Five tools for Working with Food Cravings

Foods and all types of stimulation call to us in different ways. It is as if there are two voices that we listen to when we are exposed to food. One voice is is a soft squeaky voice barely audible in the busyness of our lives. It has a subtle nature and comes from a place deep within. The other voice is loud and demanding voice that is pushing us into choices and admonishing us from the outside. In the “Psychologist’s Eat Anything Diet” this voice soft voice is called the ”hum”and the more demanding voice and is called “beckon”.

Let’s look at “beckon” first. Although it is one voice there are multiple scenarios that can initiate this voice. Perhaps it is a family dinner where your grandmother makes you your favorite dessert days after you have committed to giving up sugar. Perhaps it is a late night snack that turns into a binge on brownies that you had prepared for a potluck the following day. Or even a situation where you are eating out and you choose the soup and salad option but when your friends fish and chips arrives you want to change your order. All of these scenarios “beckon” to you in a different way and some of these scenarios will be more familiar than others. The one thing that all of the scenarios have in common is that the desire for the food comes OUTSIDE yourself. Whether it is peer pressure, the presence of food to binge on, or an enticing meal beckoning; you have a choice. 

The “hum” on the other hand is almost like intuition. It is a softer more subtle desire that stems from within and calls us to align the hum and vibration of our body with a food that feeds that humming sound so that it can become louder and more musical. Unlike the beckon the hum comes from within our body and not from the stimulation of our senses.  Some of us may not be sure what that means or what that feels like as we have been fed by external stimulation for most of our lives. If that is the case then the first step is to Tune In.

First, tune in.

  1. Tune In – by developing practices that bring attention inward. Such as certain styles of meditation, yoga, dance, creative writing, drawing, and talking with friends. Anything that allows you to begin to experience a gut feeling or an irrational experience that something is amiss. This is your internal compass and in order to truly let go of addictive behaviors it must be calibrated.
  2. Identify – identify when you are in a situation that could lead to you making a choice based on the beckoning of the food instead of your internal wisdom. Perhaps you are more likely to succumb to peer pressure. Perhaps you feel guilty about your indulgences and so you prefer to eat alone. Perhaps it is a family member or friend that is your accomplice in following the beckoning call.
  3. Strategy – Once you have identified the scenarios and situations that allow you to lose track of the hum, that squeaky voice within, then begin to develop awareness around when those situations are occurring and develop multiple strategies for staying in alignment with the hum within.

    Some examples for when you find that your challenging times occur when you are alone:
  • Make a conscious effort to have meals with friends. 
  • Make a shopping list and stick to it so that you don’t bring foods into your space that may beckon to you. 
  • If the thought arises make a choice to turn your attention to something else: brush your teeth, drink water, go on a walk, read a book, etc.
  • These are just a few suggestions so spend some time developing a strategy that may work for you.

If you have identified that you are beckoned when you are with others:

  • Take some alone time
  • This may mean going on a short walk or going outside for a breath of fresh air. It may mean going to the bathroom to splash water in your face. Find ways that you can come back to yourself in the midst of social situations and find your center. 
  • Get your friends on your side. If you friends understand where you are coming from and why you are inspired to choose from the hum they will be more than happy to support you. Enlist their support and who knows they may join you.
  1. Start small and Create Momentum – Do not expect that you will be perfect, this is unrealistic and ultimately will lead to a sense of not being good enough. Cultivating an ability to make decisions that are coherent with the hum on the inside instead of being led by your senses and falling into habitual patterns of behavior takes time. Set realistic goals so that you can reach them. If that means focusing on your feet and breath when a food is beckoning you once a day then start there. Going on a unnecessarily restrictive diet flexes a different muscle than being able to choose based on intuition and a deeper knowledge of self. Each time that you make a decision that supports the hum it becomes self reinforcing and it will easier each subsequent time.
  2. Eventually all your bad habits will give you up – Cintra Brown, one of my yoga teachers, taught me this. As you align with the hum within the sensations that beckon have less of an influence on you. The beckoner only derives joy when you are engaged and want what they are selling. As you align with your internal wisdom the beckoning sensations will no longer hold influence over you and thus they will give you up.

This is a brief discussion on one strategy for aligning with your internal needs and making decisions that support those needs. Below find a list of suggested readings for diving more fully into these strategies.

Feeding the Hungry Heart, Breaking free of Compulsive Eating and other by Geenan Roth
Yoga from the Inside Out: Making Peace with your Body through yoga by Christian Sell
The Effects of Vipassana Meditation and Other Rehabilitation Programs on Alcohol and Drug Relapse and Criminal Recidivism by G. Alan Marlatt