It starts with a nudge, a whisper.
“Can you taste me in your mouth, dancing seductively, throwing a soiree?”
Just. One. Bite. Or a handful. Or two. The thoughts get bigger, more elaborated, more visually enticing.
You try to fight it, but more thoughts keep coming. I deserve a treat. I’ve been working hard all week. (It’s only Tuesday). I deserve a nice, big, decadent slice of chocolatey, rich, gooey cake.
And you do deserve it. After all, one slice of cake never killed anybody. But you never eat just one slice, or chip or piece, do you? If you’re like me, you end up devouring more than you’d share on Instagram.
Now here you stand, in front of your pantry downing a whole bag of cookies. (Or a cake, or chips or whatever sweet or savory delight is your kink).
Afterwards, you’re in a junk food shame spiral. Wondering how you got here. You said next time would be different. You said you wanted to change your life and escape these cravings. *shoving in one last cookie with a sheepish grin and a belly full of regret*.
It’s not your fault. Science made you do it. That’s right, humans are wired to crave. Don’t beat yourself up. But don’t let your humanness stop you from conquering your crave-filled existence.
There is a way to oppose your existential human tendencies. And it’s all based on a little scientific theory called Elaborated Intrusion Theory of Cravings.
Maybe it’s that bowl of treats at the office that calls your name every hour on the hour.
Maybe as you were going over your game night invite list you got the image of your friend Lexi, who reminds you of the chick who was in that weird Skittles ad. All Skittles ads are weird. But mmmm Skittles.
Maybe it’s that clever commercial that reminds you of needing a certain chocolatey treat to stop that bitchy hunger’tude.
Or maybe you’re completely immune to advertising, you clever sorcerer.
Whatever it is, that thought has taken over your mind. And that first thought is where time begins and ends in Craving Candyland.
E.I. E.I. Oh!
It’s called the Elaborated Intrusion Theory of Desire or E.I. Theory and it isn’t nearly as elaborate as it sounds.
If something captures your attention and makes your craving compete for your attention, then your craving shuts down and ends right there. But if you derive pleasure from those craving-related thoughts and elaborate on them, the craving goes into overdrive.
Go ahead and cue the pupil dilation, flushed skin and sweaty palms because you are smack dab in Junk Food Junkyville.
As if that’s not enough…
The craving gets even stronger, your imagination creates rich sensory imagery of smells, visuals and mouth feels to simulate the actual experience. Then you get tunnel-vision and feel like you just… can’t go on… without. that. food.
This “elaboration” is done on the visuospatial sketchpad. Like the great, wise Etch a Sketch of Your Mind. It’s where all your visual thoughts go to for cocktails and networking.
This is where you can stop the craving-related drug deals from going down in the back alley. Doing a task that requires the use of your visuospatial sketchpad is like a sting operation for those criminal-minded cravings. But instead of guns and coke it’s more like cognitions and cookie dough.
“My weaknesses have always been food and men — in that order.” – Dolly Parton
Mindfulness & Cravings
The mindful approach to cravings has become popular as mindfulness methods to assist us in our daily lives. It frees people from the need to control or elaborate thoughts and pay attention to ever-changing experiences.
Accepting craving-related thoughts is better than pushing them far down into the hidden recesses of your mind where early-2000’s boy bands and body glitter live. This could risk unruly craving thoughts popping up when you least expect it like the choreography from “Bye Bye Bye”. NO one wants that.
Insert Bye bye bye gif here
And don’t even try to control craving thoughts because it’s like bringing a bagel to a knife fight. The more you think about not thinking about the thing you are thinking about causes you to think about it even more! Got it?
One study found that people ate less chocolate when following a mindfulness strategy of thought acceptance. Seeing thoughts as just thoughts and not as an invitation to bathe in chocolate frosting. That sounds nice, though.
But mindfulness is just one small and barely researched way to reach your healthy eating dreams.
Body scan is the new black of the mindfulness world. It’s similar to mindfulness in that its focus is on relaxed awareness. But in addition to that, body scan’s focus of attention is directed around the body while maintaining awareness of the breath.
It can be self-directed or led by another person. Here’s a brief one to get you started:
Relax into a comfortable position.
Cleanse your mind by taking a few deep, soothing breaths from your belly. Breathe in and release gently to the count of 7.
Bring your attention to your toes. Wiggle them a little.
Notice what your feet and toes feel like against the fabric of your socks or shoes. If you’re barefoot, feel the air against your feet and notice what it feels like.
Move your attention to your calves and pay attention to any feelings or sensations there.
Focus on each part of your body in the same way. Moving up your body to your:
cute peach butt
that little area on the other side of your elbow
gorgeous swan-like neck
Gif of body scan
Attend to each area of your body and give it a little compassion. I’ll bet those toes haven’t felt much love in a while. Give appreciation to each part’s contribution to the work you do and are able to do because of it.
Body scan effects are highly consistent with E.I. Theory. The focus on new, emerging sensations and experiences introduce a cognitive load that dissolves your cravings into bite-sized morsels of thought flavor.
Still not convinced?
A study was done where participants used a 10 minute body scan to reduce cravings for snacks. They reported that body scan did indeed reduce their cravings as did guided imagery. This is in relation to people who let their minds wander. Yes, those are the people who are thinking of Lance Bass right now.
The study found that the people who did the guided body scan meditation could “prevent occurrences of food cravings AND reduce the frequency of intrusive thoughts.”
If you’re trying to reduce cravings, body scan guided meditation is the way to go.
Guided body scan meditations are even better because they include relaxation and directed mental activity. They take all of the noisy things trying to compete for attention in your brain and drown them out with one simple voice.
And I just happen to have one for you to try right here! I got you, boo.
This guided body scan has an emphasized aromatherapy theme. So if you like blueberries then this meditation will be like a guided, heavenly dreamland of enticing body scan bliss. If you don’t like blueberries, try the unflavored but still very effective version here.
You are in control of what goes into your body. When you want to indulge, go right ahead. One slice of cake is fun, cute and free-spirited. Six slices of cake is doing too much.
When cravings are allowed to grow and flourish into intricate pieces of mental artwork, you’re in danger of the downfall of binging. Body scan and guided meditations can save you from going over that cliff.
Click the link for a body scan experience you won’t forget. And remember to add some flava to your meditation. Aromatherapy works best in a relaxed state of attention. Pick up a few scents for a heavenly meditation paradise.