You want to lower your cravings with foods you love, but you don’t want to restrict yourself from them completely.
I get it. It’s easy to feel stuck when you want to enjoy foods you love, but you feel like you have no control with them.
The solution isn’t to restrict yourself from foods. It’s to tackle the root of the problem: the fact that you crave the foods so strongly in the first place.
In this episode, you’ll learn the balance between naturally lowering cravings and not needing to restrict yourself from foods you find enjoyable.
We’ll dive deep into:
→ Why cravings actually exist and what makes them useful
→ The difference between restriction and deprivation with food
→ What reality to expect when saying no to your cravings
→ The process of lowering your cravings without restriction
Saying no to your food cravings isn’t an all-or-nothing approach. You can end your emotional eating without eliminating access to foods you find most enjoyable.
Achieving this balance is crucial for healthy eating to feel maintainable and sustainable.
Hello my friends. Welcome back to the podcast This week, today we’re gonna talk all about how to curb cravings without restriction. And yes, you can curb cravings as a skill. This doesn’t mean there’s any gimmicks or hacks. This is a human skill you can develop and I wanna talk about how you can start lowering your cravings with food without restricting yourself with food. And there is a specific way that you can start doing this now.
So I’m excited to introduce to you this concept so you can start applying it. And really this is a common question is we’ll see this problem as being on opposite ends of the spectrum where we’ll have really high cravings with food, but we don’t wanna give up foods we love. And so it puts us in this impossible position or so it feels that we don’t wanna stop eating foods we love, but we think that the foods we love are creating these cravings and we don’t know how to manage that.
So I want to address this here today so you can see cravings really accurately. And really the basics of cravings is pretty simple. It’s not as negative as you may believe, and cravings really aren’t as out of your control as you may believe. So I think that’s the theme I want to bring in today’s episode with cravings is how you can create a sense of control and stability with whatever cravings you’re having.
So that’s the very first thing I want to talk about today, is just to even establish what cravings are. And really when we think about cravings, we need to know that they come from your human brain. And cravings are actually emotional urges from your brain to experience comfort because you have a primitive brain that is wired to seek comfort and avoid discomfort. So emotional cravings to see comfort are the most natural thing in the world.
A lot of the time we can find ourselves seeing cravings as negative or unnatural or a problem. And the truth is, if you have a naturally functioning human body and you have emotional cravings with food, there’s nothing wrong with you and there’s nothing wrong with your body. It’s just as people in today’s society, we are not taught how to manage this part of our human brain and body and it is not prioritized. So how cravings occur is once again, it’s an emotional urge that your brain has to seek comfort in food.
So this is why we really crave foods we.
Love because there are certain foods we enjoy that we find very comforting because it gives us that dopamine hit of pleasure and we really, really like it. So for me, that’s definitely chocolate and cheese, love chocolate and cheese
I find them the most pleasurable. Now, why emotional cravings occur? Why these urges occur to eat these foods is because your brain is wired to avoid emotional discomfort. So this might relate to a lot of you where at the end of your workday you’re coming down from that stress and you experience this urge to comfort yourself with food, you experience those cravings. So first what we need to understand is that that experience does not have anything to do with the foods you find pleasurable and nothing has gone wrong.
This is just a natural reaction to emotional discomfort or stress occurring. And that’s the first thing we need to understand is the goal of cravings that you experience isn’t pleasure with the foods you love. In fact, it doesn’t have anything to do with that. Just like my emotional cravings doesn’t actually have to do with the fact that I find chocolate and cheese very pleasurable. It has to do with my brain wanting to relieve stress, wanting to regulate uncomfortable emotions.
And the most readily available source of comfort in our lives is food because we always have to eat. So if it’s not food for a lot of people, it’s gonna be Netflix, it’s gonna be overspending. Um, it’s gonna be a number of things. It’s just important to know that our emotional cravings for food aren’t personal and there’s a more physiological reason for them other than just the fact that you love these foods.
So the goal with cravings is not because you enjoy these foods, it’s to regulate stress. And also we want to acknowledge that cravings are separate from logical once with food. So again, I’ll use my example in my life. I want to eat cheese and chocolate
Now, that is a completely separate part of the brain that compels me to emotionally eat those foods. So the logical part of my brain wants to eat those foods because I enjoy them. It’s very deliberate and it’s very controlled. The emotional side of my brain wants to manipulate the pleasure I get from those foods for emotional comfort. And this is where cravings live. So that’s what I want you to understand. First off is exactly the functionality of cravings because they would not exist in your body if they were not functional somehow.
