Food cravings and your emotions

Our cravings for certain foods often depend on our current emotional status – happiness, sadness, anger, nervousness etc. But how much of a role do our emotions play in what we eat and how can we prevent them from controlling our diets?

Acknowledge your desires
The premise is that food cravings stem from our unfulfilled need to live life to the fullest.
"We desire so many things but because of our hectic lifestyles, we ignore the cravings of our soul. "Whether it's taking a trip to Morocco or developing a new skill. When we fail to acknowledge our desires, they manifest themselves as cravings of another kind, such as eating or smoking," says Wilkinson.

Identify emotional eating
The first step to overcoming emotional eating is to distinguish the difference between physical and emotional eating. A physical craving will not disappear if you try to wait it out. An emotional craving however, does not have any true physiological hunger behind it, so won't increase if you wait it out or distract yourself. The underlying emotion behind your hunger will only increase. Therefore the solution is to satisfy the real need behind the food craving.

You know when you are emotional eating when you find yourself eating something absent-mindedly. "You should always be conscious of what you're eating and take a few deep breaths before reaching for that doughnut. Assess whether you're really hungry or just eating mindlessly," says Wilkinson.

Balancing the emotions behind the craving
According to Pratima Raichur, author of Absolute Beauty (HarperCollins), repeated trips to the kitchen for something to nibble on or diversions to the cafe for a chocolate fix has nothing to do with hunger. These compulsions are more likely to be serving an unsettling emotion like anger, insecurity, fear or loneliness. We often trick ourselves into thinking our cravings can be fulfilled through chocolate, coffee, peanuts, or pastries when in actual fact it is a feeling of wholeness we crave and not the taste.

When we have a craving, we do not really want the taste so much as the sense of balance it gives. Resolving the emotions attached to eating is essential and more effective than using willpower to resist cravings.

Ways to reduce cravings
Satisfy all tastes – have one meal a day that incorporates all the different tastes – salty, sweet, sour, pungent, bitter and bland. When all tastes are satisfied, we won’t have any cravings that tempt us to eat junk food. When we eat a balance of tastes, the mind is balanced.
Sense – Use your other senses to stimulate yourself: listen to music, watch a movie or have a bubble bath.
Stash – stock up on low-cal, low-fat versions of what you crave most.
Stall – most cravings dissipate after 20 minutes, so waiting it out may help. Chew some gum and then occupy your mind with some other activity.
Sniff – studies have shown that the scent of peppermint can cut cravings. Pop a mint.
Shift – rather than focusing on eliminating a food entirely, cut down on your portions instead.
Swig -drink a glass of water before you reach for a snack.
Surrender – give in once in a while. Make sure you satisfy your craving with quality tastes so you really enjoy it.

For more information or mentoring guidance on developing a successful relationship with yourself, contact Robyn Wilkinson at or call her on 083 320 8080.

Do you often fall victim to your emotional cravings? What kind of foods do you crave? Let us know in the comment box below.

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