How to Stop Food Cravings Instantly
Do you experience intense cravings? Do you find it hard to resist visiting your favourite bakery when the smell of freshly baked pastries tickles your nostrils? Do you experience uncontrollable urges for chocolate or specific foods that make you eat ravenously only to leave you wondering why you did so a few minutes later? Are there moments you just can’t resist eating even though you’re not sure you’re hungry or really need that much food?
If you can relate to any of these examples, this article will show you how to take control of your cravings in just a few short minutes.
Eliminate physical causes of cravings:
Sometimes, food cravings are a bodily signal for the lack of certain nutrients. Chocolate cravings, for example, may be symptomatic of magnesium deficiency; fatty food, carbonated drinks and alcohol cravings a need for extra calcium. A balanced diet of mostly unprocessed foods will help you eliminate those quickly. You could also test for any deficiencies and get appropriate supplements.
Restrictive diets also usually cause cravings really quickly. I strongly suggest you stop dieting if you suffer from any form of compulsive eating. Statistics show that dieting will only tend to make your problems worse. For example, 25% of occasional dieters develop eating disorders*. Girls who diet frequently are 12 times as likely to binge as girls who don’t diet (Neumark-Sztainer, 2005).
Avoid, sugar-free foods and beverages. They tend to trigger cravings for the sugar they are substituting. I strongly suggest you stop eating all diet food and switch to unprocessed food instead.
Make sure you eat enough. Dieters and compulsive eaters alike tend to confuse hunger with cravings. Before you assume that what you are experiencing is a craving, check when you last ate, and how much you ate. Here is a tip. Hunger usually comes gradually while cravings come on abruptly.
Stop Cravings With the Power of Questions:
If your cravings are not a sign of starvation due to dieting or a lack of nutrients, you can easily stop them by following these guidelines.
Just ask yourself the right questions:
Am I really hungry?
If so, how do I know this is hunger and not cravings?
(For example you haven’t eaten for a long time. You feel light-headed. This hunger came gradually)
Could this be thirst?
If so, drink plain water.
Think about the food you’re craving, and ask yourself:
“Is this is what I want?”
“Am I really sure this is what I want?”
Try to reply as honestly as you can. If you over-analyse your replies, you’ll deny what’s happening within you and the process won’t work.
If the answer to the above question is no, then ask:
“What is it that I really need right now?”
“Is that true? Is this exactly what I need?”
“What would make me feel better at this moment?”
At this point you should be able make a wiser choice. Your cravings may have subsided a little.
If your cravings are related to emotional eating, be sure to take any action you may need to uplift you.
Accept, Dissociate, Welcome, and Release:
A good way to dismiss a craving after questioning it is to accept it.
The magic phrase is simply: “It’s OK to have cravings.”
You may not feel that at first, but resisting any emotion, including a craving, will only intensify it. If you accept your cravings, they will dissolve effortlessly.
Another thing that seems to help my clients a lot is to have a supportive internal dialogue. For example, you may tell yourself. “It’s OK to have cravings. I know you’re feeling really tempted to eat this right now but we’ll get through this. I love you. I’m here for you. I know you can just let the food pass. You’re doing really well…”
Another good support method is to dissociate yourself from your cravings. Look at them with empathy as if they are not your own. Your cravings are just a manifestation of food patterns that were created long ago. For all you know, they don’t even concern the person you are today. They are just old repeat programmes playing. Look at them with curiosity as something that is no longer yours. It will help release their grip on you.
Welcome and Release:
At this stage, you should already feel much more relieved. You may welcome your cravings. Once again, the more you resist them, the stronger they get, so be open to the feelings of craving. Just be open to them.
I find this process much more enjoyable when I put my hand on my heart and breathe deeply at the same time. But if you’re in a public place or don’t feel comfortable doing this, you can just welcome the emotions in your heart.
While welcoming your cravings, you may hear a sentence, feel something in your body or perhaps see an image. All of this is perfectly OK. Whatever comes up, let it be there for a few seconds.