And the function that they provide you from your brain is they allow you to regulate stress and uncomfortable emotions in the form of food comfort. And these cravings and these urges are what compel you to emotionally eat and to overeat. So you give yourself that comfort and you can think for a moment where this most plays out for you. I know from coaching so many of you that I think where I see this most often occur is after the workday or in the evening when your body’s kind of coming down from that stress or when you’re sitting with emotional discomfort, maybe you feel bored and there’s not a lot distracting you.
So just consider for a moment where you think cravings or emotional urges with food most show up. Now, the original question of this podcast is how can I not give into cravings without feeling restricted?
So we want to talk about how you can lower your cravings without restricting yourself from foods you love. So what I want you to understand is the difference between restriction with food and deprivation with food. And it’s going to be important for you to learn how this works, that you distinguish these two things. So I want you to define restriction as what happens when you make food decisions that don’t meet your body’s needs.
So restriction is when you don’t get enough of a certain type of food or a certain aspect of food. So whether that’s calories, whether that’s a certain macronutrient, whether that’s pleasure with food, that’s also something that really does matter. So restriction is when you don’t provide for your body’s needs with food deprivation, I want you to see entirely separately, and that’s gonna more relate to what we’re talking about here with cravings because deprivation is emotional, it’s not physical, and it’s not something that can negatively impact your health in the context here, because deprivation is how you can feel when you stop relying on dopamine from foods for stress regulation.
And this kind of is how people become dependent on drugs as well, to put it lightly, right? It’s when you depend on the dopamine hits from an external source to manage your stress rather than managing your stress in a healthy manner. And when you think about the concept of removing yourself from that dopamine and that emotional eating, you’re of course going to feel emotionally deprived. Now, just real quick, I want you to take a moment and consider that separation between restricting foods and feeling deprived.
And I want you to consider what you experience when you deprived in your body. How does that emotionally feel for you? I think for me, it kind of feels like an ache in my chest. Um, it feels quite uncomfortable, it feels unsettling, and it feels like this burning sensation when I really think about it. I think all of us know what it means to feel deprived, but what I want to distinguish here is that it is safe for you to experience the emotion of deprivation.
We’re not talking about restricting your body with its food needs. So when you stop eating based on your cravings, based on your emotional urges, you’re going to be conditioning your body to behave differently. So your body is going to start responding differently to how you’re treating your cravings. And this is what happens inside own your eating habits. What happens is each client when they join, they learn how to say no to the craving and manage the craving separately from their eating decisions.
They learn how to manage stress separate from foods so their cravings naturally go down and become more settled, and then they can make logical food decisions that serve them. But what I want you to know here is that saying no to cravings has nothing to do with restriction actually. So that’s kind of the trick question here. When we think about how can I say no to cravings without feeling restricted restriction actually has nothing to do with your cravings because restriction depends on you withholding food needs from your body, whereas cravings are occurring because your brain is compelling you to emotionally eat, which is not withholding a need from your body that actually will be unhealthy to your body.
So I think what I’m really saying here,
So for the most part, there’s not this massive deprivation that’s happening. They don’t cut this off cold Turkey. They learn how to regulate stress in this really effective foundational way. So you can picture cravings lowering over time gradually as you’re learning how to not overeat and not emotionally eat. So that deprivation for the most part when you do this process correctly, doesn’t need to be become all consuming. I just want you to be able to distinguish the deprivation feeling if it comes up.
So you don’t think anything’s gone wrong. Now, here’s the process of saying no to cravings without restriction. Again, you do not have to restrict yourself from pleasurable foods or foods that are healthy for your body in order to say no to cravings because what you’re saying no to is an emotional urge from your brain to overeat. And how you do that first, the first step is to separate the emotional urge with food from your stress.
So I wanna paint a picture for you, and I want you to imagine you get off work and what you’re left with is a sense of overwhelm with your job. So you are experiencing that emotional state in that moment. What will happen without awareness is you’ll feel this strong urge to go inside your house, pull out the yummy foods, and sink into the couch and overeat. Instead, what you wanna do first is you wanna separate that urge to eat the yummy snacks and overeat from the actual emotional state you’re in.
So this can mean you say, I am experiencing overwhelm and I’m having an urge to overeat, to comfort this overwhelm, right? So this is narrating that situation properly. You’re not going to tell yourself that you’re just addicted to the foods in the house and that you don’t have control and that you can’t help yourself. You’re going to narrate this accurately. And what is happening is you are having emotional discomfort and your brain has created an urge to eat the things in the house and sink into the couch after work.
