I had three people shared their stories with me last week -different people at different ages, distinctly different situations, and one common thread. Please read it for yourself to see what I mean.
I’ll call this newly minted Ph.D., new-to-workforce girl in her late 20 s, Rima. She had taken special effort to get her eating in place over the two-month gap she had, before joining for work. It had gone wonky during her student days when she was seriously time-strapped and overwhelmed with the number of things she had to get done. Her doctoral thesis, teaching assignment, stressful relationships at college – with all this and more, there was very little time and energy to even eat. Let alone cook! If and when she ate, it was veggie puff, chips, samosa, and some aerated drink – pretty much the kind of stuff one finds in a not so well stocked canteen.
Over the two months, she had brought SO much change to how she ate – breakfast, lunch, and dinner – all on time, loaded with vegetables and fruit. She had lost up to ten kilos already by eating healthy (and letting go of stress and catching up on sleep, in her words). She had to attend this five-day conference shortly after joining work. On her first day at the venue, when she saw platters of all the familiar college food – now beautifully arranged in a star-hotel banquet, she was drawn to it. The next five days were all about Dahi vadas with sev and boondhi garnished with coriander and grated carrot, samosas with an assortment of gourmet fruit chutneys, colorful vegetable chips. Not just boring potato wafers from her cash-strapped student days – she was pleased! She finished her presentations, made new friends, and go home feeling accomplished. When she routinely checked her weight on the following day, she had gained five kilos in just a week.
Ann (not her real name) is a woman in her fifties. At this point in life, she is big on her hobbies and socializing outside of her work. And Ann is also very careful about her health, eating right, exercising and all that. She has a big love for sweets and desserts, but she has kept it out entirely and successfully for over six months now. Ann ran into an old friend who runs a pastry shop recently. This friend lovingly cut a very tiny piece of a pastry at her birthday party, just about a spoonful – and fed Ann, just like she did with others in her little circle of friends. However, this small spoonful has wreaked havoc as far as Ann is concerned. She’s gripped by sugar fiend that wants her sweet fix at the end of every meal, just like before. She had not had it in six months! But the recent experience has renewed her earlier association with sweets, and she’s stunned with how strongly she craves sweets at every meal now, all over again.
Lakshmi (not her real name) is a photographer. Until recently, she was mostly into baby pictures. Given how much she loves books in her spare time, a friend asked her if she would be interested in food photography for her new cookbook. Lakshmi happily agreed. Now, Lakshmi is shocked by how she has fallen in love – not just with food photography but also with the food itself. She was not big into eating, cooking, or anything to do with food earlier. What’s with the new cookbook, that led her to fall so hopelessly in love – I wanted to know. It was all about cheese-based cooking for home chefs. What was surprising to Lakshmi was that, the assignment is long over now, but all she has to do is just recollect that experience or see one of the many pictures she clicked of the pizzas, cheesecakes or cheese dosa – that’s it. It will be a full-blown urge to eat a pizza! She finds herself ordering for home delivery several times a week, and she laughs how her spending on pizzas and plates of pasta have even exceeded the fee she received for the assignment already.
Now, have you identified the common thread? Cravings!
Certain foods are addictive by nature.
Much like any other addiction, just one time of eating these foods, why – just even thinking of them, seeing them in pictures, talking about them, watching television shows of cooking them – is enough to trigger a strong urge to eat, inside your head. Given how slippery and slopey this terrain is, even one time of indulging, even in moderation or just one teeny weeny mouthful, can undo your efforts of several months and take you back to square one.
Here’s how you hand-hold yourself out of the mess all over again –
It helps to figure out what kind of cues trigger you the most. And then, come up with creative solutions to eliminate them.
For instance, if seeing food pictures cause you a temptation, stop bringing such items into your space. Be sure not to see them anywhere – not even on your smartphone, news feed, or computer.
I tend to get triggered by the aromas of food. So, I carry an essential oil inhaler, much like a Vicks inhaler tube, the only difference being mine is a lemony, citrusy fragrance that calms my nerves and centers me. So, I excuse myself from the place, and often this alone does the trick. Sometimes I may use my handy aromatherapy inhaler. Roll on natural plant perfumes made of essential oil blends and smelling salts made with herbs and/or essential oils work fabulously too.
Another handy fix would be to find something creative to do with your hands. Like coloring, for instance. Have you observed the boom in adult coloring books in recent times? A similar outcome is reported by people who do the zentangles. It takes your mind away from eating for the wrong reasons and addictive foods. Carrying a small sketch pad and pen in your bag is all it takes.
This is what I’d like to know from you – how does your craving show up for you, and what do you do about it?
Is it like you’ll be thumbing through a magazine food column, and suddenly you get up and get started with cooking a “sinfully good” recipe. Or aromas from your next-door neighbor’s kitchen hit your nose, and out of nowhere, you have the urge to eat something that you’re trying to avoid. Or just the memory of a pastry is enough to get you started ?!
Share away in the comments.