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There is great debate in the world of nutrition as to whether food cravings are a symptom of nutrient deficiencies or not. Regardless of whether this is true, cravings can either be a blessing or curse, depending on the cravings you are having.
For example, if you are craving sugar or caffeine during a long day of work, this could simply be your body’s way of telling you to drink more water or get a bit of exercise in. It’s a natural process: You are tired, so your body craves a boost. Or perhaps it’s a hot summer’s day and you find yourself lusting after a refreshing glass of fruit juice. It’s the same principal. Your body needs something, and you can find it in food.
On the other hand, humans are not very good at self-control.
Sometimes we crave food without rhyme or reason…We just want to eat for the sake of it. This, of course, can be problematic- especially if we consistently give in to these cravings. The more junk we take in, the harder it becomes to resist it.
Meditation is a great way to conquer food cravings and addictions, but to understand how this work, first you must know why we are so vulnerable to food addiction.
Why Do We Get Cravings?
It has been proposed (and makes a lot of sense when you think about it) that the reason why food is a common addiction- along with smoking, alcoholism, nail-biting, thumb- sucking and an entire array of other terrible habits- is because we are built with an autonomous reflex to put things in our mouths for comfort.
Perhaps this has to do with how we were fed when we were babies- suckling on either a teat or a bottle, while being held and comforted. From our very first days on Earth, having something in our mouths, something to suck on, has always calmed us down and most likely this idea is still awake in our subconscious.
It would explain why smokers, people who consciously and voluntarily inhale toxic, carcinogenic chemicals, would never dream on injecting nicotine. Think about it. Let’s say you crave an entire pizza for yourself. If someone were to extract the flavour, oils, proteins and other pieces of the pizza and liquefy it, you wouldn’t want to inject it into your veins. That’s firstly disgusting and secondly there would be no pleasure in it. The pleasure in pizza, which is why we crave it, is in eating it. It wouldn’t do to smell the pizza, or feel the pizza- we must eat it.
It is undeniable that eating brings us comfort. Yes, it is a necessity, without food we would die, but why then do we shy away from healthy, wholesome foods, and lean towards junk?
Because junk is not only psychologically addictive, it’s physically addictive to. All the chemicals that make it junk make us happy. That’s comfort on top of comfort, which is quite difficult to resist.
How Meditation Can Help
Meditation can help in many ways, but the most important is in self-discovery. Meditation centres around awareness of both ourselves and the world around us. By meditating we reach deep within our spirits and get to know ourselves better.
Thus, the first thing that meditation can do is make you aware of why you seek comfort in the first place. Are you bored? Stressed? Sad? Insecure? Perhaps you just can’t resist indulging. Once you identify what is causing the problem- which meditation can certainly do- you can begin to solve it.
The next step would be centering yourself. Now that you know what is causing your cravings you can work on eliminating them. If you are stress eating, a simple solution would be to meditate instead. Meditating is a relaxing practice. It calms our nerves, lowers blood pressure and lessens cortisol (the stress hormone) too. That would be an immediate solution. But you would know now that what would remove your cravings is better time management, more sleep, or taking on less work. Once the stress leaves you, the cravings will follow.
Once you know what the problem is and how you can solve it, you can work on self-improvement. Because meditation makes us aware of ourselves, damaging our bodies won’t seem like such a fantastic idea anymore. The more you meditate, the more you will look after yourself and your simple meditations could become a lifestyle of health and well-being.
Quick and Easy Meditations
The next time an uncalled for food craving hits, instead of giving in to it, try this meditation instead.
- Begin by Breathing. Make a conscious effort to take in deep, steady breaths. Be aware of every breath you take. Don’t just breathe- experience breathing.
- Focus on Yourself. Think about your situation and how things are going for you. Don’t think of the food craving, but rather what is causing it.
- Let These Thoughts Go. Do not dwell on negativity. Acknowledge it and let it go.
- Visualise if Need Be. Imagination is a powerful tool. If you are craving something unhealthy or unnecessary, imagine throwing it in the bin, or picture a version of yourself that is not experiencing cravings.
- Breathe Again. If you have identified the problem, the food craving has dissipated, or you feel relaxed enough, focus on your breaths again to end off.
Or you can try this simple Mindfulness Meditation:
- Control Your Breaths. Sit comfortably and control your breaths to the point that you are thinking of nothing else. Focus on the sensation of breathing, the temperature of your breaths, the movement of your lungs, the sound of your breathing etc.
- Let Your Mind Wander. Inevitably you will get to a point where your thoughts will wander off away from your breathing. If your food craving comes to mind, take the following steps to combat it:
– Refocus your mind by once again concentrating on your breathing
– Or focus on what triggered the craving and why you are experiencing it.
– Acknowledge your emotions. How do you feel about this craving?
– Assert yourself. Tell yourself that you are in control, and that you have the power to break your bad habits.
Extra Steps You Can Take
Food addiction is a sorely misunderstood and misrepresented problem in society. Conquering it is not easy, even more so since we are surrounded by food- or depictions of food- everywhere we turn. Junk is convenient too, and this is also a reason why instead of eating healthy, in our busy days and lazy culture we’d much rather eat out or order in.
While meditation will definitely uplift, motivate and help you move past your cravings, there are simple measures you can take to make the process of weaning off addictive foods easier.
- Replace the Junk With Healthy Alternatives
Instead of soda, drink fruit juice or water. Instead of coffee, drink tea. Don’t add sugar to your drinks- try honey or mint instead. This will mean you will get a boost and a taste of sweetness without polluting your body.
- Pack Your Own Lunches
It takes a little bit of extra effort, but why waste money on unhealthy food when you can make your own tasty and nutritious lunches and snacks? If you have no need to spend money on junk, chances are you won’t.
- Read the labels
Stay away from foods that have synthetic, unnatural or chemical (numerical) ingredients. Buy organic and free range. Support local grocers instead of large supermarkets. If you shop smarter, you’ll eat healthier and live happier.
- Eat Enough and Often
We all know that breakfast, lunch and supper are staples. But if you nibble on fruit, unsalted nuts, sugar free/ health bars or low fat snacks in between you won’t have space left in you for food cravings. This would be managing them before they even begin. Staying hydrated will make a large difference too!
It is important to remember that having a food addiction, unnecessary cravings or undeniable urges to indulge is not a sign of weakness. All it says about you is that you are susceptible to bouts of comfort, and at the end of the day, aren’t we all?
Still, the line between a simple pleasure and an unhealthy habit is very thin in this case and making the decision to better your life is one best made sooner rather than later.
Meditation can help you, and if need be you can join a meditation group, or start meditating alongside your loved ones.
Make meditation your new comfort zone instead of comfort food like gluten-free mac and cheese. You’ll be happier, healthier and in control.