Supplemental Talk: Conquering Cravings

Eating Behaviors

  • Binge Eating: eating a large volume of food within a short period of time (to the point of discomfort and pain); a loss of control; extreme guilt and shame afterwards
  • Compulsive Eating: eating a large volume of food (beyond the point of satiety) over a more extended period of time (e.g. throughout the day); guilt and shame are present 
  • Emotional Eating: most likely eating not due to physical hunger while eating; in response to stress or to soothe negative emotions – likely to feel or numb 
  • Mindful Eating: eating in a state of awareness; most likely sitting down and savoring food over a short yet extended period of time (see below).

The Struggle Is Real

We Live Too Fast

  • Average American spends one hour per day eating all of their meals combined
  • 46 percent of Americans eat meals in isolation
  • Family dinners have decreased 
  • Individuals multi-task when eating
  • One in three Americans consume fast food on a daily basis
  • We forget to savor our food.

We Can’t Stop

  • Impulsive 
  • Family history of addiction 
  • History of trauma or dieting, restricting, deprivation 
  • Greater food cue bias 
  • History of the food relationship (e.g., clean your plate club)
  • Epigenetics.

It’s Time to Slow Down

During the stress response, immune cells are released and adrenal glands release cortisol. This causes an increase of cardiac output, elevated blood glucose, increase in heart rate, increased blood pressure and a decreased blood flow to the GI tract. Our bodies better digest and absorb food when one is in a rested and calm state. In addition, the brain needs at least 20 minutes to recognize what nutrients are being consumed. Rest and Digest. 

Mindful Eating

When mindfully eating, one would most likely be sitting down as well as spending at least 20 to 30 minutes eating. There are five different components of the Mindful Eating Plate (Susan Albers PsyD 2012) that are worth considering (See for more):

  • In the Moment – be fully present, turn off the TV and sit. When you eat, just eat.
  • Observation – notice your body and check in with your hunger cues. Notice energy levels, mood and/or emotions and stress level.
  • Awareness – are you tasting your food or are you mindlessly munching?
  • Savor – smell and notice your food. Notice textures and pay attention to flavors.
  • Non-Judgement – speak compassionately and mindfully to yourself. Practice gratitude and notice when should-haves or rigid rules pop into your mind.

Meet Your Body’s Biological Energy Needs

Food is one of our most basic, physiological needs. Changes in access and availability can impact your ability to find satisfaction and contentment in your food choices. It is essential to provide the body with a consistent and adequate eating routine that includes a variety of foods; this can help to eliminate frequent food fixation or thought. 

The Hunger and Fullness Scale

Using the hunger and fullness scale allows you to stay connected to your body while honoring when you are hungry and full. Use this scale before and throughout meals.

Food Strategies

  1. Recognize triggers and cues – what is going on before we eat?
  2. Food pairing – pair something hyper-palatable with something nutrient-dense (e.g., peanut butter with banana)
  3. Food substitutions – can you swap out for something new? (e.g., replace diet soda with sparkling water) 
  4. Avoid certain foods in 100 percent isolation – some foods are better off with a meal (e.g., cookies at 3 p.m. or one to two cookies right after dinner) 
  5. Identify safe/unsafe foods – create boundaries around “unsafe” foods.

Supportive Coping Skills

  1. Breathing and/or meditation – breathing exercises can lower the stress response in the body and calm down the vagus nerve
  2. Seek support – some may need to work with a therapist and/or treatment team to work through various things such as trauma, PTSD, etc. 
  3. Gratitude – when practicing gratitude (giving thanks and appreciation), one can’t feel a negative emotion at the same time. Use a gratitude journal daily. 
  4. 20-25-minute activity – do something different for 20-25 minutes when an urge happens – get outside, journal, knit, color, etc. 

Recommended Reading

Intuitive Eating by Elyse Resch and Evelyn Tribole

The Slow Down Diet by Marc David

Eating in the Light of the Moon by Anita Johnson

Health at Every Size by Linda Bacon