The image that comes to mind when we hear that ‘word’ is of a woman (usually slim) with a devilish smile on her face looking at a piece of cheesecake or a square of chocolate. We picture her putting it into her mouth, closing her eyes and having a blissful, or pleasurable reaction. We remember the pleasure but forget that it was pain that caused her to eat in the first place.
If the woman we pictured in our example above was truly satisfied with what she ate, and with the amount too, then there would be nothing wrong. Indulging in a square of chocolate once a night is nothing to bat an eyelash at and so in this instance, craving is seen as something tantalizing that begins with a tiny desire and ends in pleasure.
Most craving doesn’t fall into this tiny range of experience though.
A full spectrum of craving experiences go from being mildly aware that you’d like a piece of chocolate but can do without it easily … for months, to absolutely needing it this second along with something else the second afterwards. If you’re someone who’s craving isn’t satisfied after a tiny piece of chocolate like most people, then you’ll likely eat a lot more to satisfy it, which comes with a set of problems – weight gain and other health and emotional issues.
Craving = Pain
It’s important to see that moderate to intense craving is painful, and that your body is asking for relief of some kind. Understanding this will allow you to also see that the woman who is satisfied with a tiny piece of candy is not stronger willed or better than you in some way. It’s that her pain is much less intense, so a smaller amount of food is required to satisfy it.
The following are some of the signs that tell you that craving is taking control:
– Impulse thinking
– Short term benefits. Results of your actions are good for the moment only
– Feeling distracted
– Not being able to stop thinking about how to satisfy it
– Difficulty focusing on what you need to get done in that moment
– Anger at the voices inside, telling you that what you are about to do is bad
– Reasoning your way into it, then defending it once it’s done
– Feeling like you’re not in control
Only pain has the ability to take you away from yourself and make you focus all of your energy on something that isn’t necessarily good for you.
A Closer Look
Think about some of the things you’ve said to yourself or your friends when you have experienced a craving for a piece of cake or slice of pie. Many of the words have a common denominator meaning which is, “I just NEED it!” Most people do feel that way, like they just ‘have’ to have it.
Craving is a ‘want’ and not a need.
Water is a need. If you are dehydrated then your body will tell you that you NEED water right now and urge you to find some that very second. As you drink it, you’ll find that it tastes so much better than usual, even though it’s the same water you always drink – that’s your reward. When you feel an intense craving for pie lets say, you’ve likely already had dinner and so your body has what it needs. Regardless you still ‘want’ it and feel an urge that is just as strong as the one that satisfied the genuine need for water in our example above.
Similarities and differences between needs and cravings:
– Both have urges that are powerful and are good at diverting our attention away from whatever we are doing to satisfy them.
– Satisfying a need leaves a person feeling good all around and is beneficial to his/her functioning – getting adequate rest, nutrition and emotional connection etc…
– Satisfying a want leaves a person with feelings that range from, temporary joy to indifference to full blown guilt. It also generally has consequences that are not in our best interests, (poor use of money, health issues, wasted time etc..) although that’s not to say that seeing a movie or watching TV from time to time is bad.
Long term wants vs cravings.
Many parents can identify with the above dilemma. Everyday they put aside their wants or cravings (and often needs) and choose instead to focus on giving the children what they need and want. What they are doing is choosing their longer term want – a desire to have children who are secure and well attached – over their immediate craving to watch the game or to stay up and have a few drinks with friends.
Holding your needs up in front of you and making them compete is one tool you can use to try and make a better choice. Be warned that it is limited in effectiveness, but having that tool, along with many others will allow you to feel you have more control over your emotional eating, and help you to grow out of it slowly.
David vs Goliath
The urge is powerful and can’t be beaten all the time. Getting help is usually necessary.
The urge that emotional eaters face everyday is not simply an eating issue that willpower and special diets can fix. It is a symptom of a deeper emotional problem that has been very difficult to deal with.
Focusing most of your efforts on that aspect is key to tackling the issue and the way to finally realize authentic change.
Cravings can be tamed.
- Read the Free Guide