Nourish and Nurture

Urges and Cravings

November 30, 2023 Miriam Hatoum Season 3 Episode 78
Nourish and Nurture
Urges and Cravings
Show Notes Transcript

Episode #78 - Cravings and Urges

I promised you my PEEPS story, and here it is. Indulge me if you have already heard it because it sets the stage to explain the difference between urges and cravings.

Let me start by introducing myself. "Hello, I am Miriam Hatoum, and I am probably the most food suggestible person you will ever meet." So here's my story. Was it a food craving or an urge?

This episode is a deep dive into cravings, urges, and triggers and what to do about them whether they are physical or emotional. It also explores what to do about them, hhow to pull them apart, circumvent them, or  just learn to sit with them and put in a pause.

You will always have cravings, urges, and triggers. What you can change is your reaction to them!

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Episode #: 78.  Urges and Cravings 

You’re Listening to the Keto and Low Carb Success podcast, Episode #78, Urges and Cravings.

Introduction

 Did you know that you don't have to spend money on a diet program or weigh, measure and track your food? What if you could learn to have success by following an easy roadmap that takes you on adventures from learning how to change your mindset so that you can believe in yourself, to learning about what foods work best in your body and why? Join me, Miriam Hatoum, health coach, course creator and author of Conquer Cravings with Keto, as I give you actionable coaching advice that is sure to empower you so that you will finally find peace with food and learn to trust your body’s signals. You’ve got this, girl! 

Be sure to go to miriamhatoum.com/resources to get all the free guides to help you along the way. I am in your shoes, my friends, and I wrote these guides for both of us. The link is in the show notes and transcripts.

Oh, and before we start, I want to let you know that the primary purpose of this podcast and the course is to educate and does not constitute medical advice or service, and I’m keeping up with the science as fast as I can so I can share with you the latest breaking research in this area to help you achieve your dreams!

I promised you my PEEPS story, and here it is. Indulge me if you have already heard it because it sets the stage to explain the difference between urges and cravings.

Let me start by introducing myself. "Hello, I am Miriam Hatoum, and I am probably the most food suggestible person you will ever meet." So here's my story. Was it a food craving or an urge?

About Easter time I am in the home stretch of a long commute after an exhausting and frustrating day. I am listening to some inane talk show where they are going on and on about Peeps. How they used to just be yellow ducks. Now they are pink bunnies or green dinosaurs or purple eggs. On and on.

I don't even know why I am listening to this drivel. Probably I am tired of weather and traffic reports, or music is just hitting me the wrong way. I probably didn’t have a new book to listen to, and it was a long time ago before I had the option of listening to podcasts. Neither here nor there. Anyway… I'm listening to this stupid conversation. I come down the street that I always come down, passing a convenience store and a Walgreens.

Without even knowing what I am doing, I pull out of my lane of traffic and swerve into the parking lot. I get out of the car, walk into Walgreens, purchase a package of Peeps and eat them in the car. 

It was as if I was not even the driver. The car had a mind of its own and pulled into that parking lot. I did not even have a craving for Peeps. I just had this urge that was a reaction to the trigger of listening to that conversation. 

How many times do you find yourself elbow-deep in a bag of chips or buried under the crumbs of a coffee cake? More than you care to admit? Yeah, my friend. You are not alone. You are not the only one with monkeys playing dodgeball in your head.

What is an urge?

·       An urge is a strong and immediate desire for a specific food but is not the same as a craving. The operative words here are STRONG and IMMEDIATE.

  • I had no desire for Peeps.
  • I had no intention of eating those Peeps when I set out for home that day.
  • Eating them was the result of an urge and not the result of a craving. 
  • A craving for a specific food might be the end result of a trigger much in the same way an urge is, but an urge is immediate.
  • With a craving you can go for a week or more until you get just the perfect food you are thinking about. I will talk more about cravings after more about urges.

Your urge is a strong desire or impulse to do something usually in response to a trigger.

  • For instance, you might be frustrated with a phone call, hang up and then have a strong urge to get up and get something to eat.
  • You might have an argument with a friend and have a strong impulse to dive headlong into a bag of anything will take the edge off.
  • Usually, an urge that lands up with eating something is your impulse to soothe a trigger in some way.

