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


  1. What a nice surprise to pop over and find two posts.

    The cleaner my food is, the less trouble I have with a wandering eye.

    The concept of everything in moderation makes for a LOT of struggles for me. I do not go there.

    My son and I were just talking about how so much of a better life involves retraining neuropathways.

  2. So Kara are you not writing in your book if you are feeling plagued by the craving? Meaning it only goes in if you are comfortable with the decision to not eat tempting things that may be set before you?

  3. Hey Munchberry!
    No, I just write down the food if I've decided to eat the food. No eating unless it is written down. It just gives me some time to think about how I want to proceed.

    When I started therapy, my therapist told me I could eat whatever I want as long as I write it down first. Any time I either ate more food, or food that I didn't write down, we discussed to uncover my triggers.

    This write down strategy is based on my therapist's original instruction.

    If you are struggling with a craving, figure out what you can do to take your mind off the food. Walk away, go for a walk, let your mind drift away from thoughts of the food. It takes practice, it is uncomfortable, but you can get through a craving!
    How are you doing

  4. Huh. Interesting. I subscribe to that mostly. Writing food I eat keeps me honest with myself since I am a very crafty self deceiver. As you know I have tried all manner of craving stops. I have recently come upon something that seems to work (maybe it is a temp. thing - who knows). Upon sidling up to a pile of food (like at camp). I pick some healthy things, one or two very small portions (like a TB of it) of not to terrific things (like potato salad) - something I really want and desserts I take a bite and give the rest to hubs or the dog. Then I don't feel guilty (I made a decision), I can enjoy things without gorging and not feel deprived - and then a major pissy grouch. So far so good. I also still do my thing where I either do not make left overs or make hubs pack them and hide them from me. Sad, but it works.

    How am I doing? Pretty good. I have gained some weight back but now have a handle on it. Slowly creeping South. I am trying not to pin my happiness to my pants, but celebrating it when things go well. I weigh every day so there is no Tom Foolery. And in other areas of life - just had another foot operation today. So laid up. But all is well. Looking forward to Fall and going for walks.

    I sure could sure use an update from Karaville to entertain me. I often wonder how it goes for my neighbor and her cubs to my North. Be well. I demand it!

    1. "I'm trying to not pin my happiness to my pants, but celebrating it when things go well."

      You are so quotable. Has your foot recovered? I hope you are walking around enjoying the fall colours...

      It was a stressful summer and busy fall. My MIL passed away in July and we went to visit my FIL in August. I've cut back swimming to two days a week, three was too much.

      I miss blogging terribly, I've had trouble finding time to write that clicks, but I think I've found it now. It should be easier to keep in touch, but please feel free to email me at


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