Why Do I Always Crave the Same Food?
Trusted Therapy, Inc Tonya McFarland, PsyD.
For me it’s ice cream. I can eat ice cream in the dead of winter or for breakfast. So why is it that I like ice cream so much? It could be because I really like the taste of it! However, through the years that I have been working with people who struggle to regulate their intake of food, I have recognized many different reasons that we use food. Having clients think about the first time they remember eating the food that they crave can be helpful in understanding a deeper meaning behind that food. So when I look back at the first times I had ice cream as a child, my mind is flooded with happy memories with my family. Many of these memories are going out to ice cream to celebrate. Celebrations occurred after a sporting event, a choir or band concert, and of course for birthdays. So could it be, that some of the times when I want ice cream, maybe I am actually craving that feeling of happiness, being proud, feeling loved, and so many of those positive emotions that would accompany those ice cream celebrations? Yes, I think at times when I reach for that carton of ice cream it is a way that (even if it is only subconsciously) I may want to bring back those positive emotions.
One of my clients who I had worked with for several years felt really out of control whenever she would eat Mexican food. She would describe frequently craving Mexican food and having a difficult time not overeating it when she ate it. After processing with her the associations she had with Mexican food, she realized that when she was a child and would go visit her dad on his weekends, he would always take her out for Mexican food. She described these special times with her dad as being relaxing, feeling happy, feeling safe, and having fun. We talked about what things she does now in her adult life that helped to promote those similar feelings. She had a difficult time coming up with things that she did now to provide her with a sense of safety, happiness, and calmness. Together we were able to generate things that she could do to begin fostering these feelings without always using food as a way to attempt to induce these emotions.
Many people associate food with special memories, certain people, a specific place, or for the emotions that were present when they were eating. Think about what food you typically eat when you are sick. This food is frequently the food that a caregiver may have given you when you were sick as a child. What kinds of food do you typically eat at holidays? Other special traditions or celebrations where you had a special cuisine?
So now that you may have some insight into why you want a specific food, what do you do with this knowledge? Just because we realize that we may be eating something for other reasons than just nutrition, doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t or can’t eat it. What I hope to help people recognize is that there are likely many reasons why we like (as well as don’t like) a specific food. It can be because of the taste, the smell, how we feel after we eat it, the texture, or the memories/feelings provoked from past times when we ate this food.
When you are craving that ice cream or Mexican food again, ask yourself why do I want it? Am I hungry? How am I feeling? Do I need to engage in taking care of myself in some way other than with food? What’s my purpose in eating this food? Once you feel that you can answer some of these questions, decide if you want to eat the food. If you do, eat it! Eating the food mindfully and staying present in the moment with it can allow you to recognize if the food is meeting your need. Sometimes eating the food that we want can help us to feel better and that is okay. Other times we may continue to eat, but no matter how much of that food we eat, we still don’t feel fulfilled. If you are able to stay mindful when you are eating it will allow you to realize when the food isn’t working to meet your needs. When you become aware of this you can stop eating and think about what you do really need in this moment to feel better. Maybe it’s a hug from someone, or a walk outside, or a good cry, calling a friend, or playing with your dog. The more you stay mindful when you are eating, the easier it will become to know when you may be trying to fill yourself with food instead of something else that you really need. I’m off to eat some ice cream; I need to celebrate finishing this blog!
Trusted Therapy, Inc Tonya McFarland, PsyDTrusted Therapy, Inc Tonya McFarland, PsyD Licensed Clinical Psychologist 1030 Johnson Rd, Suite # 280 Golden, CO 80401 303-709-5897 trustedtherapy.com email@example.com