When we don’t address the deeper needs and desires that motivate our actions, we constantly have to keep those needs and desires at bay.
So, to change how we behave, we have to change how we crave. We have to work mainly at the level of craving and desire, instead of the level of action and behavior.
We have to examine the various physical and psychological causes of cravings, and then resolve those underlying causes:
Physical causes of cravings
Physical causes of cravings include physical needs and biological drives. For example, we may crave a hamburger because we need iron. Not all physical cravings are direct and accurate to our needs, such as sugar cravings caused by a dip in blood sugar. A sugar craving could also come from a protein deficiency or microbial imbalance.
Psychological causes of cravings
Psychological causes of cravings include emotional drives, habits and beliefs. Beliefs, particularly those that are subconscious, can greatly distort our cravings. For example, a belief that food is the best way to feel safe will lead to stress eating. Or we might have a subconscious belief that says we aren’t worthy of care, so we don’t have any motivation to take care of ourselves.
Shift your perception
As we talked about in the last article, the answer to behavior change isn’t to disable our cravings because we need them. Instead, we need to understand and resolve our cravings, which then allows us to understand and resolve our behaviors.
To be clear, cravings don’t cause behavior directly. We can have a craving and not follow it. But cravings are the start of the behavior. And to bring true and lasting improvement to our nutrition, we need to work at the source, which includes working on our mentalities toward food.
A great deal of how we crave has to do with our perceptions and beliefs. So to have healthy cravings and behaviors, we need healthy mentalities that make us want to take good care of ourselves.
I view nutrition as 80% attitude and 20% action. When we have the right attitudes, the right actions happen as a natural result. Our eating behaviors improve automatically.
In other words, the foundation of nutrition isn’t about food, but about how we perceive it.
Desire what’s healthy
Bottom line is: we do what we want. We don’t act on what we think is best unless we want it.
Sometimes, one part of us wants one thing, while the other wants something else. And the strongest desire will win out.
Maybe you want to be thin and attractive, but you’re afraid you’d alienate your friends if you stopped going out to eat with them—a fear that may distort your desire and keep you stuck in unwanted patterns.
The solution is to resolve the conflicting desires within you, so you can be consistent and confident in your actions.
It doesn’t work to try to resist desire all the time or override it with rationality. To change behavior, we have to cultivate desire and release beliefs that conflict with that desire. To follow nutrition, we have to make it our prominent desire. We have to learn to love and enjoy healthy eating enormously.
And we can’t stop wanting something by telling ourselves not to want it. We need to find an alternative desire to replace the one we don’t want. For example, if you don’t want to eat when you’re bored, then you have to want to do something else when you’re bored.
The goal is to align with our deepest, truest desires. It isn’t to make ourselves enjoy something we don’t. We shouldn’t try to force ourselves to want to count calories if we really don’t want to. We need to find an approach to nutrition that we genuinely enjoy and that feels right.
If we truly want to be healthy, and we know it, then we’re not going to want fast food every night, and a craving for fast food wouldn’t phase us. We don’t need much self-discipline because we actually want to make these good choices.
We’ll still need to use some self-discipline and willpower from time to time. But we use it to reconnect with what we truly want and return us to our paths.
It isn’t good to rely too much on self-control because needing a lot of self-control is a sign of a deeper imbalance that needs to be resolved or a sign we’re on a path that isn’t right for us.
In Cravings Master, we don’t try to silence cravings or force ourselves to behave differently. We ask about why we’re craving and find out what we need physically and psychologically. We identify why our cravings aren’t functioning properly and repair the underlying reasons so we crave what’s good for us instead of bad.
To resolve inner conflict, we get very clear about what we want and get in touch with what we know, in our souls, is right for us.
Master your cravings
To sum it all up, there are 2 aspects to mastering your cravings:
- Knowledge. You understand your cravings and know what’s causing your indirect cravings.
- Regulation. You regulate your cravings by reducing indirect cravings and increasing direct ones.
Contrary to conventional wisdom, knowledge is actually far less important than the regulation. Simply knowing the reason for your cravings isn’t enough. To see improvements, you have to do the work to regulate them.
Let’s now talk more about how to regulate your cravings.