10 Ways to Outsmart Your Food Cravings | TMOHP Episode 083

There’s nothing wrong with a food craving. The difficulty comes when you’re in a cycle of emotional eating or overeating and it feels like cravings have more power than you do. I’m betting you’ve heard more than enough advice about using willpower and determination to stare down the bag of chips that’s calling your name. Self-control and “healthy substitutions” only go so far.

Controlling your cravings is exhausting. I teach a different approach in my program where I help women end emotional eating and stop overeating. It’s called the Overeating Freedom Formula. Instead of ignoring or withstanding your cravings, it’s much more helpful to understand them so that you can begin to take your power back from the cravings, from overeating, and from food.

In this episode:

  • The Overeating Freedom Formula approach and how it differs from denying or ignoring cravings
  • 10 practical ways to outsmart cravings and break patterns of bingeing, emotional eating, or overeating
  • The importance of creating an approach to food that fits you rather than following a one-size-fits-all formula

[If you love this podcast, will you take 30 seconds to leave a review? It makes all the difference in my ability to share this information!]

Resources mentioned in this episode:

  • Emotional Eating Quiz: Not sure why you’re overeating, or what your Hidden Hungers are? Take the free Hidden Hungers Quiz and get a free set of resources matched to your results.
  • Your Missing Peace  is the program for women ready to stop overeating and emotional eating for good. Enrollment is open and NOW is the perfect time to join us! Go here to learn more
  • Private Coaching. One-on-one coaching is for you if you’re looking for something completely individualized and specific to your situation. Openings are limited. Learn more here.

Enjoy the show?

Full episode transcript:

Hey everybody. Today I want to talk with you about cravings and what to do about them. And first of all, I want to say that there's nothing wrong with a good craving, and there's nothing wrong with satisfying a craving. Yesterday I had a craving for a cheeseburger and I had a wonderful cheeseburger, and it was an amazing experience. I loved it. I'm very happy about it. And life moves on. There's nothing wrong with eating a cheeseburger when you have a craving for one.

And I get a lot of questions about cravings that are cravings that you don't necessarily want to fulfill. So you have a craving for something, you are not hungry, you know you're not going to feel great after you eat it. It seems like it's more related to what's going on in your life than the actual food. And you don't know how to stop thinking about it, and you don't know how to keep yourself from eating it. And then you eat it and then you get really upset with yourself. Right? That's a different kind of craving.

If you have a craving that you really want to satisfy, then my advice is always enjoy it. Savor it. Let yourself get the satisfaction from the craving. Because what happens so much when you are stuck in a cycle with overeating and emotional eating is that you end up doing a lot of eating that doesn't bring satisfaction. There's guilt. There's self-blame.

There's all this self-talk going on in your head, even while you're eating. Maybe you're eating it in secret or you're eating it really fast, so your brain isn't really processing how mad you're going to be it yourself when it's over. And it, it just becomes this vicious cycle of horribleness in terms of how it makes you feel. And not actually the opposite of the result that you are seeking, which is, I want to eat this thing that is going to make me feel good.

So point number one, there's nothing wrong with cravings. And if you have a craving and you want to satisfy it, please let yourself feel satisfied. Savor, enjoy the moment. Taste the food. And if you have a craving that you really wish would just go away because you are not interested in eating that thing. I have some ideas for you today. Okay?

You've probably had more than your fill of tips on how to just deny the craving. How to just ignore the craving. Right? Keep busy. Go do something productive. Remind yourself of your goal. None of that stuff really cuts it when your brain is swirling with these images of chocolate or whatever it is that is calling to you from the refrigerator or the peanut butter. Right? Or going out to get that large order of french fries and you can't stop thinking about it and it's driving you up the wall.

