Do you often get the urge to eat when you aren’t hungry?

Do you find yourself regularly having cravings for certain foods? 

The inability to manage cravings can be the downfall of the best efforts of many who want to lose weight. 

But why is it such a problem? And what can you do about it so you don’t routinely overeat and gain weight?

Before you judge yourself too harshly for having cravings, craving food and eating when you’re hungry is a normal human thing. 

The problem arises when you regularly have cravings for certain foods when you aren’t hungry, and let the urges be in the driver’s seat. 

Tune in to learn the three main causes of cravings AND four things you can do to reduce, manage or eliminate those cravings. 

Using these four strategies when you have a craving will help you establish positive eating habits that will allow you to enjoy the foods you love without overeating them. 

Check out the free resources on my website (link below) to inspire you to make those positive changes.



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Read the Transcript

EP178-4 Steps for Managing Food Cravings

[00:00:00] Do you often get the urge to eat when you aren't hungry? Do you find yourself regularly having cravings for certain foods? The inability to manage cravings can be the downfall of the best efforts of many people who want to lose weight. But why is it such a problem? And what can you do about it so you don't routinely overeat and gain weight?

Wouldn't it feel amazing to stop obsessing about everything? To ditch dieting forever and drop that extra weight in a sane and sustainable way? Well, you can do it. And I can't wait to show you how I'm Shari Broder and welcome to the weight loss for foodies podcast. Episode one hundred and seventy eight, four steps for managing food cravings.

Hey everyone. Welcome back. I'm so glad that you're listening. Well it's February and in Maine, it's been pretty cold and snowy, but we had a big, like a 13 inch snowfall during that blizzard, which I think they called storm Keenan. And we're having another storm as I'm recording this right now, except it's freezing rain and sleet.

And then we're supposed to get a bunch of snow on top of that, but they clean it up easily. And that's what you get used to when you live here on the coast of Maine. But anyway, before we get into the subject of cravings, I just want to thank today's sponsor betterhelp, BetterHelp offers professional counseling done securely online, BetterHelp will assess your needs and match you with your own licensed professional therapist. Get started today at BetterHelp. That's one word betterHelp.com/shari and receive 10% off your first month. [00:02:00] 

Now before you judge yourself too harshly for having cravings, craving and eating something when you're hungry is a normal thing and it's okay. And actually cravings are a normal thing. I'll talk about that more. The problem arises when you regularly have cravings for certain foods when you aren't hungry and you let those urges be in the driver's seat

. Now, why do people even have cravings? Well, here are a few reasons. Number one, you're going to be real surprised at this one. Dieting and food restriction. Yes. Many studies have shown that for most people attempting to restrict or deprive yourself of a particular food is going to cause you to want it more. And not only that but because forbidding yourself from eating those foods creates this mindset of scarcity, you're more likely to overeat or binge on those foods when you ultimately eat them.

This scarcity mindset is one of the reasons, a big reason, why 95% of dieters fail to keep weight off when they lose it. If they lose. I said attempting to restrict because the great majority of people who don't allow themselves to eat certain foods, whether it's sweets, snacks, fried food, or whatever, they ultimately cave in and they eat those foods anyway, usually to excess.

So does that sound familiar? I've been there and fortunately I don't do it anymore. And I'm going to teach you how you can stop doing it. So let's say you decide you're going on a diet, which I hope you will not ever do again, because there's no point in it and you can't eat sugar. Okay. That's part of the diet, no sugar.

So the scarcity thinking [00:04:00] created by dieting and food restriction makes you want sweets even more than you normally do. That's not a joke. There's research to show this. So then you go to a party and let's say there are delicious homemade cookies there and you weren't going to eat any. You'd already decided that, but because you've forbidden yourself, you really want some, you can't keep your eyes off them and you're even distracted by thoughts of cookies. You decide just one won't hurt. Then the scarcity mindset thinking sets in. "I don't know when I'll get to have cookies next. Oh, I better eat my share of them all.". So you wolf down five, hoping nobody's noticing, barely tasting them. And then you grab a napkin to sneak a couple more into your purse for later.

Now let's compare that to someone who doesn't restrict what they eat, but simply eats according to her hunger and fullness signals. So she's at the party too. And because she knows she can have cookies whenever she really wants she doesn't have a scarcity mindset. She has an abundance mindset. There are cookies everywhere. "I can have cookies whenever I really want them." She sees the cookie platter and thinks about whether she's really in the mood for a cookie tonight and then decides, yeah, I'll have an oatmeal cookie and she eats the cookie. She savors every mouthful. She feels very satisfied. And doesn't think about the cookies again and enjoys the rest of the evening. 

So the problem with the food restriction is what I call the Garden of Eden effect. You are in paradise with an abundance of food, but what you want the most is the one thing you can't have. And you know what? It's human nature and food restriction just makes it worse. It does [00:06:00] not work long-term. 

