Last night, when the kids finally went to bed and the house was quiet, the little voice inside my head said, “Gimme CHOCOLATE!” I thought for a moment and asked myself, “Could I be hungry? When was the last time I had eaten something?” No, I was actually still full from dinner, so what was fueling this craving?
Cravings are driven by a number of different mechanisms – blood sugar swings, hormones, environmental cues (smell, sight), calorie restriction/chronic dieting (survival mechanism), feedback/status of fuel storage (glycogen, fat), history of other addictions, experience (past love/pleasurable experiences increase cravings – emotional memory).
Some women tell me they crave chips and salsa. Some couldn’t live without wine, cheese, and bread. Others have no problem diving head first into a tub of Chocolate Fudge Brownie ice cream. Whether you crave salty, sweet, or greasy, or some combination of those, the bigger issue is the outcome of eating these foods and why we turn to them in the first place. For most of us, it’s a habit. We’ve been turning to food for years. It’s like we’re on autopilot. Craving strikes and we respond without even thinking. So we have to break that cycle.
Next time the voice inside your head calls out for something, don’t answer it right away. Assess the situation and ask yourself a few questions? When was the last time I ate? Am I really hungry? If not, what is the emotion I’m feeling right now that I’m afraid to deal with and would rather suppress with food? Now we’re getting into some serious stuff. Emotional Eating.
We eat when we’re happy and we eat when we’re sad. Lonely, bored, depressed, anger, frustration, reward, procrastination, emptiness. We turn to food. It’s an easy out. And we’re good at it because we’ve been doing it for so long. Rather than confront the emotion and find a healthy way to deal with it, we eat to stuff the emotion. Confronting is very difficult, but is the first step to emotional health.
The next time you want to eat something and are not truly hungry, ask yourself what it is you are feeling. Try to put a name to the feeling. Do you have a big project at work that hasn’t yet been started and the deadline is quickly approaching? Don’t know how to get started, so you keep putting it off for later. Procrastination. Well, that project isn’t going away any time soon, so figure out one small task you can accomplish to get you started. When you have a starting point, it’s much easier to continue. This same exercise can be done with other emotions you may be feeling.
The bottom line is this, don’t live life on auto pilot. If you feel that your current life has you spinning out of control, it’s time to put a stop to in and do something about it. Confront and take action, one little step at a time. You can do it.