Often you are not looking for a specific food. Any food will do as long as its corresponding "nature" matches what you are looking to satisfy.

  • If you are reacting to sadness, you might turn to candy (its property is sweet and welcoming).
  • If you are reacting to anger, you might turn to chips (its crunchiness lets you work out some energy).
  • If you are reacting to anxiety, you might turn to ice cream (its soft texture is soothing). 

The urge you feel is always in direct relation to the trigger. 

  • Sometimes you don't even know what that trigger might be.
  • For me and my Peeps fiasco, I knew after the fact that the trigger was the talk show.
  • In the immediate I wasn't even asking myself, "Why the heck do I want these Peeps?"

What can you do when it is an urge? (More immediate than a craving)

Short and brief:

  • Acknowledge it (when you can).
  • Watch it pass by and let it dissipate.
  • Set a timer.
  • Sit on your hands.
  • Get out of the room or out of the house or out of the bakery aisle - whatever it is.
  • Breathe deeply and pay attention to your breathing because your brain cannot fully attend to two things at once. If it is engaged in the attention to the breathing it cannot be engaged in the attention to the urge.

When you don't see the urge coming or don't even recognize that is there, stop yourself in the middle of the behavior of eating. 

  • You know you are eating. 
  • You know your hand is moving things to your mouth. 
  • No matter what you paid for the food, throw it out. 
  • It is going to land up in the trash from your hand or the toilet from your...

Unlike urges, it is easier to identify a craving and usually the reasons for it.

·       I’ve talked about my chopped liver craving in other spots but am putting here it again because it’s the perfect example of how sometimes a craving can be purely physical, such as needing vitamins or minerals, or emotional as I will talk about.

  • One time I was craving chopped liver.
  • I am not a liver person and if I eat it once a year at a holiday that's enough for me.
  • But recently I was absolutely CRAVING chopped liver.
  • I assembled all the ingredients and took my time making an absolutely delicious batch of chopped liver.
  • I ate it every day for four days until it was gone.

Here is the physical angle of what it could have been:

·       I learned that specific food cravings (that aren't obviously accompanied by social and emotional triggers such as Thanksgiving) may mean that your body is lacking in an important element.

·       It might mean that you need certain vitamins, minerals or other nutrients.

·       It made sense to me that maybe I was depleted in iron if I was so strongly craving liver, but my body could also have been looking for chromium, phosphorus, zinc or tryptophan. 

  • Nighttime food cravings, especially, can be caused by the hormones insulin, ghrelin, leptin and peptide YY. If you are interested in this – and I hope you are – please see my blog on The Mechanics of Physical Hunger. The direct link is in the show notes and transcript.
  • Furthermore, if you don't get enough sleep and your cortisol is high because of it, you can be craving food at night. 
  • There are very physical reasons for these cravings and so don't be imagining that there is necessarily something horribly wrong with your goals, whys or intentions. I put a link to an interesting study from the Cleveland Clinic on bingeing in the show notes and transcript as well. 

Here is the emotional reason for this particular craving

The particular time I am talking about I think there really were nutritional needs behind wanting to eat the liver. I say this because when I am on top of taking my supplements I rarely get that craving. When I am careless about them - especially the desiccated liver I take - my mind wanders to chopped liver.

·       But I can see that it could easily have been emotional to want the chopped liver. For me it is a popular appetizer at some favorite holiday dinners.

  • Over the past few years the matriarchs of two of our families that celebrated these holidays together have passed away.
  • Then my brother moved over 1000 miles away, further diluting the joy of getting together.
  • Then with the Covid-19 pandemic, family holiday celebrations totally stopped.

Do you think I might have been craving a food that symbolized family get-togethers and love? Still, it was not an urge to eat chopped liver because it did not have that immediate nature.

What are other reasons for a craving?

Sometimes it is as uncomplicated as craving pizza because you heard of a new pizza place that just opened. But it's not an urge, and you can wait until the circumstances are right to order just what you want and sit down and savor it.

