I sometimes jokingly refer to the Minnesota State Fair, held in late August and early
September each year, as the unofficial beginning of the holiday binge eating season!
Although some of the food sold at the fair is of a healthy variety, most of the vendors sell
greasy, sugary and salty items that taste great in the moment but have very negative
consequences in the long term.
For five bucks, you can quickly pop over 1,000 calories into your mouth, immediately
creating a serotonin and dopamine (feel good chemicals) rush and a sugar high. You
feel great for about twenty minutes or so, wandering around the fair and taking in the
sights. You feel alert and happy until…you crash. Crashing, you start to feel sluggish
and hungry again and the thoughts and desire for more sugar, grease and salt begin to
creep in and grow . They creep in slowly, but steadily and like radar, you eyes can’t stop
noticing the food booths and you can’t ignore the aroma wafting all around you. On
cue, your mind begins to present you with the seductive thoughts that say: “go ahead.
eat!”. “You deserve that treat”. “You can always lose the weight later – enjoy life now!”.
At first, you might forestall giving into the cravings that are mounting, but the nagging
thoughts lead to imagining how good that corn dog or ice cream cone would taste.
Soon you can’t stop thinking about the food that is all around you, seeing people
enjoying their sugary snacks, smelling the enticing aromas. Too powerful now to ignore,
you succumb to the cravings, step up to the food booth and are soon wolfing down
another mouthful of calories and junk food. Newly alert and happy you head off to enjoy
the fair until the cravings hit again. This is the food addiction loop.
You Are Not Weak, Just Misinformed
A craving is only as strong as you believe it is. If you say “these cravings are too
powerful for me to ignore” – you just created a mindset that views yourself as a victim.
You’ve opened the door to the Cravings Monster and given him a front row seat in your
Take Your Cravings To Obedience School
Getting a firm grip on food cravings and managing them is a bit like taking a puppy to
obedience school. Why do we bother disciplining a puppy? Because if you don’t, your
puppy will wreak havoc on your household, chewing up shoes and furniture and
generally making a mess of things. An undisciplined puppy, no matter how adorable,
will make even the most patient and intelligent person feel at wits end.
How do you discipline a puppy? Well, you first learn a little about dog behavior. Maybe
you google some basic information or read some books on the topic. Or you might seek
the advice of friends who own well behaved pets. The important thing is to become at
least moderately informed.
Becoming informed allows you to predict common behavior patterns of puppies. Once
you can predict a certain behavior you are able to mold it in ways that you desire. You
control it – it does not control you.
Over time and with consistent practice, your puppy is not just adorable, he is a well
behaved and joyful member of the family.
Disciplining Your Food Cravings
There is so much information on how to get control of food cravings that I wrote a book
on the topic (in the publishing stage as I write this article!). But for now, I’d like to share
some starting points to help you avoid the upcoming holiday binge cycle.
- Becoming Informed: What Are Cravings”
Cravings have both physical and mental components. On the physical side, our bodies
run on a multitude of chemicals and hormones. Depending on what chemicals are
being triggered, we feel happy or sad, energized or sleepy, hungry or satiated. These
chemicals respond and are released in many ways, including the food you eat and the
thoughts you are thinking. For instance, did you know that just the thought of milk
chocolate instantly and automatically creates a cascade of chemicals such as insulin,
serotonin and dopamine? In turn, this chemical release causes you to WANT the
chocolate even more. Feeling happy just thinking about chocolate begins to make the
chocolate thoughts irresistible. As the thoughts grow, they begin to get loud, bossy and
irrational. They might sound like this”
“Chocolate is good for you. It contains cocoa”
“I had a hard day. A chocolate bar will lift my spirits.”
“I love the taste of chocolate. I guess I’m just a Chocolaholic”
If you don’t question these thoughts and change them, you will most likely be heading
for the nearest vending machine to buy a candy bar!
- Molding the predictable thoughts and urges in ways that make you feel in control.
The trick is to be aware of the thoughts that can grow out of control and discipline them.
Answer the undisciplined thought with a disciplined, strong Truth that will give you inner
strength and will power.
“Chocolate is good for you. It contains cocoa” can be answered with the truth:Only dark chocolate with over 75% cocoa is healthy. A small piece of dark chocolate is
“I had a hard day. A chocolate bar will lift my spirits” : Replace this thought with truth:
“The sugar will indeed give me an energy boost, but I’ll crash 20 minutes later and feel
worse than ever”
“I love the taste of chocolate. I guess I’m a Chocoholic” Replace this victim statement
with a stronger one:
“Sugar tastes good, but it is very addicting. I can enjoy it in limited and controlled
Become aware of the thoughts that begin to grow and become bossy and controlling.
Love yourself for having human thoughts (just as you love an adorable puppy just
because he’s “him”) and discipline your thoughts. Take charge of your mind and in
doing so, you can take charge of your cravings.