If the feelings become too intense, you can go back to stage one and question whatever has come up. Good questions are “Is this really true?” “How do I know this is true?” “Could I have it wrong?” “What would be a better thought?” “What can I do to feel better right now?” “What would be a better option?” “Would that really help?” in this exact order. This will help you break through the deceitful internal dialogue that usually takes place during a craving.
Once the intensity has gone down a bit, go back to the accepting, dissociating and welcoming process. The idea is to help you release resistance to your cravings and emotions so that it becomes easy for you to nurture yourself without foods.
Once you have welcomed your cravings enough, you will get a sense of natural release. It doesn’t require any willpower on your part.
Shift Your Focus
At this stage you may decide to focus on what it is that you truly want. For example, I know a fitness instructor who has random occasional binges. She could focus on the pleasure of having controlled her cravings and enjoying a beautiful lean body.
You may choose to focus on images, sensations and sounds that you really enjoy as if you had already fully overcome your cravings.
When I want to shift my focus away from an intense negative emotion, I often concentrate on how great I will feel once I have overcome it. I remember almost freezing to death when the ski lift I was sitting on stopped for several minutes in the middle of an icy wind. I focused on the joy of going down the slopes and the warmth of a cup of hot cocoa warming my fingers. It made the waiting much more pleasant. Once I almost died in hospital with an intense fever. All I could focus on was how happy I would be once I had recovered. I did this throughout my stay in hospital, and left without after-effects.
Try to reach for the feelings that overcoming this craving will give you and make them more intense. You can do that by using positive internal dialogue and making the noises louder, the positive internal images brighter and bigger and the positive emotions stronger. You can adjust your ‘internal movie’ until your craving is completely gone.
Put Things into Perspective
Scientifically speaking, constant or intense cravings may be a signal that your brain has associated eating with pleasure or the release of pain. Eating then becomes a way to modulate your feelings and sensations. This last technique will help you break this pattern.
It is extremely powerful and should be used only if everything else fails. Use it improperly and you may never want to eat the food you’re craving again.
Consider what succumbing to your cravings has or may cost you. Find an image, a feeling and a thought. For example you may picture yourself in front of a mirror, feeling awful and calling yourself bad names or feeling uncomfortable with your body around friends, feeling ashamed and calling yourself “worthless”.
Choose the image, bodily sensation, feeling and thought that represent what cravings are costing you.
Now focus on all the sensations, thoughts and images your cravings are causing inside you: accelerated heart rate, sweaty palms, dry mouth, restlessness, and thoughts like “I need this now... “
Now, think about the food you’re craving. We’re going to create a mental movie that will help you stop any cravings instantly. At the end of the movie, your cravings will stop.
Now imagine that you have the food you’re craving in your hand and that you can see yourself in a mirror at the same time. If you’re in public place, just imagine a mirror behind the scene from which you can see yourself.
Now welcome again the craving for the food you’re holding in your hand and all the sensations that come with it.
Now, as you’re bringing the food closer to your mouth, watch, feel and hear the consequences of your choice if repeated regularly. For example, watch yourself gain weight instantly, feel sluggish, shameful, guilty, self-loathing and uncomfortable with your body. Hear all the self-critique and judgements you have made about yourself. Make the image as big, the sounds as loud and the feelings as intense as you can bear.
You may repeat the process several times.
It is very important here to remember to focus intensely on the craving first and not the food or you may permanently put yourself off the food.
I hope you have enjoyed this article. I guarantee that if you use all these tips together regularly, you will soon be able to enjoy stopping your cravings almost instantly.
Laura Houssain helps women put an end to their compulsive eating, lose weight effortlessly, feel happy and self-confident, become irresistible, and get what they want in life.
She believes anyone can change their eating habits very quickly, no matter how long they have been stuck in old patterns. Laura has seen her clients put an end to binge eating in as little as one regular breakthrough session.
*Shisslak, C.M., Crago, M., & Estes, L.S. (1995). The Spectrum of Eating Disturbances. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 18 (3): 209-219.