So these topics are some of the most common questions and challenges I see from my patients.
When it comes to grazing this is incredibly insidious meaning people report they are grazing a small amount but fairly constantly and do not think it is much but really it adds up to a significant amount. It is important to be aware of it and largely avoid it if you can. You achieve this by feeling full with the good food you eat, changing your environment to make those grazing foods less available and considering alternatives like fasting, water, or healthier snacks. There are a range of techniques covered throughout this course so choose what works for you. But simply being aware of its impact can be enough for most people to largely avoid it.
When it comes to your “treat foods in life” though there are 2 really important points to make. The first is our psychological perception of the food and the second is how we manage those cravings.
It is really really important to not demonise food too much and remove the guilt and shame with treat foods and rather replace the negative emotions with acceptance and a commitment to just moving on. It is ok to have a treat every now and then, the problem is not the food but rather our lack of control over ourselves around that food.
So, let’s assume the most common treat food is chocolate, which is a fairly safe bet for many people. I don’t tell people they have to abstain from chocolate but rather if they do have chocolate I ask them to be mindful of the experience, not have any guilt or shame and just move on, don’t worry – tomorrow is a new day. The more energy you give it, the more guilt and shame, the stronger you will make future cravings. My repeated experience of this is consistent, that when they change their perception and experience of their treats they create a healthier mindset and naturally have less cravings and treats, but not complete abstinence. Specifically, they may have a piece of chocolate and enjoy it rather than a whole block and they have it far less frequently. It is the healthy middle ground between the two extremes of abstinence and lack of control.
This reminds me of a saying from the Buddha – “If an instruments strings are too tight they will break, and if too loose they will produce no sound”. This is exactly the same for our perception of our treat foods = not too tight or you will break, not too loose or you will never progress. While this concept of not getting anxious about your food and just moving on may be foreign to you, I encourage you to try this new mindset out and you will most likely find over time your cravings soften and you find them more easy to manage.
As far as specific techniques to manage cravings go I will cover these in more detail in the section on our minds. However a quick insight and technique you can use is to prepare yourself for what i call the 3 intensities of cravings; mild, moderate and severe. So, when we have mildly intense cravings, which will also be your most commonly felt cravings, our plan may be to redirect ourselves with an activity like gardening or building or work. But this may not work when your cravings are moderately intense so you may need to satisfy them with something healthy but similar to your treat food, like strawberries and yogurt instead of ice cream for example. These first two steps help rewire your brain so over time you will think less about the treat foods and I will cover this in more detail later. However, when your cravings are severe, which may only be 5% of the cravings, then fine – have your treat food and don’t stress. Be mindful of it, experience its effects on you, and move on. No shame, no negative emotions, just move on. Accept it happened and commit to the future.