How to Cope with Cravings

Jul 09, 2020

You know you what to do and how you should be eating, but you let your old familiar habits override this knowledge and eat the things you shouldn't. 

Why am I doing this?? I want to be healthier and lose weight! 

The first thing to understand is that the brain’s job is to protect you from pain and move you towards pleasure. These are scary and uncertain times. You are probably feeling more fear and stress in your daily life than you are used to. 

Your brain is defaulting to old habits and behaviours. If you had a conversation with your brain it might look like:

Brain: Oh you are not happy. I know what would make you happy. Have one of those cupcakes you made with the kids. You love cake.

Me: Eats cake and immediately feels regretful and unhappy. 

Brain: Oh still not happy. I know! You like sweets. Have a bit of chocolate! 

And so on.

To break the cycle, you need to remind yourself that you are choosing to eat in a certain way. That choosing to fuel your body with nutritious food instead of chemicals doesn’t make you feel deprived and sad, but powerful.  

So the conversation becomes:

Brain: You are feeling anxious. I want to make you feel better. Have a treat. 

Me: Yes I am feeling anxious, but having a treat isn’t going to help. I am choosing to eat healthy and my treat will be the feeling of accomplishment at the end of the day.

Brain: OK you don’t want a treat? Let’s put on some music to relax. 

It may seem silly to think of having a conversation with yourself like this, but understanding that it isn’t your body that is craving chemicals and sugar will help you see your cravings for what they are. It is the brain’s hardwired response to give you a quick dopamine hit and lift your mood.

So as long as you are receiving adequate fuel and nutrition, you cravings are coming from your brain, rather than your body. Habits and rituals that you have formed over time.

When those cravings hit, try distracting yourself with an alternative mood-lifting activity. Make a list of five go-to options that you could use to lift your mood and feed your spirit.

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