the strength of cravings may actually be linked to how clearly you visualize your food of choice. And since visualization requires cognitive functioning, we become less capable of other thoughts. One of the Kemps/Tiggemann studies indicated that people craving chocolate could not remember as many words or perform math problems as effectively. Cravings "eat" brain power... they are distracting.
So, what can we do when cravings hit?? Here are a few quick tips!
- Brush your teeth (or grab a piece of gum): Some cravings begin because we desire a different taste or flavor (than the one we currently experience). A clean, minty mouth is satisfying and often enough to squelch a desire for something unhealthy.
- Distract yourself (cravings are temporary): A little distraction goes a long way. Read a magazine article: pay those bills; phone a friend! The moment of chocolate desperation will pass.
- Get nutty (try a small handful of almonds and a big glass of water): A little healthy protein not only fills you up, it satisfies. I'm a big fan of nuts in the fall and winter (and enjoying the gifts of the season)!
- Work out: Nothing refreshes, inspires, and fulfills like a good workout. When you have accomplished something physically challenging, you are less likely to crave unhealthy foods.
- Meditate (with new imagery): Deep breathing, relaxation, and creative visualization (such as your happy place, not your happy plate) can be a powerful tool. Remove yourself from your current environment and "exhale the cravings."
Give it a try!