How to spot a craving
By Christina Ross – Accredited Practising Dietitian
Cravings were once believed to be a sign of nutrient deficiency; however, we now understand this isn’t the case. Another way to think of a craving is “head hunger” ie. you are not physically hungry, but you have had a thought that you feel like eating.
Here are a few clues that you are experiencing a craving, rather than true hunger:
- You feel like eating something with a specific taste or texture eg. “I feel like something sweet”
- The desire to eat subsides if you distract yourself
- You do not experience any other physical signs of hunger, such as the common light headedness, ‘shaky’ hands, difficulty concentrating
- You may be feeling emotional at the time eg. stressed, tired, bored, angry
Now that you have identified a craving, what strategies can you keep up your sleeve to manage these times when you crave unhealthy food?
These 3 Ds can help – distance, distract, delay – as they create a moment of pause so that you don’t impulsively respond to the craving. It is understood that this impulsivity can negatively affect your own confidence in being able to implement health change and stick to your goals. Perhaps you can step outside for some fresh air, call a friend, listen to your favourite song, or sit quietly and take 10 deep breaths?
Here are two common craving-inducing situations we hear from our patients, along with a few ideas on how you can implement the 3Ds:
“I feel like something sweet after dinner, particularly while watching TV”
- Brush your teeth or go for a light walk straight after dinner
- Chew on gum
- Make a herbal tea
- Do something else which occupies your mind eg. flicking through a magazine, working on hobbies, answering emails
“I feel tired and lethargic around 3pm, and find it hard to resist reaching for the biscuit jar”
- Step outside for some fresh air
- Stand up and stretch out your legs
- Grab a glass of water
- Make a glass of herbal tea (all of which will do more to refresh and boost your energy than a biscuit will)
However, after pausing for the 3Ds, if you still very much feel like the food you are craving, give yourself permission to have it. Be sure to keep your portion size reasonable and enjoy the food mindfully and with intention. Giving yourself permission to enjoy the food in this way is key, as it helps diminish the power of the “forbidden” food and over time, will help to reduce the craving itself.
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