Anti-craving techniques

July 22, 2008

At one time or another, we all get cravings.  I often hear of cravings for red meat, chocolate, potato chips or other fatty foods, but, many times people also have cravings for healthier things like fruits, vegetables, or milk.  Whatever the craving may be, I view it as something the we are lacking in our diet and a way that the body speaks to us about what we need. For example, if it’s red meat that you are craving, it may be that your body is needing more protein, iron, or vitamin B12.  I usually advise my clients to give into their cravings so that they can satisfy their need.  However, in some cases, cravings are not satisfied by consuming the food and they are experienced as very intense and almost out of control.  For some people, their cravings are beyond the physical need for a food.  Instead, their cravings could be linked to an emotion, feeling, or they could even just be a habit.  Here are some strategies by Dr. Judith Beck that may be helpful for dealing with cravings.   

Mindset Techniques

  1. Label it.  Tell yourself, This feeling is just a craving…It’s uncomfortable and intense, but (like hunger) it’ not an emergency.
  2. Stand firm.  Tell yourself that you’re absolutely not going to eat the food that you’re craving.  Ask yourself whether giving in to this craving will be worth the momentary pleasure you’ll get from eating.
  3. Don’t give yourself a choice.   The emotionally painful part about a craving is the struggle you feel. Once you can tell yourself with total conviction, NO CHOICE, and so something else, the craving will diminish.
  4. Imagine the aftermath of giving in.  Think about eating the food you’re craving.  Imagine it in your mouth.  How many seconds does it take to it?  How many seconds do you feel pleasure?  Now visualize the rest of the picture- the part of the experience you usually don’t think about until it’s too late.   Picture yourself feeling weak and out of control.  See yourself feeling upset, giving up, continuing to eat more and more, feeling worse and worse.  As you become upset in the image, remind yourself how many times you’ve given in before, how you promised yourself you wouldn’t do it again, and how hopeless you felt.   Now that you’ve seen the entire picture, which seems better: eating or not eating?
  5. Remind yourself why you want to learn to withstand cravings.  You won’t be able to attain the wonderful benefits of losing weight unless you tolerate your cravings.  If you continue to give in to them, you’ll always be at risk for gaining weight.


Behavioral Techniques

  1. Distance yourself from the food you crave.  When you experience a craving because you see or smell food, you might be able to move that food to an inconvenient place or get rid of it.  If you can’t remove the food, you might be able to remove yourself from the scene (go to another room, outside, or bathroom).
  2. Drink a no- or low-calorie beverage.  Thirst can mask as hunger and trigger you to eat. Try drinking water, club soda or low-calorie drink.
  3. Relax.  Find a relaxation technique that works for you and do this for 3 minutes.  At the end of 3 minutes, you should feel calmer and more in control of your cravings.  One simple relaxation technique involves focusing on your breathing.
  4. Distract yourself. Focus your attention on something else and your craving will most likely weaken or pass.

One Response to “Anti-craving techniques”

  1. Wow. I really didn’t realize much of my cravings for food were actually masked as thirst. I make sure that I now have a glass or bottle of water in reach so I will not confuse the two.

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