Other advice that isn't helpful is, you know, just eat something healthy instead. Substitute fruit or broccoli for those tortilla chips. They'll feel just the same inside your stomach. No, they won't. The whole idea of self-control sounds really good, or it sounds really logical, I guess. And sometimes it might get you through a moment maybe, or two moments or an afternoon. But the times that cravings hit the hardest, these the kind of cravings that I'm talking about here. Not the kind of craving that I had yesterday for the cheeseburger, but these cravings that feel like they're haunting you that you really wish that you felt more power over. These cravings tend to hit the hardest when our self-control and our motivation and our bandwidth are already used up. Or were already feeling challenged. In fact, that is part of the reason that that craving often shows up. It's often a substitute for something else.

Now, the freedom formula approach that I teach is so different from self-control and willpower and being strong. And then blaming yourself when, duh, you don't have those things. Instead of denying your cravings or what you do when you, when you give into a craving that you don't really want to have is you react to it. I believe that your cravings are so worth paying attention to.

I want you to imagine what will shift in terms of power and control, and you feeling incapable and confident. Imagine what will shift when you learn why your cravings are so powerful. When you have control of that piece. Understanding gives us power.

So when you begin to understand why your craving has shown up. You, you shift what's going on. Think of this as the difference between being on the defensive, being reactive. Oh, I have a craving, must eat chocolate. Right? The difference between that being on the defensive and or giving yourself the space and the information to approach a craving proactively. Where you get to be in charge. Where you get to decide. Where you get to make the decisions. Reactive versus proactive. Defensive versus in charge. Okay?

So what does that actually look like? I am so glad you asked, cuz that's what we're going to talk about today. How do you take your power back from cravings? How do you put yourself in the driver's seat and what does it look like to be proactive?

Okay. The first thing is the complicated answer. The complicated answer is that learning why your cravings are currently having the power that they do over you. That is a different process from person to person. That may sound complicated. It it's not fun. It's not the five easy steps. Right? But this is so important.

Diet mentality gives you a one size fits all approach. Diet mentality teaches you over and over again that there is a right way to do this. There is a right way to tackle your overeating or your emotional eating. And that if it isn't working for you, you are the problem. That's diet mentality. That's deprivation thinking.

The truth is you are going to create the relationship with food that fits you, only when you learn how to create an approach that fits you. You are you. Right? There is no one approach out there that is designed to fit everybody.

This is a cornerstone of creating freedom from overeating. It is a cornerstone of my coaching. It is a cornerstone of what we do in the Missing Peace program. I don't teach a one size fits all formula. I teach you the process to create your own custom fit formula. So when you have cravings, it is important to start by learning about you. Your craving. Your life. What is going on? Why does this thing have the power that it does in this moment? Why is it feeling like something that is, or feels like it's impossible to resist?

There are endless ways to be curious so that you can learn about your craving. And so you can learn about why your particular craving happens to be so powerful in this exact moment. And there are also just some things you can try out.

To begin experimenting with. Things that you can try on and then see how they work for you. And so today I'm going to share with you some of those ideas. In fact, I have 10 of them that you can play with to outsmart your craving. To get ahead of your craving, to take your power back from a craving that doesn't feel helpful.

So we'll go through the list and then you can pick one or a few and experiment with them the next time a craving hits. Sound good? All right. I have for you today 10 ways to outsmart a craving.

I'm going to keep underlining the fact that these are not magic. These are not miracle solutions. These are methods. Methods that you can use to understand why you are having a craving. And also you can use them to get clear on or to start to get clear on what you can do instead of eating that will both sidestep overeating or binging or emotional eating. But also quite possibly shrink or evaporate the craving itself. Or melt it down to size so it doesn't feel nearly as powerful. All right? So here's some things to play with.

The first one is that you start by listening to your body. So simple, and yet we don't do it right? Start by listening to your body. Breathe for 30 seconds. Be curious about what you are feeling physically in this moment. Just take some breaths. Are you feeling hunger? Are you feeling tension? Tune into your emotions. Tune into your stress level. And breathe in this curious feeling. Ask yourself, how do you feel? Is the way your body is feeling related to the craving? Curiosity? Listen to your body.

