Saturday, June 25, 2011

Food Cravings: Friend or Foe?

Should cravings be "controlled"? If we acknowledge and honor food cravings, does that mean that we will get out of control with our eating? Will our weight balloon up to an astonomical size? Dieting and disordered eating can lead us to the conclusion that any food that we find pleasurable must be excluded. Many of my clients have become so fearful of enjoying food that they are unable to discern between a food preference and a food fear. Recently one of my clients was talking about a delectable gourmet pastry that she used to enjoy eating. Then she quickly blurted "But, I don't like it anymore!" This same person binge eats tasteless store bought sheet cake while sitting alone at home in front of the T.V. I suggested that maybe she really does still enjoy the tasty sweet and perhaps if she had the gourmet dessert once in awhile she might be able to reduce her binge eating behavior. She looked frightened by that proposition, but acknowledged that she might be up for testing that theory in the future.

One of my clients who struggles with more of a restrictive eating disorder continues to assert that she never enjoys food of any form or fashion. She consumes the same bland, repetitive food choices day in and day out. One day I asked her why she thought God had given us taste buds. She looked at me like I was out of my ever-loving mind and said "So we won't eat poison!" I know she wanted to add "you idiot" ... but she restrained herself. Later she admitted that she is terrified that if she eats anything flavorful or gives any credence to having food cravings or preferences that she go completely ballistic with her eating.

Two sides of the same coin. These are cases of people who have bought into the diet mentality that we must deny ourselves and any food craving to stay in control of body weight, eating behavior, cholesterol, blood sugar, etc. Food cravings can be our friend. Once we don't view food as the enemy, we can learn to manage cravings in a way that we don't get out of control. As mentioned in earlier blogs, consider finding the middle ground in relationship to your food, eating and weight as a skill development; a process. Enjoy what you do eat, what you crave. We don't have to "overdo" to have a pleasureful eating experience. Learn to trust yourself with food again. Embrace the concept that no food is illegal and go from there!