If you’ve ever struggled with obsessive thoughts about food, overeating or stressful eating, you’ve probably experienced intense cravings.
Yes, there are times when we are nutritionally malnourished and our bodies crave certain foods to bring us back into balance, such as craving foods high in Vitamin C when we’re sick or more protein when we’re fatigued.
However, when we have consistent food cravings that lead to binge eating episodes, it’s our thoughts that are the real culprit leading to the cravings and unhealthy eating habits – not the food.
Thoughts lead to emotions that lead to action or inaction.
When we are in a high stress state and don’t know how to process our emotions in a healthy way, we end up reaching for the first thing that will help us avoid those feelings. And for many people that thing is food.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE’RE STRESSED OUT
When we get stressed out, our sympathetic nervous system gets activated and turns on our “flight or fight” response. Our digestion slows down, breathing becomes shallow and our blood sugar rises to give us the energy we need to combat the “threat” we are facing. This rise in blood sugar alone will have you hankering for sweets and carbs – it’s a natural biological response to protect you.
In addition, on a psychological level, we go into tribal survival mode. Thousands of years ago, this may have served its purpose as the potential threat of enemies or vicious animals was real. However, these days we don’t have those kinds of threats on a daily basis, but our body’s don’t know the difference.
Stress is stress.
And in this stressed out state, there is little rational thinking and a lot of impulsive action. We disconnect from our body and do anything and everything to quell the uncomfortable feelings. In many cases, this can be reaching for food without even realizing you’re doing and continuing to eat until the stress has subsided or you’re stuffed to the limit.
With non-stop lifestyles, cultural and societal pressures, being overworked, not sleeping enough, eating a nutrient deficient diet and lack of knowledge about how to bring the nervous system back into balance, it can often feel like a really difficult cycle to break.
PRANAYAMA FOR ELIMINATING CRAVINGS
However, one powerful practice that you can use right now to calm your nervous system when you feel emotionally stressed is pranayama breathing, or alternate nostril breathing.
As I mentioned, shallow breathing is one side effect of high stress levels, so in order to bring the mind and body back into balance, we can use the breath to guide it.
“Prana” means life force and “yama” means to control.
As we bring our consciousness to the breath, we regain focus and clarity of the mind and therefore the ability to make a rational and healthy choice for our wellbeing.
According to the Yoga Sutras, pranayama is considered to be one of the most powerful forms of purification and self-discipline for the mind and body. It not only purifies on the physical level, helping to detoxify impurities of the body, strengthening the respiratory system, and increasing energy, but it also calms and uplifts the mind by reducing anxiety, stress and depression.
All of this will lead to reduced cravings and making healthy choices for your body naturally.
When we are in a balanced mind state, we naturally make good decisions for our health.
Adding just a few minutes of pranayama breathing to a daily meditation practice can create a world of difference for your health and happiness.
As I began meditating regularly, I experienced a significant decrease in my desire for sweets and alcohol, which was huge since I struggled with trying to overcome these cravings for years! Continue reading