The next thing that you could do or can do is to give yourself time to explore the hunger. Ask yourself again, you're going to notice this theme of curiosity all the way through this. Ask yourself what specifically you're craving. What are you craving and why did the cravings show up just now?

Are you craving something crunchy or chewy? Are you craving a feeling? Does what you are craving remind you of an experience or a feeling? Does it conjure something up? Is it, is it related to a memory of ways that you have used food in the past? Are you looking for a treat? What specifically are you craving?

The third thing that can really help is to slow things down. And it will be interesting because sometimes when you are in the midst of a craving that is the last thing your brain will want to do. Do it anyway.

Food that is eaten in a hurry, food that is eaten, eaten reactively is not as satisfying. And a frantic pace will not give you space for curiosity. So instead of pushing back against the craving, which is also kind of reacting. Right? Slow down while you think about the craving. Slow down even if you act on the craving. Slow down the process and see what you discover. Curiosity.

And here's a pro tip for you that may boggle your brain. If your brain tends to get stuck in perfectionism and all or nothing thinking. You can slow things down, even if you have binged or overeaten or given into the craving. Slow things down and be curious after you've given into a craving. What can you learn from it? What just happened there? What, what was going on? What do you know about what was going on inside of you, what you were feeling, what you were wanting?

Another method you can use is writing. And I would recommend longhand not writing on a keyboard, but writing the old-fashioned way. Challenge yourself to spend five minutes, set a timer, five minutes writing about your craving and about ways that feeding that craving would satisfy you. What would you find out if you just wrote about what was going on inside of you before you made a decision about what to do about the craving?

Another thing you can do, this is the fifth thing, if you're keeping count, is that you can experiment with postponing the craving. Right? Not depriving yourself or not as a secret way to deprive yourself and to trick yourself out of not giving into the craving. But postpone it. Make a decision to give yourself some time to learn and be curious.

So what would it feel like to postpone, reacting. And to just allow the craving to be there for five minutes or 10, or even 20? What could you learn if you simply allowed yourself to be curious about the experience of having the craving? Right? So not spending five minutes trying to quash the craving or be mad at yourself cuz you have the craving. Or tell yourself why you shouldn't have the craving. But what would it be like to postpone reacting to it and just be with the craving? Feel the craving? What would happen to the craving?

And I'm modeling number six for you. The sixth thing you can do to outsmart a craving, but, but that is simply to ask curious questions. Your curious questions are going to be different from my curious questions. But be curious. Be open, be interested in this craving. You might even ask yourself, okay, if I was to satisfy this craving. Right? I had this craving for a cheeseburger. If I was to satisfy this craving, what are the circumstances that would allow me to most enjoy what I was craving? And to savor every single bite of what I wanted to eat? What would really help me feel like I got what I wanted at the end of it?

For a lot of people, if you, if you just ask that one question, you will find that what would allow you to be most satisfied and feel complete with a craving is so different from the experience that you usually provide yourself.

That's just one curious question. There are, are, there are countless ways you could be curious. As I said right in the beginning of this podcast, but ask question. Instead of blaming yourself. Instead of just forcing those questions and those inquiries to be quiet and telling yourself you're wrong for having the craving. Ask the questions.

And here's a radical idea that question I asked you about what would be the, the ideal circumstances? What would allow you to feel most satisfied if you were to give into this craving? One thing that you can do is you could possibly try it out and see what happens. What would it be like to allow yourself to indulge? Under these ideal circumstances that you just imagined, that you just put together for yourself?

This can go all sorts of different ways. But I've seen participants in the Missing Peace program learn all sorts of interesting things. Feeling satisfied with less than they thought, not finishing what was on their plate. Even discovering that what you thought was your favorite binge food didn't even really taste good.

Really consider what would be the ideal way to get what I want from this craving? To really taste and savor and enjoy this particular food and try it out. See what happens.

