Popcorn and chocolate… not in combination, but those are my two most frequent cravings.
And to be honest, I don’t even know where cravings come from!
I’ve read the research on them, and it still doesn’t make sense.
For example, they’re said to be caused by parts of the brain that control memory, pleasure and reward.
Okay, great… so what? I’m remembering how delicious chocolate is so that makes me want some?
Except I ALWAYS know how good chocolate is. It never slips my mind that chocolate with a little bit of candied orange and almond slices is freaking delicious. Not once in my entire life have I forgotten that, nor did I forget how enjoyable it is.
So why then sometimes am I able to resist the deliciousness (like now when I’m writing it) and other times I’d rather chew off my left hand to get my hands on some Lindt Intense Orange chocolate?
Well, more research says it can be hormonal imbalances of certain things like leptin and serotonin; and other research says it might be an emotional thing (since a lot of us associate eating with emotions and vice versa).
Okay, again, great… so what? How do I stop them and how can I make them never happen again so I can be in control?! (hello, fellow type A ;-))
I’m sure you could guess what research says helps reduce cravings (although I’m still skeptical).
It says to reduce stress, get better sleep, eating well, and all the other things that are associated with good health.
If there’s anyone out there who’s all for doing “all the healthy things” to live a healthier life, it’s me!
But I’m also a realist.
And I also REALLY don’t understand cravings.
I even got down a rabbit hole that was explaining to me how cravings can be underlying nutritional deficiencies or imbalances.
Which makes sense on the one hand – if I’m craving salty stuff, perhaps I’m low on electrolytes so it’s my body’s way of getting me to even them out.
Same goes for if I’m craving something acidic or fruity – maybe my body is preventing me from getting scurvy by ingesting some extra Vitamin C.
But I can’t believe that the copious amounts of chocolate and popcorn that I crave are what my body needs from a nutritional standpoint.
So instead of figuring out the science behind them, what they are, where they come from and what they mean, I figured out what works in real life.
And that is having a plan. Or, if you read last week, it’s a little promise/bargain with myself.
But before I get right to it, you have to understand that it’s the keeping the promise part that matters, NOT the craving part (you’ll see what I mean in a minute).
So when I get a massive craving and I’m ready to sacrifice my unborn first born, I do one thing.
I say to myself, “If after drinking this 20oz cup of water, you still want the [chocolate or popcorn], then have it.”
Of note, it’s 20oz of water solely because that’s the size of my cup with a straw that I use regularly. I’m talking all day every day, kind of cup.
If I drink one full 20oz cup of water and I STILL want the chocolate or peanut butter, then I have it.
And I don’t beat myself up over it, I don’t shame myself for breaking some imaginary diet, I don’t punish myself with exercise later or the next day. I just enjoy it.
But, usually what happens by the time I finish the water is that the craving has passed.
Supposedly cravings last 3-5 minutes, and comfortably drinking 20oz of water generally takes me longer than that. I say comfortably because I could chug it, but then I’d feel so full and uncomfortable that I wouldn’t even have room for chocolate or popcorn.
All this is to say that I haven’t solved the riddle of cravings, but I have come up with a plan to deal with them. Your plan doesn’t have to be the same as mine, but I think you’ll find that the simple act of making a plan to deal with them helps reduce them anyway.