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In terms of the women I have the pleasure of working with, one of the most common struggles they experience is unpredictable cravings.
Which leaves them feeling unworthy, helpless, and incapable of eating healthy.
This is understandable, as dealing with unhealthy food cravings can be an extremely difficult and frustrating process to go through.
To these women, it makes them feel as if their eating habits are unpredictable and out of control.
When in reality, there’s simple reasons as to why cravings actually occur.
Hint: it’s not because you’re addicted to unhealthy foods.
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Most women believe that cravings come from the fact that they’re addicted to specific food items.
I can’t even count the amount of times I’ve heard, “I’m addicted to sugar”, “I’m addicted to carbs”, “I’m addicted to sweets”, and other similar statements.
The reality is, that it’s highly, highly unlikely that anyone is actually addicted to a food item.
Research on real food addiction is few and far between.
To say someone is “addicted” to unhealthy foods is a blanket statement that doesn’t really cut to the core of the real issue.
The real problem is your inability to fill a void that you’re experiencing.
So, if you’re experiencing cravings, a good question to ask yourself would be, “What am I actually hungry for?”.
The answers to this question are the real reason why you experience seemingly random food cravings.
You’re attempting to fill a void with food.
To uncover this, we need to figure out what you’re not getting from your life that you most desire.
Here are some common examples of emotional triggers that cause you to experience cravings.
This is one of the most common causes of cravings and emotional eating.
I mean, how often have you eaten something mindlessly just to pass the time?
This can happen regardless of one’s health or weight.
The need you’re filling in this scenario is a way to pass the time.
Boredom eating is also extremely common with overworked individuals.
They’re so used to being productive and accomplishing tasks, that when they finally settle down, they can’t shake the feeling of having to do something.
Which can often result in them eating to fill the need of being productive.
Many of us were taught to use food as a reward-system from childhood.
If we behaved, we were allowed to have candy or some other indulgence.
Unfortunately for us, our parents didn’t really think this one through.
As this can cause for some uncontrollable, unhealthy methods of eating in adulthood.
We’ll convince ourselves that we can have an indulgence once we finish that work project, thesis, contract, or paper.
Using food as a reward system can also be a vicious cycle that is ongoing.
As we’ll always find reasons that we need to feel validated or rewarded.
For many families, food is used as a way to bond and connect.
This is especially true around the holidays, which are always centered around food and friendships.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with this.
It becomes a problem when we directly associate food with feeling connected or part of a group.
This can be more problematic for some than others.
It can cause a person to feel social pressure to eat with the group, rather than making personal food choices.
Any overworked individual will know this all too well.
How often do you use food as a way to avoid the task at hand?
This is another that most people can relate to.
Food can be used as a way to distract oneself from the less than desirable task at hand.
Doing this can be unconscious at first.
However, over time it can cause you to rely on food as a coping mechanism when tasks feel difficult.
The main symptom of emotional eating is when we use food to numb our feelings.
Due to one’s unwillingness to experience negative emotions, they sedate themselves with unhealthy food.
You’ll know this is happening when you experience a craving almost immediately when a negative emotion occurs.
There’s no question that doing this severely impacts the relationship one has with their body and food.
It diminishes your ability to communicate with your body and her hunger signals.
While there’s nothing wrong with wanting to experience some relief from negative emotion, it should never be done with food as a distractor.
Unfortunately, when cravings and overeating occur, it can spiral into self-punishing eating behavior.
This is when the relationship with food and body becomes so toxic, that the person resorts to beating themselves up through unhealthy eating.
Which eventually leads to self-hatred and resentment for one’s self.
While this is incredibly harmful, it’s extremely common.
If this is something you experience, it’s important to remember to have compassion for yourself.
And to know that your eating habits mean nothing about your personally.
They only represent a need that needs to be filled.
Many clients I work with say they experience cravings when they feel worried or anxious.
This is extremely common as feelings of anxiety primarily feel like they’re located in the stomach-area.
Which can be a very uncomfortable sensation for most.
It’s no surprise that to relieve this feeling, many will resort to food to cover it up.
When eating, the sensation of biting and chewing food can actually release tension.
It can be helpful to notice what foods you reach for when experiencing feelings of frustration or rage.
While eating certain foods can release anger, it’s important to not use food as a coping mechanism under those circumstances.
There’s no question that we all love some “comfort-food” every once in a while.
However, we need to draw the line where comfort eating becomes toxic.
It can easily become another form of emotional eating.
Where we seek to cover up negative emotions instead of feeling them.
This is always a slippery slope which can negatively impact your relationship with food.
Most of my clients are overworked women who have little time to themselves.
When they do get a break in their hectic schedule, they’ll often let their guard down.
Which can include unhealthy eating binges during their time off.
It’s these women who seemingly have their life and career “all-together”.
However, it’s their relationship with food that suffers.
Since their only way to “lose control” and let loose is with their eating.
When you take a step back and look at cravings for what they are, there’s a lot less drama associated with it.
The reality is, cravings are nothing personal.
They don’t occur because you’re destined to be unhealthy forever.
Or that you’re incapable of eating healthy foods.
It’s because you’re not observing what your mind and body really need outside of food.
This is simple.
I encourage you to not fall into the self-pity thinking of “I’m addicted to x,y, and z.”
Be responsible for your actions and explore them with curiosity and compassion.
When you approach your cravings in this way, you pave the way for you to develop an easy, effortless relationship with food.
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Hey there! I'm Kat Rentas. I’m a certified eating psychology 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.