So you've got the basics of mindful eating down. You are making choices that make your body and mind feel its best. But what do you do when a craving strikes? The good news is that no foods are off-limits with mindful eating. We can enjoy indulgences mindfully; however, exploring our cravings can provide useful feedback and help us to maintain a mindful approach. I take a 3-step approach to cravings: notice, determine, and savor.
First, take a second to notice the craving. Where in your body do you feel the craving? Your mouth, stomach, heart, or mind? Become curious about the craving. Why are you craving this particular food? Perhaps you are craving chocolate chip cookies because they remind you of weekends baking with your mom. Maybe you are craving ice cream because you did not eat enough during the day, and your mind is giving you a signal to eat something with a substantial amount of calories. Are you craving a candy bar because you did not get enough sleep last night? Are you bored and eating chips will give your hands something to do? Dig deep to find the root cause of the craving. Don't discount the craving, simply explore. Sometimes there is not a deeper reason, we just want to eat something delicious!
Next determine how you will feel if you eat the food you are craving. Are you lactose-intolerant but you are craving cheese? Perhaps indulging will make you feel worse afterwards. Is there something you can eat or do instead that will satisfy the craving and make you feel good afterwards? If eating the food you are craving will make you feel good, examine why. Perhaps eating a few squares of dark chocolate at night satisfies your sweet tooth and can be routinely incorporated into your healthy routine.
If you choose to indulge, savor each bite. Examine the sight, smell, sound, texture, and of course taste of the food. Become aware of how your body and mind feel. If at any point your mind starts to wander, gently bring it back to the present. Re-engage with your five senses. You may notice that after a few bites the food no longer tastes as pleasant. Consider stopping at this point.
This process is longer than how we normally respond to cravings. However, the more we do it, the faster and more intuitive it becomes. What do you tend to do when a craving strikes? Let me know in the comments!