Conquering the Roaring Lion of Food Temptations

A tempting box of chocolates

I recently realized there were still posts which did not import when I imported my content from my former blog site. Unfortunately, this post was one of them. It’s a late addition, but one I knew would benefit others. 

This blog was inspired by my clients, patients and friends who have changed lifestyle and eating habits and experienced cravings as a result. It’s also for everyone who battles cravings as part of daily life. (Anyone who has dealt with cravings knows it is indeed a BATTLE. This post is for you!)

Chances are you’re reading this because you’ve decided to change your eating habits. You may have chosen to change because you want to lose weight, improve your health, delay aging, or for many other reasons. Regardless of the desire that prompted you to change your eating style, you’re probably battling food temptations on a daily basis. In this post, I’m going to look at what causes cravings, how to identify their cause, and provide suggestions for strategies you can use to successfully combat and eliminate your cravings. Ready? Let’s go!!

Food cravings typically stem from four sources:

  1. Psychological and physical habits
  2. Detoxification
  3. Hormonal fluctuations
  4. Unaddressed emotional issues

Cravings that stem from ingrained habits can be tough to beat because of the sense of security that are often tied to them. For instance, if you are used to starting every day with a big bowl of “Captain Death” cereal and whole milk, switching to a bowl of fruit and nuts may take some getting used to. Your ingrained habit will cause your mind to attempt to force you to reach for that box of death and to not change the status quo. Your mind and body will associate your daily habit with security and stability. Changing the habit will require re-teaching your mind and body to embrace the healthy habit and reject the unhealthy old habit. Research has shown that a bad habit can typically be replaced with a good one in 21-40 days. Want to shorten that time frame? Don’t rely solely on yourself. Ask God for help, ask your friends and family to encourage you and hold you accountable, and – most importantly – avoid situations that expose you to foods you’ve chosen to avoid. When you decide to change your dietary habits, clean out your cabinets and refrigerator and donate all of the off-limit foods to a food pantry or give them to friends. If you live with others who are not making the same dietary changes you are, designate one specific shelf in the fridge and one specific set of shelves in cupboards and pantry as yours and yours alone. This way you only need to look one place for your “safe” foods and won’t have to be exposed to the unhealthy foods of those you live with. Ask your family to respect your decision and to help you. If you need to ask your spouse to please eat his Big Macs, Snickers bars and banana splits in another room … do it.

It is also very possible and probable that we have addictions to some foods. Identifying those addictions can be very helpful in combating cravings and temptations. One study found that rats who were addicted to sugar and cocaine chose sugar over cocaine every single time. Another study found that sugar stimulates the same regions in the brain as cocaine. These two studies provide strong proof that it is indeed possible to develop an addiction to sugar. Other foods that contain addictive chemicals include wheat. Diet Coke, high fructose corn syrup, most fast food options, white sugar, etc. If you realize you have a food addiction, it is imperative to completely avoid that food. Having even a tiny amount of the food will send your cravings through the roof and will also make resisting temptation very difficult.

Cravings sometimes come as your body cleanses itself of the unhealthy residues of former food habits. This is commonly known as “detoxification.” The good news is that detoxification is temporary and not everyone experiences it the same way. Your personal detoxification experience will be different from everyone else’s. More good news is that detoxification happens in different levels. Your body will detoxify itself of the most recent toxins you’ve eaten or absorbed first, and will then methodically detoxify itself of toxins from the past. More good news is that your detoxification process will be lesser if you’re only making minor dietary changes. After making huge dietary and lifestyle changes, some experts believe it can take up to two years before full detoxification occurs. Detoxification may generate a wide range of symptoms, including pimples and skin rashes, diarrhea, a runny nose, fatigue, achiness, low-grade fever, feeling chilled all the time, strange dreams, body odor and bad breath, a coating of the tongue, grumpiness and irritability, and more. To minimize detox symptoms, do any or all of the following:

  • Drink plenty of purified water. It is recommended that everyone drink half their weight in ounces of purified water on a daily basis. Many people find it wonderfully cleansing to start the day with a big glass of water with organic lemon juice in it. This is known to aid liver detoxification and to be very alkalizing.
  • Take a hot bath 2-3 nights per week with 2 cups Epsom salts and 2 cups organic apple cider vinegar in it. This is a “detox bath” that will pull toxins out through the skin and help you feel better in general. This bath is also known to help eliminate colds and flu if you take one every day at the very beginning of the illness. (For more info, read How to Create a Detoxification Bath Using Common Ingredients.)
  • Do everything you can to help your body cleanse your liver. Things to try include drinking 1 TBS of liquid chlorophyll in pure water morning and evening; sipping on pure water with organic lemon juice throughout the day except close to or during meals; taking 175mg Milk Thistle three times per day; using liver cleansing herbal teas; etc. It is not uncommon for liver enzymes to elevate a bit during a prolonged detox, so helping your body cleanse the liver will ultimately help you feel better.
  • Use enemas or colon hydrotherapy to cleanse the colon. These tactics cleanse the colon of toxins and can greatly diminish cravings. I don’t recommend using these methods on an ongoing basis, but using them during a detoxification phase may be helpful.

