Its Friday night and you’re watching your favorite Netflix show and a thought pops into your head! “Ice cream would be really good right now!”
You’re at work, its midafternoon and your start to feel like you’re going to fall asleep at your desk. “I should go to the vending machine and get a sugar coffee!”
Finally, a night out with friends, I need this! I am going to eat 2 buckets of free chips and salsa with my 3 margaritas and 45 tacos!
Ok maybe its 3 tacos but you get the point. We all having cravings. You’re not weird for having them. Our brains get all sorts of clues that it’s time to eat! Why is it we don’t crave green beans, broccoli, and chicken?
Those healthy foods just aren’t packed with the fat, sugar, and chemicals that scream at your brain to GIVE ME MORE! Food companies know what they are doing, how else would they stay in business? You crave what is most desirable to your brain, NOT your body! Your body would choose grilled chicken over breaded chicken wings drenched in sugar sauce any day. Too bad our brains make the decisions.
Fortunately, there ARE ways to bust the cravings. It just takes a little planning and mindfulness.
Substitute: The next time you get hit with a sweet craving, try eating your favorite fruit. Salt and crunchy craving? Try eating unbuttered popcorn. Chocolate attack?
Swap out chocolate for dark chocolate. It’s better for you and has less sugar. When you want ice cream try a dairy free frozen fruit smoothie. You can even freeze it so it has the ice cream taste. The point is to try to pack the most nutrition into your cravings. Your body will thank you.
Distract yourself: Surely you love all sorts of things besides food. What is one thing you enjoy that has nothing to do with food? Do you like to take long bubble baths? Internet surfing, video games, reading, listening to your favorite jams? This will be specific to you. When you feel a craving hit and you know you’re not truly hungry, then force yourself to do something else you love. If when you are done, the craving is still there, allow yourself a small portion and congratulate yourself for not eating a huge bowl of ice cream.
Eat! You might be having a craving, because you are actually hungry for a satisfying, healthy meal. Your brain is saying eat the candy bar, your body really means give me a big chicken salad. What time is it? When is the last time you eat? If you are having a craving for a treat but you really need to eat healthy substantial food, eat the meal first and then see how you feel.
Eat before you go out to eat: This seems counterproductive but it works. When you are planning on going out to eat or attending a Holiday event eat a protein snack before you go. The worst thing is to show up starving and have no self-control. Try eating some hard-boiled eggs, nuts, or cottage cheese. Whatever you like that is high in protein. Protein is one of the most hunger satisfying nutrients and will help curb your appetite to make better choices.
Plan Ahead: Bring healthy snacks to work and keep them in your car. You don’t want to be left with a massive craving with no food anywhere near except the vending machine filled with candy and chips.
Visualize your goals and mediate on your motivation: Once you are clear on your motivation for wanting to lose weight, write it down. Put it on your fridge or in your pantry. Make it your screen saver on your phone or computer. Look at this goal every day. We are terribly forgetful as humans! We can feel totally ready to make a change and then a few days later we forget as the busyness of life gets to us. Make sure you can’t forget!
You are worth this! You are bigger than your cravings! Your goals matter.
Giving into cravings can sabotage all your weight loss efforts, but it doesn’t have to be this way. You can plan ahead and beat them. Next week you won’t even remember the fast food meal, the snickers bar, or the cheese fries. What you will remember is what the scale told you earlier this morning. It’s just not worth it. You will look back in a few months and you will be proud of your accomplishment, your weight loss, and your better health.
You got this!
Health is everything
Have you ever known a ridiculously happy successful person who was not healthy? Most likely you haven’t. Without health, you cannot be as productive, energetic, or as driven as you would be if health was at your core. It’s hard to experience all life has to offer when you are living in chronic pain, fatigued, or depressed. Even if you have amazing experiences happening all around you, bad health gets in the way every time. Human growth is stunted when you have to focus on some bodily or mental ailment.
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs states we cannot be self-actualized humans reaching our full potential until we have our fundamental need for food, water, and health in place.
I am not sure Maslow meant until we eat a lot of refined sugar, processed foods, and drink a lot of alcohol and pop. Yet this is what most people put at the bottom of their pyramid.
This is the basis for everything else. How can we move up from this pile of crap we have as our building block? Are we satisfied being tired, bloated, and sick? I doubt it. I am not shaming anyone. This is what our culture has become. No one makes a conscious decision to follow the most unhealthy diet possible and get sick. Little by little, day by day, we get bombarded with messages form childhood about what to eat. The problem is the FDA food pyramid was loaded with carbs at the bottom and fruits and vegetables were more of an afterthought. This way of eating only set us up for cravings for more carbs and sugar. Lets face it, sugar tastes REALLY good, and companies are very aware of this. Their main job is to get you HOOKED and hooked we are! At what expense though? Is it worth your self actualization?
Is following a diet of chemical crap really more important then realizing your dreams and full potential? I would have to say a resounding HECK NO!
Lets face it, change is hard people. If it was easy we would all be fighting crowds just to get a spot in the gym every morning, waiting in line to get first dibs on the new broccoli delivery, and throwing out our TV's so we have more room to read in our living room. For some possibly spiritual reason, universally it appears anything worth having seems to take work. Not the kind of work like chanting to crystals and praying to a vision board. Change seems to be the catalyst for growth. Its not easy, but it is doable. Once you make one change, then another, and another.. you slowly move up the pyramid. Without realizing it eventually will get to the top!
