There are many causes of strong cravings for particular foods or flavors that can make navigating them seem tricky. However, gaining a deeper understanding of how cravings work allows you to mindfully respond to your bio-individual cravings.
Navigating cravings with mindfulness:
A craving might be a message from your body that it’s seeking a particular food to promote health and well-being (e.g., craving nourishing soups when you’re not feeling well), but cravings can be precipitated by your emotional state, physiological state, diet, routine, or even your surroundings.
When cravings arise, they can be a symptom indicating an imbalance occurring elsewhere – investigating cravings is a great opportunity to treat the cause, not the symptom.
Being aware of the different factors that may contribute to cravings can help you explore the choices that are best for you – if that’s eating some ice cream, that’s great; if that’s opting for carrot sticks, that’s also great. Maybe it’s even setting aside time to unwind, which after some investigation, you might learn is what your body ultimately is seeking.
1. Acknowledge the cravings.
Mindfully acknowledging and fulfilling a craving may be more productive than actively trying to avoid it. The simple act of acknowledging your craving also may help reduce its power and allow you to dissociate from it.
2. Explore the origin with nonjudgmental curiosity.
*THINK ABOUT: Is this craving tied to a habit?
Sometimes people simply desire a food or snack because they’re used to having it at a certain time or place. In other words, you may gravitate towards a particular food out of routine.10 For example, it’s common for people to feel a drop of energy in the late afternoon and reach for sugary snacks or drinks. Eventually, you may start craving snacks during this time of day simply out of habit.
Rather than going on autopilot, take a moment to tune in to your body. A brief moment of mindfulness may be enough to help you distinguish between craving something out of habit versus craving due to actual hunger or a desire to mindfully and intentionally enjoy a particular food.
3. Proceed from a place of empowerment.
Once you acknowledge your craving and determine its origin, you give yourself the power to dis-identify with it and determine how to proceed in a way that is best for you. Listen to what your body is telling you and enjoy exploring the deeper message that may exist in some of your cravings. Rather than feeling controlled by cravings, the empowered approach allows you to be a curious investigator seeking out the best choice for you at the time – don’t forget we’re always changing.
Whether you choose to move forward with fulfilling a particular food craving or explore another option to nourish yourself, the point is to make educated, empowered decisions that work for you.
Having cravings isn’t a bad thing. In fact, they are sometimes a good indication that you’re not getting the nourishment you’re seeking, which may not have anything to do with food!