Thursday, August 8, 2013

How to handle a craving - step 1: make a decision

Reprogramming my thoughts with cognitive behaviour therapy has significantly decreased the number of cravings I experience on a daily basis.

Ironically, the fact that I don't experience as many cravings means I have less opportunity to practice handling cravings during those spontaneous food moments during the day.

Such as when the manager asks if I'm interested in a piece of leftover black forest cake from the department potluck. OR when I grab an extra arrowroot cookie for the kids and grab a few for myself (same goes for chocolate chips from the pantry). OR when you are camping and there are enough snacks for a five families instead of two.

I'm not really thinking about what I'm doing - it's completely mindless eating. What I've noticed about mindless eating is that I don't make a decision to eat or not - I just eat. Eating just seems to happen.

So the first step to handle a craving is to make a decision - am I going to eat or not?

By making a decision on whether or not to eat allows me to slow down and consider whether or not I want to eat. And come up with a plan based on my decision to eat or not.

This is not as easy as it sounds. Sometimes I consciously avoid making a decision. Sometimes I completely forget to make a decision. It's difficult to overwrite a 30 year old behaviour with a new behaviour.

My strategy to make a decision first is to write down the food and amount of food that I'm going to eat before I eat. By writing it down in my Evernote food book, I'm forced to think about my decision:

- Do I really want to eat this food? Why?
- If I decide to eat this food, how much am I going to eat?
- If I decide to not eat, what do I need to do to ensure that happens?

Once I make a decision (and write it down in my notebook) I live with the decision, I don't feel guilty if I decide to eat and I don't obsess about the food I'm not eating.

Here are a couple of things to consider:

- When I'm really struggling with a craving, I make a series of short-term decisions. For example, I can decide to not eat a piece of cake, but if I still want to eat the cake in five minutes, I can make another decision to eat (or not). Each time I decide to delay eating the cake, I am closer to riding out the craving.

- Establishing a new behaviour takes time and practice. If you don't make a decision when a craving hits, don't be discouraged, figure out if you can do anything different the next time and try again.

First post: How to handle cravings - pt. 1
Next post: How to handle cravings - distract and don't over think it

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

How to Handle Cravings - pt. 1

Do you think about food all the time? Do you spend an abnormal amount of time battling cravings? Or does giving in to a craving seem like an forgone conclusion?

I began obsessing about food when I was a kid. Mostly, I fretted about the food I wasn't allowed to eat. I fretted about the food I had to eat. I remember how my friend Mandy would eat her smarties one at a time, and I just wanted to eat the freakin' smarties by the mouthful!

For thirty more years I continued to obsess about food, with the added weight loss/weight gain worries. By the time I started cognitive behaviour therapy in 2010, I experience food cravings all day; as long as I was awake, I wanted to eat something.

Having gone through therapy, I now understand my cravings. I can tell you that the best way to battle a craving is to just not have it in the first place. And to eliminate cravings all together you have to change how you think about food - you have to change how you think about everything.

I resolved the bulk of my cravings by working with my therapist by reprogramming my thoughts. I no longer think of food as good and bad. It's just food. I don't restrict the amount or kinds of foods that I eat. After all - if I'm told I can't eat chocolate - I'm going to want to eat chocolate. If I'm told I can only have one serving of rice, I will want two servings.

The remainder of my cravings are truly spontaneous, typically a social situation. It's taken a while to figure out a good plan for these cravings, but I've got a plan that works, but I am still practicing.

For the next few posts, I'm going to write about what I've learned about cravings and provide you with some ideas on how to handle your own cravings.

How do you handle cravings?

Next post: How to handle cravings - make a decision to eat or not