Now, once you’ve separated the urge with food from the emotion, then you’re going to narrate that experience properly. So it’s kind of like I already said, right? You’re going to acknowledge that this is overwhelm. I’m having overwhelmed because I’m thinking I’m not gonna get everything done at work, and this makes complete sense why I’m feeling this pool to comfort myself from that narrating this improperly would be making this personal, would be making it about the foods you love, where you’re really making this a problem.
And where I want you to get to is, it’s not that you don’t wanna change your eating behaviors, but nothing is going wrong here, per se. The machine that is your body and your brain is working as expected. Because if you are experiencing really high stress, your body is supposed to supply you with urges to comfort yourself and lower the stress. Why you’re having high stress is because you’re not acknowledging your emotion in a healthy way.
I want you to think about even what we’re walking through here so far. You get home from work and you just go straight in the house to overeat. You’re not acknowledging what the root of this problem is. It’s the fact that you’re having overwhelm. And that’s something especially through coaching, but also you can think about now that you can start to unpack on your own because that’s actually what’s occurring here.
So you’re going to narrate this experience properly, you’re not gonna make it personal. And then once you’ve identified that it’s overwhelm and that’s what’s causing the urge, you’re gonna focus on how overwhelm feels in your body. So you’re going to describe it. You’re going to get familiar and intimate with where overwhelm actually exists because overwhelm in this scenario is just a vibration. It is just an emotional signature that lives in your body.
And it does not matter what emotion it is, even if there’s an emotion that is more quote unquote negative. Uncomfortable emotions are tolerable. They weren’t meant to feel like suffering. If the overwhelm, for example, feels like suffering and spinning, it’s because you’re in your head with it and you’re resisting it. I want you to practice dropping down into your body and noticing the overwhelm that’s there, and just looking at it as a vibration that’s occurring.
Describe it symptomatically, address it. Notice how it feels, how quick it moves, how heavy or light it is. Get familiar with it. And if this example resonates with you, and this happens when you come home from work, I don’t care if you need to sit in the car for a moment before you step in your house and you drop into your body and see how you’re feeling, do this. It’s going to be the part of the steps that allows you to lower this urgency. And I want you to consider this.
If you’re having high cravings with food and you’re having a lot of urgency around the foods you wanna eat, what’s really happening is your body is trying to get your attention to the feeling that it wants you to place your focus on, because that’s how our body effectively processes emotions when you pay attention to them.
So you’re overwhelm. If we just go in the house and eat the foods and ignore it, it’s just gonna get stronger and it’s not going to be addressed. But instead, what you’re gonna do here is you’re going to place that focus on your body. You’re going to describe it as a vibration, as a tangible feeling, and these are the perfect conditions for your body to regulate that emotion and lower those urges. And then once you’ve done that and you’ve placed attention on that emotion in your body, then I want you to notice once that urge has gone down, how you more have the logical capacity to make eating decisions that serve you so you no longer are having as much urgency around eating foods you love.
You don’t feel like you have to restrict yourself necessarily. It all feels more simple. And I want to call attention to the fact that if you have tried to use willpower to eat healthy in moments where you’re having high cravings, this is why it doesn’t work.
Because you haven’t solved the root problem, which is unchecked emotion. You are not solving for what is causing the high cravings. You are trying to force yourself through them. And that my friends is exhausting. That will lead to burnout. And really this is why in own your eating habits in our four step process, willpower is not necessary because these clients learn how to lower their urgency and cravings with food first.
So then when it’s time to make a logical eating decision, it feels accessible and it feels logical and decisive. It doesn’t require them to push through this urgency. So I want you to think about how you could start implementing this now to create changes this week. So maybe that means you just start questioning all of it. When you experience high cravings, maybe that just means that you start acknowledging cravings for what they actually are.
You understand that it’s not about the foods in that moment, it’s about an emotion that you’re feeling. Maybe that means you take action on this like a lot of my clients, and you have a moment in the car before you enter the house after work. Maybe that means I’ve had a client or two lock themselves in the bathroom so they can hide from their kids and their husbands while they check in with this and do this work. It does not matter how you start doing this or how you approach this. You will start seeing results in the form of lower cravings and more intentional food decisions if you implement these steps.
And if you do try them out and you notice success with them, please reach out to me and let me know on Instagram at Cat REOs. I would love to hear from you or tag me in your stories. That’s always fun too. Alright, my friends, I hope this was helpful for today. Thanks for spending time with me and I’ll talk to you next week.
Hey there! I'm Kat Rentas. I’m a certified life and health coach for women who believes that eating healthy should feel simple and sustainable. I teach hundreds of high-performing women to change their eating habits without the overwhelm. Want to change your eating habits in a way that is aligned with your needs, preferences, and goals? You’re in the right place. You can read my full story here.