Navigating Your Cravings
Updated: Sep 11
When we spend a long time in diet culture it can be hard to navigate those hunger and fullness cues. Am I hungry or am I bored/sad/stressed? Am I just craving something sweet/salty/crunchy? These questions can be hard to answer when we've been so distrustful of our bodies.
In order to get more in tune with your body, it's important to do some self-reflection and checking in when we are wondering if we are acutally hungry. Your body will tell you what it needs if you listen carefully!
The Physical Aspect to Navigating Cravings:
The first step is to ask yourself some important questions.
1. When did you last eat something? If you notice it's been more than 3 hours since you last ate, you probably are hungry. You might be feeling some signs such as tummy rumbling or having trouble focusing.
2. Have you been eating enough food today? You might have eaten less than 3 hours ago, but was it enough? Was it satisfying? Did it have carbs and protein or fats? All of these are great questions to get feelers on your hunger levels.
It's also worth saying that you might be hungry regardless of if you've eaten balanced meals all day! This is where the hunger and fullness scale can come in helpful. You can get a physical copy and additional resources in the free Beginner's Guide to Food Freedom. Otherwise, think of 1-3 as feeling ravenous, 4-6 as possibly hungry or neutral, and 7-10 as full or very full.
The Mental Aspect to Navigating Cravings:
Now that we've covered physical hunger, let's talk about the mental and emotional aspect of food. As humans, food isn't JUST for sustanance. Food is memories and celebrations and comfort. All these are perfectly good reasons to eat a food. I would rarely turn down one of my grandma's chocolate chip cookies, but after a lot of practice I've learned to check in with myself on how many I can realistically eat without feeling uncomfortable.
One of the tools that can help you navigate your cravings is allowing yourself permission to come back for more later. If you know another cookie will push you over the top, but you're really craving one, take some time to go do another activity and then come back to the thought. If you're still wanting one after a little mental break, go for it and check in with each bite to see how it makes you feel.
Food can provide us with comfort when we are sad and a dopamine rush when we're feeling bored. While it is perfectly fine to eat in these scenarios, it is also important to have further coping skills as well. Self-reflection, checking in with your physical hunger, and finding other activities can work here too, just as they did in the above scenarios. Finding a therapist and/or dietitian, meditation, and physical activity are other great additions to your toolbox as well.
Lastly, practice self-compassion. There will be times when you overeat and feel uncomfortable, especially as you're learning to listen to your hunger and fullness cues. We can recognize these feeling and thoughts surrounding the experience and let it go. The physical feelings will pass and the experience will help us further learn what our bodies need.
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