Cravings’ Torture Chamber

by Dr. Ellen Cullman, FLT Columnist

 What are cravings? We all have them. Although I’ve been mindfully eating for over 35 years, I found myself trapped in a chocolate torture chamber last week. I enjoy chocolate regularly. It’s a staple in my pantry. Most evenings I like to savor a couple of squares of the specialty dark chocolate by allowing it to melt slowly on my tongue as I focus on its delicious, decadent flavor. Last week, however, that wasn’t enough. I wanted to eat chocolate iced brownies with vanilla ice cream. I bought a big individual size of brownies and ice cream, ate that, and still wanted more and more. Yes, I was in a chocolate torture chamber. When do you know whether you are craving something or just hungry? Hunger has specific signals such as growling stomach or hunger pangs. You could also be irritable or unfocused. Along with hunger is the desire for wholesome, sustaining food that when done eating satisfies you. Cravings are different. Cravings occur whether you are hungry or not. They usually revolve around sugary, fatty, salty or high carbohydrate foods such as candy bars, French fries or salt laden chips. Some cravings seem unremitting and very intense making them difficult to pacify. When you give into them, they tend to take on a life of their own. What do you do? Try these suggestions when you find yourself in craving’s torture chamber: 1. Know the difference between how you feel when you are hungry and when you are craving. Your hunger cues (growling stomach, irritability or unfocused) grow more intense and won’t go away. Craving is time limited if you can wait it out. 2. Cravings may come from emotional needs. Are you bored, lonely, tired or stressed when craving kicks in? Is your day more intense than usual? Try thinking of different ways besides eating to creatively care for yourself. Perhaps changing your routine or taking a walk on your break will help. 3. Don’t identify with your cravings. Instead say a mantra like “I am not my craving” over and over silently to yourself. Research has shown that practicing this over time may reduce the frequency and intensity of cravings. Try silently talking to yourself reminding yourself of your positive traits and things you do well. 4. Another approach is to allow yourself to enjoy eating one serving of what you are craving. It is important not to skimp and to allow yourself to eat what you really, really want so you will be satisfied. The more you practice these suggestions your craving episodes will become less frequent and less intense. You will still have cravings, but now you have a toolbox of skills to help you get out of cravings’ torture chamber. See all of Dr. Cullman’s columns at For information about coaching sessions and speaking engagements call 419-494-7699 or email