The top of yourself.
Reaching your full potential.
Oh the possibilities!
I started smoking at 20 years old when I would hang out with friends who smoked and drank.
I remember the first cigarette puff I took at a bar.
It was disgusting. It tasted bad, smelled bad, and make me feel woozy.
Why in my right mind why would I smoke again and again and again, and become a smoker?
I seemed to have a talent for choosing to do things I knew I would eventually have to stop and it would be difficult.
I guess I could say I wasn’t in my right mind. It’s not like I did not know how bad it was for me. Smoking became a reason to take a break at work, something to focus on when I was stressed, a social que to hold as I talked with friends.
It became essentially what all addictions are, a habit. The brain is interesting. It doesn’t seem to differentiate between habits that are good for you or bad for you. Once a habit loop is created and addiction is ignited, cravings become natural. We must give in to them to make the thought or anxious feeling go away.
Well, we think we must give in to them, but ultimately everything is a choice within reason.
I realized I had an addiction when I tried to quit smoking, about 20 times in one year. I was 24 years old when I began my quitting ceremonies. I would get grossed out and sick of smelling like death. I was spending what little extra money I had on the cancer sticks and feeling guilty about it. I wasn’t so much concerned with the health problems at that age, but I did do a report in college on emphysema that freaked the crap out of me. I literally sat in the parking lot of the college and smoked a cigarette then walked in and did a report on emphysema and then went back to my car to smoke a cigarette. That’s addiction at its finest.
My quitting ceremonies consisted of me buying a pack of Marlboro lights at the gas station by my apartment. I would get back in the car and tell myself this would be the last pack I ever smoked. I would anxiously smoke my last one, throw out all my ashtrays and lighters and be done with it. Then a few hours later I would go buy another pack. Maybe I made it until the next day.
This was around the time in my life I started getting into Christianity. I went to a prayer retreat with a new church I was a part of. I had been praying for many weeks that God would help me quit smoking.
During one of the worship services I had a spiritual experience. I felt the love of God overpower me and the addiction lift off me. I no longer had the desire to smoke and went home smoke free. I wish I could find better words to describe this experience. It was like I was so sure of God’s love for me, I did not want to do anything I knew he would not approve of after that.
Fast forward 11 years. My oldest son was using heroin and I was stressed out to the max. I remember feeling out of control anxiety one day and had the thought to go and try an “organic” cigarette. I had been healed from IC for 3 years and I lived a healthy life. I never thought I would smoke again. Why I gave into this thought, I will never understand. I went and bought organic cigarettes and justified it was only nicotine and water so it was not unhealthy.
Smoking did calm me down that day and I thought to myself how maybe the problem with smoking was just that people were smoking the kind with all the chemicals. (Addiction talking again). Kind of like Marijuana, it was just a herb right? Wrong.
Within a month I was a half a pack a day closest smoker. I did not smoke around my kids or anyone important. I was ashamed. I was supposed to be the picture of health. I went through hell to get better from IC, and I spent 10 months in a wellness coach education and 4 years in psychology and coaching training. I was sure Jesus had healed my addiction forever at that prayer service. 11 years ago. Here I was smoking, again.
One of the worst parts of addiction is the control it seems to have over you.
Even though organic, I noticed the bad effects of smoking very quickly compared to when I was in my 20s. I am so in tune with my body now I am able to recognize changes.
Here is what the recent yearlong closet smoking taught me about nicotine and health.
I quit again on my own this time after just one year. It took 3 tries’. I went cold turkey and the experience was different then the last time. I did not feel a rush of love from God, and I didn’t feel anything lift off me.
What I did feel is major cravings and anxiety with tons of nervous energy. I felt this for about 72 hours.
I might have bit your head off it you were around me. I am sorry for that! I also eat a lot more sugary food and gained a few pounds. After about 5 days it was just the occasional thought I would have to fight.
I believe I learned more about addictions and habits after my 2nd most recent quit. I realized that although the physical withdrawal and anxiety sucked, that if I abstained the cravings and thoughts would go away. I would move on, smoke free. I also learned I do not have to do what my thoughts tell me to do. I already know this, but it’s even more true for me now. My thoughts would be screaming at me as I passed the gas station “buy cigarettes, you only need one, then you will throw them out” or “they are organic, only nicotine and water, they really aren’t bad for you!”
As the thoughts screamed, I kept driving. I got home and took a bath or read a book and within 45 minutes I was no longer thinking about it. Another craving would come but eventually go away again. I realized I am stronger than I think I am. If I can do this with cigarettes and resist the screaming thoughts, I can do this with anything I want to change. Now I am tackling sugar addiction once and for all.
I am stronger than I thought. That is the new mantra that pops up over and over again for me now. I believe we are all stronger than we think we are. I am learning how much power we really have over our lives when we don't give into our thoughts.
Melissa is the Author of Healing Through the Pain How I overcame Interstitial Cystitis. She writes about health (physical, emotional and spiritual) from a vulnerable place, after overcoming her own challenges and healing Interstitial Cystitis. She is passionate about helping women realize their ability to make changes and move forward from difficult situations in their lives.
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