Okay. The eighth idea that I have for you is another great curious question that you can play with before you get into a craving or even while you're eating. And that is how will you know that you've had enough? What will be your signal or what is your signal that you're craving is satisfied? What are you paying attention to? What are you looking for?

And then if you're at the beginning of a craving, or if you haven't yet started eating in response to the craving, it's fair game to ask yourself, is giving into this craving going to be satisfying?

Sometimes it will be. Sometimes what you really want is a taste or an experience, and sometimes the thing you are craving is not really the thing that you're craving. So is giving into this craving going to be satisfying? And if so, for how long? Is it going to be satisfying for 30 minutes and then I'm not going to feel good? Or is this going to be an experience that I really want to have?

This is another broken record moment, but I just have to say it. There is nothing inherently wrong with having a craving. Things start to get problematic when it begins to feel like food and your relationship with food and your cravings and your hungers have power over you in a way that doesn't feel good.

Which brings me to the ninth strategy that you can play with. And that is another question, which is, could you be craving anything else in addition to food right now? Are there hidden hungers in play? If you don't know what I'm talking about with hidden hungers, those are things that we, that we need or that we crave or that we want that aren't food. But that it is so easy to use food to replace. And you know, there's a free hidden hungers quiz on my website that you can go to. You can take it right now. You can get some awesome resources for what to do with your hidden hungers. Right?

Always ask yourself, could I be craving anything else in addition to food, right now? Or is there something I know I am craving that isn't food and I'm using food to substitute for it or to help myself forget that that is what I'm really craving. So important to pay attention to.

So many strategies on this list are questions, but that really is the hallmark of curiosity. Right? Questioning, wondering, being open to learning. I just want to point out to you again that when you are frustrated with yourself for your cravings, there is not a lot of space for questioning and curiosity and being open to learning.

So the last strategy that I have for you is surprise, it's another question. And it's a place that you might not get immediate results. You might not see something immediately. But asking about this can get you some very helpful information. I would challenge you to be sure to ask this question. Ask yourself, is there anything about this craving that has me feeling stuck?

Because you're a smart woman and if the answer was obvious, if you knew how to take care of whatever it was that was creating this craving for you that probably isn't about food and that you don't want to act on. You're a smart woman and if, if you knew what it was or you knew what to do with it, you probably would have done it by now.

So is there anything about this craving that has you feeling stuck? For instance, you might be, you might know that you're wanting to eat because you're sad. And you want to give into the craving because you aren't sure what else to do because you aren't in a situation where you can have a good cry. That's just one example.

Instead of setting yourself up to repeat a pattern that doesn't work for you. Which is using food to deal with a situation that you feel stuck in. Take the bold step, ask yourself, is this something you could get help or support or new tools or resources to help you with? Is there something else you need? Is this a situation that you could be proactive about in the future if you had a way to get what it is that you really needed?

We human beings are so impatient for the quick temporary fix. I think it's just part of the human condition. And this is just one of the reasons that emotional eating can become such a pattern in our lives.

When was the last time that you let yourself simply wonder? Simply wonder and be curious about your patterns with food. Without judging them or without judging yourself. Here's the thing, these patterns and part of these patterns are your cravings. Part of these patterns are the overeating that you do that you don't like. These patterns are telling you something.

There is such power and curiosity. Even if answers don't bubble up immediately. Giving yourself space and asking smart questions can move you out of the redundant, the repetitive struggles. And they can help point you toward what you really need to create the results that you want. And you can create the results that you want.

So there you have it, 10 new ways to play with a craving. And honestly these are 10 ways that you can keep using over and over again and experimenting with and refining to take your power back from food.

I'll talk to you soon.

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Your Missing Peace is the psychologist-designed program that provides the tools, the support, the coaching, and the confidence to create freedom from emotional eating and overeating. Finally - emotional eating help done right! Your Missing Peace is specifically designed for smart, high-achieving women who are DONE with diets, who want a lasting solution, and who are ready to take their power back from food, from overeating, and the scale. 

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