Filling Your Mind Rather Than Your Stomach Works for Curbing Cravings, Says Study

Timothy Boyer Ph.D.'s picture
Meditation for curbing cravings recommended

Here's how and why mindfulness can work for you in curbing your cravings with some helpful tips from psychologists.

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For most of us, cravings are defined as an intense, conscious desire to consume a specific drug or food--especially when our body really does not need it, but our brain is telling us otherwise. So how do we regain control over our brain to stop those cravings? As it turns out, training your brain to think otherwise can be achieved by filling our short-term memory with more focused thought.

According to a recent review of multiple studies focused on the power of being mindful, research shows that tackling the problem of cravings at the level of the brain where cravings originate can lead to reduced cravings.

In an article titled "Mindfulness and craving: effects and mechanisms," published recently in the journal Clinical Psychology Review, Dr. Katy Tapper, a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Psychology at City, University of London, found that in many of the studies she looked at that employed a variety of mindfulness strategies, that in many instances those strategies brought about an immediate reduction in craving.

She believes that some of the beneficial effects seen with mindfulness strategies in relation to cravings are likely to stem from interrupting cravings by loading our working memory--a part of our short-term memory which is concerned with immediate conscious perceptual and linguistic processing.

"The research suggests that certain mindfulness-based strategies may help prevent or interrupt cravings by occupying a part of our mind that contributes to the development of cravings. Whether mindfulness strategies are more effective than alternative strategies, such as engaging in visual imagery, has yet to be established. However, there is also some evidence to suggest that engaging in regular mindfulness practice may reduce the extent to which people feel the need to react to their cravings, though further research is needed to confirm such an effect," she stated in an article from City, University of London news.

The article expands on this by explaining that:

Mindfulness interventions typically employ a range of different types of strategy, for example they may include exercises designed to promote greater awareness of bodily sensations, to develop an attitude of acceptance toward uncomfortable feelings, or to help individuals see themselves as separate from their thoughts and emotions.

In other words, active mindfulness is about being present in the present; Opening up all of your senses, taking in what they perceive, and then analyzing before reacting. The end goal of all of this is that you will retrain your brain to eventually inhibit those craving-related responses and behaviors for a healthier you.

How To Be Mindful

For some guidance on how to employ mindful strategies to curb your cravings, here is a summary of tips from psychologists on achieving mindfulness for weight loss:

1. Employ Self-monitoring. One of the most effective tactics for reducing or managing weight is self-monitoring. That means systematically observing and recording what you eat or how much you exercise.

--You might use a journal to record everything you eat, for example. Or use a pedometer to make sure you take 10,000 steps a day.

--Studies have found that consistent self-monitoring contributes to about a quarter of weight-control success.

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2. Try accentuated cognitive-behavioral therapy. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is an approach that focuses on changing unhealthy patterns of thinking and behaving. However, psychologists recognize that just thinking about your patterns is not enough and could use a little physical support for the psychological by supplementing therapy with:

--a protein-heavy form of modified fasting
--appetite-suppressing medication
--antidepressants
--possibly surgery.

3. Take up meditation. Meditation is more than just a stress-reliever. It may also help you lose weight, especially if you tend to binge.

--Meditation can help you become aware of how you use food to take care of emotional needs.

--Meditation can help make you a more mindful eater. Research has shown that individuals with eating problems generally aren't paying attention to whether they're actually hungry or full.

--"Mindfulness" exercises can help heighten your awareness of such cues and keep your mind focused on the experience of eating.

4. Use positive messages about eating. When it comes to children, psychologists focus on preventing weight gain.

--Encouraging positive attitudes about eating is one key strategy they recommend to parents.

--Studies have shown that making children diet or restricting their intake can lead to unhealthy eating behavior and even weight gain later on. In one study, for example, researchers examined adults whose parents had used food to control their behavior when they were children. They were more likely than others to have struggles with binge eating and weight cycling as adults.

For more about mindfulness and weight loss, here is an informative article about mindful clean-eating you can do at home.

References:

City, University of London news "Mindfulness may help reduce cravings for food and drugs, says review" Tuesday, 30th January, 2018

Clinical Psychology Review, 2018; 59: 101 "Mindfulness and craving: effects and mechanisms" Katy Tapper.

American Psychological Association "Holistic weight-loss strategies"

Image Source: Pixabay

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Comments

I haven't yet read the full story, but once I saw the title I was like "that's right." I agree Tim our thoughts determine our lives. Control your mind and you will control your desires and cravings.