It's the beginning of January and I'm getting questions from clients about how to control hunger and cravings. But because my focus is less on losing weight and more on awareness & sustainable habits, my answers to these questions might look a little different.
I think it's helpful to view hunger as a biological signal and cravings as a type of emotion. An example of TRUE hunger is when even an apple is highly appealing to you. Cravings are when you desperately want peanut butter, or when you can't get the chips in your mouth fast enough. Of course there is some grey area here because historically, the most calorically-dense food was the most nutritious; calories are what helped us survive as a species so that's still lurking in our "reptilian brain".
But the thing is that we are not reptiles, sharks, or chimpanzees. We live in the body of an animal but have the mind of something else entirely. We are not our thoughts; we are the observers of them. And therefore, we can decide what we do with them. Cravings aren't something to be despised, pushed away, or resisted. They are something to be noticed. Remember, what you resist persists. Pushing against something gives that thing power, but acknowledging, understanding, and accepting it allows you to move past the illusion.
You are not a victim of your cravings, your emotions, or really anything else. Actually, the fact that we can feel cravings and know intellectually what that means is an enormous gift. Every emotion we experience is a teacher, meant to remind us that we have evolved past the point of mindlessness. Cravings are no different!
If you're not used to observing your emotions and cravings without acting on them, be gentle with yourself. We aren't exactly taught that we have the power to make choices about our lives regardless of how we feel.
Try this: When you crave something thank that craving. It's the teacher and the reminder of your power to observe your own thoughts. And whether or not you give into those cravings is beside the point, really. It starts with awareness that we are not victims, and with the knowledge that being excited about our ability to observe our emotions can cause a shift in mindset, allowing for lasting change.
PS Please note that this is NOT about caloric restriction. It's about respecting ourselves via choices more aligned with what is best for our bodies. It's about craving Oreos and noticing the craving, and being curious why. It's NOT about how to stay within a certain caloric limit. I do not EVER recommend the restriction of calories. I recommend minimizing the intake of items that impede our health.