Aaaaaaaaand, we're back with Part 2 of the Decode Your Cravings series.
What did you guys think about Part 1? If you're just tuning in now, *HI, WELCOME new friend!*, please go here to check out my last post all about emotional eating - what is it, how to identify it and how to reclaim your power if you struggle with it.
Today, we're continuing the conversation and talking about cravings that have a mental or psychological source, namely habitual cravings and behavioural cravings. Let's get into it!
This is a kind of mindless eating where you have paired food consumption with a particular activity for so long, that it becomes less of a choice and more a repeated action. You know you’re experiencing ‘habitual hunger’ if you find yourself in the following habit loop: reminder à routine à reward.
Eating in front of the television or pouring yourself a glass of wine after work are classic examples.
Reminder: Dinner time
Routine: Sit in front of the television
Reward: Eat in front of the television
Reminder: Get home from work
Routine: Unwind by pouring a glass of wine
Reward: Drink wine
What to do instead:
Take steps to break the association completely by stopping the bad habit and replacing it with a new, more supportive and healthier habit. As an example, instead of pouring a glass of wine after a long day of work, head outside for a walk, go to a coffee shop after work and catch up on emails or replace the wine with a sparkling water or refreshing kombucha.
The key with habit hunger is to first recognize that you have made an unhealthy association and then consciously work to break the habit. Remember, habit formation takes time, so it stands to reason that breaking the habit will also require your commitment over the long haul.
This type of hunger typically happens to the scheduled eater and the clock is the trigger. One thing to realize is that the behavioural component of hunger can be pretty powerful when you adjust the frequency of when you eat. Many of us have been taught to eat every three hours (or 5 to 6 times per day) or to never skip breakfast and this has stripped away our reliance on our body’s own natural hunger cues. As a result of this, you will experience hunger at all the times you are used to eating. This is a learned response similar to the one in Pavlov’s dog experiments.
What to do instead:
Take this opportunity to practice mindfulness. Start by allowing yourself to experience the physiological symptoms of hunger knowing full well that being hungry is not the end of the world. Delay that morning snack until you feel the urge to eat. Focus on choosing hearty meal options, like nutrient-dense foods high in protein and healthy fat, as these foods allow many people to go without eating between meals. Let go of diet "rules" and focus on what your body needs instead.
And here’s something I recently learned from Dr Jason Fung, a kidney specialist from Toronto who uses fasting as a way to help his clients lose weight:
Eating does not necessarily make you less hungry.
When it comes to grehlin - the hunger hormone that turns on appetite - if you were to observe its levels over 24 hours in people who are fasting, you will notice that there are 3 distinct peaks corresponding to breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
What is really interesting is that the grehlin level (and resulting hunger) does not continually increase as you’d expect. After the initial wave of hunger, it recedes, even if you don’t eat, which correlates perfectly to the rationale that ‘hunger comes in waves’. If you simply ignore it, it will disappear.
My advice? Ride the waves of hunger – it too shall pass.
If this is an area you’re struggling with and you want support in overcoming your challenges and reaching your goals (to stop emotional eating and have freedom with food, your body and your emotional life), get in touch with me and we can talk about how I can help you do just that.
Question for you: Do you identify with having MENTAL/PSYCHOLOGICAL cravings? Were you previously aware of them? If so, what do you notice typically triggers them? Let me know in the comments below!
Stay tuned for the next post in this 4-part series all about HORMONAL cravings.