A craving may feel like an urgent need, but it’s actually just a thought—one that you can choose to act on or not. When you notice a craving and label it—“I’m having a thought that I want cake”—it creates a tiny moment of pause between the urge and the action so you can make an informed choice, says Dana Notte, RD, a dietitian who works with PWDs who struggle with emotional eating.
Am I hungry? Sometimes it’s hard to tell, says Megrette Fletcher, RD, CDE, especially for PWDs who are often told by others exactly what to eat and when. To help understand this question, reach out and touch the part of your body where you’re “sensing” a craving. “If you touch yourself above the shoulders—your mouth or head—rather than below the shoulders, it’s probably more of a thought than a physical need for food,” says Fletcher.
What do I want … and what do I need? You may want cake, which is normal. But is that what you need in this moment? To help decipher your desire, close your eyes and hold your hands out as if waiting to receive a gift, suggests Fletcher. Then imagine someone dropping what you need into your hands. “A lot of times, my clients will try this and realize that what they were craving wasn’t food at all,” says Fletcher. It could be a hug, some time in nature, a tall glass of cold water. “Sometimes the most delicious thing we can give ourselves is time to take a nap,” she says.
Let’s say that you realize you really do want and need exactly what you’re craving. That’s fine, says Fletcher. Before you eat, check in with yourself. “Shift your question from, ‘Can I eat X’ to ‘How can I fit the food into my life so that it allows me to live my life well?’” she says. Perhaps that means eating it as part of a mixed meal with fiber, protein, and vegetables; going out for a brisk walk afterward; or eating mindfully. Notice the smell, texture, look, and taste of each bite—and pay attention to the moment when it stops tasting as good as it did. That’s a sign that you may be satisfied, even if the plate isn’t empty. “The point of all this isn’t to never eat what you crave,” says Notte. “The point is to understand what is driving the craving so we meet our real needs in that moment.” ■