The second reason why people have cravings is unmet needs for things other than food. So one of the reasons people have cravings is because they need something other than food, but because food is readily available and they have a habit of turning to food to silence their emotional needs, they use food in an attempt to meet needs that food can't fulfill.

So for example, Maybe you're overwhelmed because you're working full time, but also you're caring for your mother with dementia and you really need some rest. Because you feel guilty resting, you eat chocolate to reward yourself and you feel better for a few minutes at least, or maybe you're upset because your daughter and her boyfriend, the latter of whom you're not all that fond of moved in with you temporarily, right? And you have no privacy, no time to yourself. And it's impossible to keep the house picked up and it's stressing you out. So you make friends with a pint of ice cream at night as a reward for having to put up with this. Or you're angry at your mother-in-law for her continual efforts to show you up and engage you in a power struggle.

So you aggressively munch down a bag of chips. Now those reasons for eating aren't about food. In fact, most overeating isn't about food. It's about using food to fill a need that it can't fill and that you might not even be aware you have. And that's why if you want to stop having cravings, it's so helpful to dig deep beneath those cravings and figure out what you really need. Behind many cravings there's usually an emotional need that's being neglected because if hunger isn't the problem food won't solve it. It may make you feel better for a few minutes, but once the food is [00:08:00] gone, you're left with the same problem that prompted you to eat in the first place. And you may be adding to your problems by continuing to gain weight.

I'll talk about what to do to figure out what you really need in a few minutes. But let's get to the last reason first. And that is because you're human! Cravings are not a sign that you can't control yourself, that you've fallen off the wagon. You can't cope, or I'll never lose weight. Humans have cravings for all kinds of things, not just food. I don't know about you, but I get cravings for some of those clothes in those Instagram ads that are targeted precisely at what I like, and desire, sexual or otherwise, can be a craving. It doesn't mean you're a failure to have cravings.

You can't completely stop having cravings, but you can reduce the amount you have and manage them. So how do you do that? Well,

1. Get rid of those lists of forbidden foods and start working on what I call cultivating an Abundance Mindset. I know I've mentioned that so many times, and it's hard in this diet culture that we live in. I know it might feel scary to give yourself permission to eat whatever foods you love when you're hungry and you may think that you're powerless around certain foods right now ,that it's impossible to stop eating your favorite foods once you start, I get it. I used to feel that way too, but that's because you've restricted those foods in the past.

So you think of them as scarce, and that makes you want them even more. But if you listen to your body, it is not going to tell you to eat brownies all day because you would feel awful. Your body doesn't want a ton of brownies. I mean, your [00:10:00] brain may be telling you that. And I talk about that in other episodes, but it may take time, but once you've established an abundance mindset, you won't feel the lure of those foods and you'll trust yourself and feel the freedom of being able to eat what you love without going off the rails.

So check out episode 39 of this podcast, which is called how to enjoy holiday deliciousness without gaining weight for more on how to cultivate an abundance mindset. There's a link in the show notes and you can Google it and you can find that they'll always be on my website. 

2. Eat consciously and don't multitask while eating. So when you eat these foods that you love and crave so much, do you actually pay attention and savor each bite? Many people just eat the mindlessly missing the experience of really tasting and enjoying the foods they crave. And then they want more. Maybe you're doing it too. Maybe you think that if you don't pay too much attention, it's like you're not really eating them, but guess what, you are and your body knows it. But if you eat without distractions, and slowly savor every mouthful, you'll enjoy these foods so much more that you'll be satisfied with less.

Your cravings will wane. And not only that, but you'll be able to tell when you've had enough, which is really important. On my website, you can download a free 30 days of conscious eating calendar that will help you, you know, just dip your toes into being a more mindful eater. One step at a time. You can get a copy at the link in the show notes or on my website. You'll see it there. Maybe on the banner, [00:12:00] sharibroder.com. 

3. This is the hard one. Discover what is underneath the urge to eat when you aren't hungry and give yourself what you really need instead of food. Acknowledge your craving and instead of fearing it, just gently notice it. "I'm having a craving for . . . Whatever the food is."

Discard the judgment about yourself or about the craving. I mean, this craving wants something that you need, but it isn't really food. And to figure out what it might be think about these questions:

what was going on right before you got the craving to eat? 

What thoughts and feelings did you have? 

What might you be distracting yourself from by wanting to eat?

What do you think you really need?

And what would you do right now if eating simply wasn't an option?

Do you need more comfort? Are you taking out your frustrations on a big bag of tortilla chips? Are you bored? Validate this need. Tell yourself "I hear you. I'll support you." You may not get the answers to these questions instantly, but take some time.

Be patient with yourself. 