  • Sometimes it is as uncomplicated as craving Chinese food because you hardly ever indulge and you just want to have those flavors. But it is not an urge and you don't stuff yourself at an all-you-can eat buffet and eat it all just because it is there.
  • Sometimes it is as uncomplicated as craving an iced-coffee on a hot summer day. But it is not an urge and you don't have to order the largest size and have them put a scoop of ice cream in it besides.
  • Sometimes it is as uncomplicated as loving Peeps and enjoying one row - or one small package - of them every Easter because you just want to. But you don't swerve off the road, into the parking lot, and come out with your mouth stuffed full of flavorless, yet colorful, marshmallow candy – that’s urge territory.

What can you when you have a craving?

Even with a craving such as pizza and beer, Chinese food or whatever, if you have mastered where you are on the hunger scale (to know if you are truly hungry and when you have had enough), even a craving won’t be enough to sidetrack you. 

Once you have learned when you are satisfied (6) or can stop yourself mid-way through a 7 (full) before you have done any damage, physically or emotionally, you can address cravings with little worry.

In other words, if you are craving pizza and 

1.      it is allowed on whichever food program you are following, and 

2.     you have identified you are hungry and later when you are full  

3.     even if that means leaving some behind or having a little bit more, 

4.     it will make no difference whether you have eaten the pizza or a salad with tuna on top.

With this example, and you are eating low carb and only eat between a 4 and a 6, then this is where there might be little difference between the salad and the pizza.

As long as you do not overeat and you are aware of your carbohydrate intake the rest of the day, your choice may not make a difference. If you are on a Keto food plan, then no, you won’t want to have the pizza (unless you have made a Keto crust). You will have to sit with that craving a bit.

For both cravings and urges I want you to think of this:

"You can change a cucumber into a pickle, but you can’t turn a pickle back into a cucumber.”  

What? Think of the neural pathways of triggers and responses that are formed in your brain as pickles. Once you form them after years of habits, associations, and behaviors, you cannot undo them or, as my metaphor goes, turn them back into cucumbers. What this means, is no matter how hard you work to break the association to the trigger, you will always have it. It might be buried deep underneath a new cucumber patch, but the pickle will always be there. Always. 

This is why I could go for 15 Easters and never want a PEEPS. But for some reason the cucumbers and baby pickles of working with urges, triggers and habits to the point where I rarely do that, are pushed aside and an old pickle pops to the top. If I had taken a second to say to myself, “I don’t want PEEPS, those yearnings are just my pickles,” I probably could have driven on. But I didn’t take that second. That’s why it is so important to put a pause in between the urge or craving and the behavior. Don’t berate yourself. Don’t think something is wrong with you. Don’t even stress too much about how it came out of left field. Just put a pause, say, “Oh that’s my pickles talking,” and see if you can let it pass.

And by the way, as new cucumbers turn into pickles, you still have the old ones underneath… Just always be aware of that and don’t put yourself into old situations where triggers that cause cravings and urges to still pop up.

THIS WEEK’S ACTIONALBLE COACHING ADVICE

Start this week by identifying your emotional triggers. The list could include

·       anxiety

·       boredom

·       celebration

·       emptiness

·       frustration

·       anger

·       depression

·       procrastination

·       reward

·       stress

Then explore how you might have used food as a coping mechanism. 

·       Make a list of recent times when you ate too much or too little in response to one of your triggers.

·       List the pros of doing this. Did eating soothe you? Distract you? Give you something to do? Offer escape from feelings?

·       List the cons of doing this. Did it cause physical discomfort? Did it isolate you? Did it numb feelings that you might have been better off to let in?

Make this list in a non-judgmental way. As with everything, your goal is just to bring awareness into what you are doing. 

Then weigh the lists next to each other. Do the pros outweigh the cons? Do the cons outweigh the pros? If the cons outweigh the pros, it might be time for you to see what you can do to loosen the grip of food in response to your triggers.

 

Next week’s episode

Next week, if you are listening in real time, we will be starting the month of December. Yes, there is happiness and joy and fun and cheer. But can you also say stress, anxiety, overwhelm and tension? I timed next week’s episode for the first week in December so that the timing would be to have these past two episodes about head and heart hunger, urges, cravings, triggers, and emotional eating under your belt.  Now we will further untangle this ball of yarn with Principle 7, Cope with your feelings without using food. 

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Until then, go live free from diet worry — I’ll see you back here next time.  
Get all my free guides
Take a look at this great course
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And don't forget my book!