Moving on … Hormonal fluctuations can and will cause cravings and can make resisting temptation more difficult. For those who are making minor dietary changes, I would encourage you to limit or eliminate sugar, coffee, alcohol and other caffeinated beverages, all processed foods, etc. These foods can exacerbate hormonal issues. Eliminating those foods may make a huge difference in how you feel. Regular exercise can also help balance hormones.

Emotional eating is perhaps the toughest challenge to battle. Sometimes we experience cravings which we cannot explain. Those cravings are often the result of unmet or unaddressed emotional issues. These issues could include unforgiveness, feelings of abandonment, feeling unfulfilled, feeling unloved, etc., etc. Feelings of unforgiveness or bitterness can be especially damaging to our willpower. My encouragement to anyone who realizes that emotional issues are sabotaging their dietary changes is to journal, find a friend to share your intimate feelings with, and to seek professional counseling if needed. I also encourage you to prayerfully seek wisdom in identifying the specific emotional issues that cause you to overeat or to make poor food choices. Hypnosis is a scientific method that can effectively help you identify and eliminate food barriers. I highly recommend Paula Presnoples, CH of UR Path Hypnosis for anyone in the Indianapolis area.

Remember that emotional issues sometimes need to be addressed one layer at a time. Choosing to identify and address emotional issues is a huge step. Promise yourself you will do that, then pay attention to the things that trigger overeating or making poor food choices. Once you recognize the triggers, see if you can connect emotions to those triggers, and then seek spiritual guidance on how to work through the unaddressed issue. Some people find help from EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique), counseling, prayer, support groups, journaling, etc. Commit to working through your unmet emotional issues and you will find that you receive crystal-clear insight as to what issues are clogging your ability to eat the way you want to.

Let’s move forward and discuss strategies for rising above temptation and cravings. Please know that cravings and temptations are a problem for me, too. I have found several thing successfully combat those cravings. First and foremost, I would recommend writing down your reasons for making the dietary changes. Set personal goals for making the changes you are making. When you are tempted to eat the wrong foods, remind yourself of your reasons for changing and ask yourself if going back to old habits is worth not meeting your goals or destroying goals you’ve already met. Chances are that piece of pizza or donut will not seem so appealing when compared to a life spent being overweight or ill. Anytime I am tempted to eat something I shouldn’t, I ask myself the following questions:

– Does this food add to or subtract from my health? You could rephrase this by asking, “Will this food help or hinder my weight loss goal?” or “Will this food keep me younger or accelerate aging?” Ask yourself a question that targets your goals for making the dietary changes you’ve chosen to make.

– Does this food glorify God? (Or whomever your personal Higher Power is.) I had to realize that what I eat directly reflects my understanding of who God is. Seek direction from your own Higher Power and ask yourself what the food choices you make say to others about your personal God.

Other factors that can help combat temptation include prayer and finding encouraging affirmations, verses, quotations, etc., that will inspire you to stick to your goals. Verses that help me include Romans 12:1-2, Galatians 5:22-23, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, etc. I also have a collection of quotes from health gurus that help immensely. Memorize or write your affirmations or quotations on cards and keep them with you so that you have ready access to them at all times. Posting them on the door of your refrigerator or cupboard may be especially helpful. Most importantly, ask others to pray for and encourage you!

Finding a “food buddy” is also an excellent way to combat food temptations. Find someone who is making similar dietary changes and agree to support each other by being available via telephone, email, text, etc. Having someone available that you can contact when you’re feeling tempted is a strong motivator. This technique is a primary component of the Alcoholics Anonymous program. Each person has a mentor, or sponsor, whom they can call any time of day if they are feeling tempted to have a drink. Since our food temptations may be caused by food addictions, this technique can be very helpful for anyone who wants to make dietary changes and better food choices. It’s also very encouraging to have someone available whom you can laugh with and who will celebrate your successes with you.

As I said earlier, the best thing to do to combat your cravings is to avoid the situations and foods that make you weak. Don’t purchase foods that make you fall.

Here’s my closing encouragement for dealing with food temptations: If you stray from your set goals, don’t beat yourself up and don’t use it as an excuse to stray even further. We’re all human and are all prone to weakness. Remember that there is always a way to avoid your temptation if you’re willing to let go of the temporary pleasure the temptation will bring. Sticking with drastic dietary changes is a challenge that may be difficult to maintain. You can do it! If you stray, remember that straying from your new diet provides fantastic opportunities to learn more about ourselves and to learn new ways to meet our goals. You are in my thoughts and prayers as you strive to change your life to pursue new levels of health, wellness and weight loss.

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Dr. Pamela Reilly is a Naturopathic Physician dedicated to helping people improve their health and eliminate symptoms using natural, integrative methods. She has over 25 years of experience and has helped men, women and children improve their health using a holistic, client-centered focus. She sees clients in Indianapolis, does house calls, and also conducts consultations via Skype or telephone. Please feel free to contact her or visit her Consultations page for more information. Dr. Pamela speaks nationwide on a wide variety of health topics and welcomes speaking invitations.

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