Last week’s post focused on healing your microbiome to help tame urges and cravings. Those tiny microbes in your digestive tract can cause a surprising amount of annoying brain chatter as they assert their biochemical influence.
This week, let’s explore how to clean up your your thinking about your urges and cravings. You can create an Intentional Thinking Plan right now, in advance of any urges or cravings.
It will be ready for you to deploy as soon as you sense those pesky urges and cravings trying to stage a coup inside your head.
For many of us, urges and cravings seem to arise without our awareness of conscious thoughts driving them.
You might experience a gradual build up of tension in your body which you interpret as mounting desire for the food or drink. When your willpower is depleted and you just can’t “fight” it anymore, you give in to the craving.
But still, your awareness is not tuned into the frequency of your underlying thoughts.
Or are you someone who experiences something akin to a lightening bolt of desire that strikes when you smell or hear certain foods baking or cooking?
Or when you see certain foods or beverages, even a picture or a TV commercial, can you feel as though your brain is hijacked by desire?
Perhaps you can imagine an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other arguing for your “right” to have whatever you desire.
The struggle persists and it’s almost impossible to pry the “wanting it” out of your brain.
Yes, of course you know that this food or beverage is not on your food plan. And you can remember that after about three bites the pleasure fades. But, oh those first bites are heavenly…
Nevertheless, you won’t be able to regain your equilibrium until you satisfy the craving.
Sensitivity to food cues is a thing.
When these sensory stimuli override your best intentions, watch out. You’ll find yourself responding on autopilot, just as you have hundreds of times before.
And then, after giving in to the desire, what happens? Your harsh inner critic mounts her high horse and before you know it, you’re spinning in a shame and regret spiral.
AAARRRRGGHH. So exhausting.
Oh, how I get it. Battled over decades, this can become such an exasperating vicious cycle.
Learning to say NO to intense desires is one of the biggest challenges we face as we focus on gaining control of our food habits.
Your thoughts affect your ability to manage cravings and urges.
Just becoming aware that your thoughts are a significant factor that affect your ability to manage urges and cravings may be, in itself, a new concept for you.
The good news is that just because you’ve spent years thinking them in the past doesn’t doom you to thinking those same thought in your future.
You never have to accept any thought your brain offers if it’s doing you harm.
Consciously creating an Intentional Thinking Plan can shift and even permanently change habitual thought patterns. You can transform detrimental habits of thought into beneficial ones that propel you toward your weight loss goals rather than undermine your best efforts..
This week, let’s explore how to clean up your your thinking about your urges and cravings.
It’s time to create an Intentional Thinking Plan of your own to diminish the hold that cravings and urges can have on you.
Step 1: Identify the foods and beverages that stimulate your cravings.
In this first step, you will use the Thought Download tool to capture what you’re actually thinking about the foods you crave. This means you will transfer all those thoughts swirling in your head onto a piece of paper. This allows you to see and examine those thoughts. It can help you gain distance and perspective.
- Make a list of all your favorite foods/beverages that are hard to resist. ALL of them.
- Pick your top three. Now for each one, write a thought download consisting of all your thoughts about that food, what you crave about it and why it’s important that you eat it.
- Highlight the thoughts that seem to be most compelling.
- Do this for the next set of three foods. Keep going. You want to be accumulating lots of insight into your relationship with these foods/beverages and why the cravings are so strong.
Step 2: Look for recurring thought patterns.
Do you notice that similar thoughts are emerging when you think about your your most tempting cravings?
Are some of your recurring thoughts similar to these?
- I deserve it…
- I’m so stressed out, I need to relax…
- It tastes so [fill in the blank]…
- It makes me feel so [fill in the blank]…
- I don’t know when I’ll be able to have it again…
- Diets are too [fill in the blank]…
- It will take the edge off…
- I hate dieting…
- I don’t want to feel deprived….
- Life’s too short…
- This isn’t worth it…
- I’m too old to change…
- I’ll never be able to give up…
You get the picture.
Step 3: Decide which thoughts are worth keeping and which ones to ditch.
This may seem like a revolutionary concept, but it’s true: ALL THOUGHTS ARE OPTIONAL.
You are not required to accept any of them that you don’t like. Even if you think they’re true or must be true.
You get to examine each thought independently and chose it or reject it.
Just because your brain offers it up unbidden doesn’t mean it’s true, useful or you have to accept it.
Your brain is an evidence seeking machine. So challenge your thinking!
Ask it to look for evidence of that supports and encourages you rather than find examples of where you think you’ve failed or been less successful than you would like.
Step 4: Create your Intentional Thinking Plan.
Prepare a list of helpful, encouraging, motivational thoughts that you can use when the cravings begin.
Decide now that you are choosing to think thoughts that support your weight loss journey.
Here are a few simple thoughts that resonate with me. Perhaps some might help you too. Feel free to borrow!
- My microbiome needs me to pay attention to what I eat.
- I’d rather eat for nourishment than for entertainment.
- I have the power to manage cravings by what I think and eat.
- Cravings and urges are like waves, they ebb and flow.
- Food chemists “engineer” the bliss points of manufactured food so NO THANKS. I’m not your stooge.
- Sugar and flour produce out-sized dopamine and pleasure responses which can hijack my brain to want more.
- It takes time and practice to mute my old thoughts and groove new ones.
- I can sit with the discomfort of desire. It never lingers for long.
- I’m in charge of me.
It’s key that you create a list of go-to thoughts that ring true to you so you can practice them in advance of urges and cravings.
Your brain has a natural negativity bias.
It’s default thinking patterns are designed to protect you and keep you safe. How else could you fulfill your biological imperative to survive, at least long enough to reproduce and perpetuate the species.
In order to do this, your brain still operates from it’s earliest ancestral programming. The Motivational Triad forms the baseline rule set for survival:
- Seek pleasure
- Avoid pain
- Conserve energy
Your brain tries to conserve energy by offering up those thoughts easiest to retrieve.
And those thoughts are the ones most practiced and with well-grooved neural pathways. You’ve probably been thinking them for years, even decades. Perhaps even since childhood.
BUT, THESE THOUGHTS ARE NOT CARVED IN STONE. You can change them. It’s 100% possible to learn new thoughts that better serve your weight loss goals.
Once you create your Intentional Thinking Plan to counteract those long held, habitual thoughts which obstruct your path to weight loss success, you’re on your way to making weight loss a lot easier.
Let’s create your Intentional Thinking Plan together.
That’s why I’ve developed my It’s Never Too Late Weight Loss Coaching program.
Isn’t it time that you made use of the free Strategy Call I offer so you can get started today to clean up your thinking?
Let me know you’re ready to figure things out right here.
Please share this post with someone who might like to read this message today.
The SMART Recovery addiction strategies they have developed their clients’s addictions can work for handling food cravings and urges too.
Some of the approaches they teach that work best for many are summarized with the easy-to-remember acronym DEADS – as in “Combat Urges DEADS.”
Each letter stands for a useful approach:
perhaps you: I want [fill in the blank]. I deserve [fill in the blank].