For so many of us, cravings gallop all over our internal landscape. They bully us and push us off the trail again and again in our quest for peace with food.
For me, a large part of the process of learning to eat well is learning to manage cravings. For me, there are three parts to my cravings, all of which need attention in order to stay on track:
Look at the food you're craving. See if there's a nutritional component which could be something your body desperately needs.
Part of the process towards peace is managing one's blood sugar. That means gradually learning to choose complex instead of simple carbohydrates; becoming a Friend of Fiber; and figuring out what fresh fruits and vegetables are your faves.
People either get hungry when they're stressed, or can't eat at all. For those of us who hit the snack drawer, consider alternatives. Add options for yourself like low-fat popcorn, biscotti, or other treats, depending on what you like best to eat at those times.
Every now and then I want some favorite dish or food which I ordinarily don't have, but which I like a lot. The Cheesecake Factory's fish tacos or salmon salad - not to mention the cheesecake! Or a Real breakfast of eggs and toast and potatoes. I am not bad or weak or a failure because I like those things. It is natural to want something favorite every few months.
Strategies to handle cravings
Make up your mind right now that you will never deny yourself what you crave. Promise yourself this, most solemnly. If you want something badly enough, you will do everything you can to get it for yourself, or the nearest possible thing. Just knowing this will calm a lot of the craving.
There is no emotional freight to a craving. Resist the temptation to add it to your list of things to beat yourself up about. It's not true, so just skip it. It's a craving, not a blot on your character record.
Procrastinate a bit. Sometimes, if you give it an hour, have some water, do something else, you'll forget about it.
If you still want whatever it is, then prepare to eat and enjoy it. Find a pleasant place for your indulgence. Get the food and prepare it. If it's a dessert, eat a healthy meal first, taking your time so that your hunger will be satisfied before you dig in. You deserve to enjoy all of your food.
OK, now comes the big moment you've been waiting for: your treat!! Here's the key to indulgence: "Be in the moment." I don't know about you, but when I get stressed, I get scattered (or vice versa). I eat automatically, just stuffing myself with food, totally unaware of what I'm eating. The solution is:
Stop Everything. Go get the Hershey bar (or whatever it is you want so badly), and go someplace quiet. Now, savor that treat. Unwrap it carefully and look at it. Smell the aroma and imagine how good it will taste. Feel yourself start to salivate in anticipation of the delicious taste. Now, take a bite. Hold it on your tongue and let the flavor overtake your senses. Enjoy the texture of the food, the fragrance or the aroma, and be aware of the relaxation and satisfaction you feel as you consume it. And take your time. Make it last.
You are on a process which is going to last your whole life, and you must learn to manage your cravings for sweets and other foods without the self-denial and mean thoughts which have robbed you of enjoyment and made you feel so terrible about yourself. You deserve that treat, and you deserve to eat it like a human being, from a plate, in a comfortable place, in a situation where you can focus on it and let it fill your senses for a few delicious bites.
I started out applying these techniques to enjoying treat things, then finally figured out that I should approach all my eating this way.