When I was an adolescent, my mother often told me what I should and shouldn't eat. And I really resented this and I resented her attempts to control what I put in my body. And she was also heavy and she didn't have the greatest eating habits and she had some pretty outmoded ideas about what someone should eat to be healthy and to avoid gaining weight. Ironically as an adult, when I visited my mother, I would sneak food as a way to [00:14:00] spite her. And she didn't know I was doing this. I was sneaking it and I obviously was only hurting myself, but I was doing it in reaction to things that happened in my past. And once I realized this, I could stop raiding my mother's pantry. 

Do you binge on foods that your parents wouldn't let you have as a child? I know a lot of people do and people who weren't allowed to have sugar as kid,, most of them have a big problem with sugar. So that approach just doesn't work.

 Some people crave certain foods for nostalgic reasons. Perhaps you crave your mother's special apple cake because you miss her and it makes you feel close to her to eat her. Here's a big one. Maybe you don't have enough pleasure in your life that isn't food. So you rely on food as your main source of pleasure.

If it's pleasure that's missing in your life. There are some ideas in episode 36 of this podcast, which is called why you need more pleasure in your life not from food. Again, I'll link it in the show notes. 

So consider how you think you'll feel if you eat this food and compare it to how you'll feel, if you don't eat it and then at least make an intentional choice.

Now, the last step, number four, is to surf the urge. It's a mindfulness technique called urge surfing. Urges to eat when you aren't hungry or to eat too much sugar or to drink too much, they're like waves in the ocean. They rise in intensity peak and then dissipate. So if you've ever swam in the ocean, you know that there's no way to beat those waves. You can't resist them. You can't fight them. You might even drown if you try, you [00:16:00] need to move with them. Urge surfing, involves noticing the urge and then letting it gently pass, like those waves without fighting back against it or white knuckling it. For example, let's say you're stressed about a project at work and you feel the urge to eat to feel better. Say to yourself. "Thanks but eating, when I'm not hungry, won't help me get this project done." And just ignore the urge. Don't push back against it, just ignore it. And it will pass in a few minutes. Now it might come back, but you can do this again. You can just be with your craving until it fades away. Feel that emotion.

Let it move through you. It's just an emotion. It may not feel comfortable, but it's not going to kill you. And if you listen to hear what it's trying to tell you and just give it some space to be there, it will actually go away faster. While if you repress it with food, it stays in your body and can cause pain and illness.

I talk quite a bit about this in the weight loss for foodies group coaching program, where I have several tools for you to manage this kind of eating. Now urge surfing is a great way to allow us to choose behaviors that bring us towards what we really want in life like our longterm happiness, rather than fleeting, immediate gratification.

Listen to episode 66 of the weight loss for foodies podcast, to learn more about how to urge surf. And I'll link that in the show notes, as well as episode 67, which actually has a guided urge surfing meditation that you can use and listen to it when you feel the urge to eat, but you aren't hungry. So the way to make cravings a thing of the past requires you to recognize that food is fuel for your [00:18:00] body, but it's also a source of pleasure. And after years of dieting and restrictive thinking about food and restrictive eating, many people have difficulty giving themselves permission to eat what they want and even what their body wants and to really enjoy food. That's why you hear people talking about certain foods as being sinful, which is just ridiculous.

When in reality, food is just food. As I've said before, anything that's labeled sinful or less guilt or whatever, I will not buy that product. I don't care. And there's a restaurant in Maine called the Sinful Kitchen. That could be the best restaurant in Maine, and I would not walk into a place that is making money off advertising food as sinful. I've got nothing against that place, I know nothing about it, but I just think it's a terrible name. 

Try and see your cravings not as something to fear or distress but as something natural that you can manage and break the habit of choosing instant gratification over your long-term goals. Using these four strategies when you have a craving to eat but you aren't hungry will help you establish positive eating habits that will allow you to enjoy the foods you love without overeating them. 

Check out the free resources on my website. There arelots of them. And as I mentioned that conscious eating calendar. There's an emotional eating video and the other episodes of this podcast that I mentioned will inspire you to make positive changes. So good luck working on this. You definitely can greatly reduce your cravings and enjoy food even more.

Thanks again for listening. Have a great week. Don't forget to subscribe for regular [00:20:00] motivation and inspiration and head over to my website. Sharibroder.com to grab the free resources I've created to help you practice what you're learning on the podcast. I really appreciate your help spreading the word by leaving a review on apple podcasts or wherever you listen.

See you next time.

About the Author Shari Broder

I'm passionate about helping foodies ditch dieting and lose the weight for good. Discover what is really causing your weight issues (it isn't that you love food!), and learn how to stop obsessing about food and make peace with food and eating. I love teaching women how to get off the diet hamster wheel and learn to eat consciously, stop emotional eating and enjoy the foods they love while permanently losing their desire to overeat.

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