Food Cravings: Should I Cave In or Should I Be Good?


Manage episode 218416197 series 1141871
By Betsy Thurston MPH RD, Integrative Health Coach, and Registered Dietitian. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

Do you often find yourself craving food and feeling the need to control what you eat at the same time? If you want to stop this overwhelming tug of war once and for all, sometimes you need to delve deep into yourself and find out why these feelings surface. IFS, or internal family systems therapy, understands that we are made up of multiple “parts” inside of us that are either needing to protect us or that hold our vulnerabilities.

In this episode, I discuss how you might talk to the parts of yourself that overwhelm you with cravings. Extreme cravings or a need to rebel against diet rules often are rooted in past experiences of deprivation or shame. We all have these little parts inside of us that developed to protect us. When we learn how to separate from and understand them, we can get them to change.

Tune in to the full episode and learn more about what to do the next time you’re craving food.

Here are three reasons why you should listen to the full episode:
  1. Identify and connect with the parts of yourself causing you to have extreme reactions when craving food.
  2. Find out how you can connect with the different parts within you.
  3. Learn actionable tips on what to do when you’re craving food.
Episode Highlights Challenges of Intuitive Eating

Intuitive eating is a way of eating where you listen to your body and tune into internal hunger and fullness cues. It requires you to trust your ability to self-regulate. You learn to give yourself food boundaries not because you have to, but because you want to feel good and empowered. Intuitive eaters flow with the ups and downs of eating without being extreme.

Intuitive eating may be difficult to achieve for people who have a history of eating disorders. One of my clients described how she found it hard to resist craving food, and convinced herself that since it was what she was craving it would be justified. She thought this was intuitive eating. She was not practicing intuitive eating though, because she was not connected to a peaceful wisdom space. Instead, she was under the spell of the loud, scared, and protective parts inside of her. She was craving from a scared or defiant place.

The Internal Tug of War

There are often three primary parts of you involved in an overeating or craving cycle. One will have an extreme need to eat, the second will have an extreme need to not eat and might be demanding and critical of you, and the third is the part that will try to figure out what to do. Sometimes the third part is pure shame.

Many of my clients find it hard to make food decisions because all these parts working together at the same time just leads to a shutdown. You need to take a step back and investigate why these sides feel so strongly.

Take a Step Back and Be Curious

When we want to overcome this anxiety and overwhelm around food decisions, we need to investigate and understand these parts of ourselves.

IFS therapy uses a specific technique where you learn to separate from the part of you that is craving food, and ask it what it’s afraid of happening if it doesn’t keep urging you to eat. In this way you learn the skill of listening from a genuinely open hearted space.

Find the Underlying Reasons

There is always a reason for your compulsions. When people go on long-term diets, this eating part of them develops to protect them from being deprived or left out. This part of you may get creative to convince you to eat. It may also feel that if it doesn’t get its way, you’ll be in danger. Sometimes the reason appears to be just the brain based habit of making you feel an urgency.

Give Yourself Loving Care and Compassion

From there, what we need to find is the part deep down that created the need for this protective part in the first place. You need to connect with this part with loving care and compassion, and this is the skill to be developed. You learn to heal this part of you by validating its feelings and experiences. It might not make sense until you practice it experientially.

Often the habits of the brain are just repetitive brain patterns stuck in time. We learn to help our food craving parts see that you are no longer living in the past and the original danger is gone. Usually parts needing food become extreme based on a perception of danger.

Question the Part that Does Not Want to Eat

After understanding and connecting with the part that has an extreme need to eat (without hating it!!), you might investigate the other side of the conflict. Similar to what you had done with the part that is craving food, connect with the part that has a desperate need to go on a diet or stop overeating. What is it so afraid would happen if you didn’t do this?

Release Yourself from the Trap of Extreme Diets

Chronic dieting does not work long-term because applying willpower will not work forever.

I talk about a specific client who was only able to heal when she connected with her internal parts and helped them come out of the past. She started to recover when she let go of her extreme beliefs about beauty. It takes time to understand your inner world, but it’s worth the investment. Living in a world of stress around eating and the body is exhausting.

What to Do When You’re Craving Food

As you work with your inner parts, you can implement some food action steps. First, you might try allowing yourself to give in to your food craving without fear but with gentleness. Let yourself eat with curiosity. Notice what your impulse to eat food might be about. When you learn the skill of being present without fear and judgment, perhaps allowing your “dieter part” to calm down, you might learn a lot about what’s going on.

You can repeat this experience of noticing, but next time, perhaps be present without eating even though you’re craving. With curiosity, allow the craving to be there. Again, notice what comes up. You might want to turn towards your emotions and see if you can understand what you’re afraid to be with. Is there an emotion that’s looming underneath? Or is it just a sensation of irritability or discomfort? Sometimes you can coach yourself by saying, “I’m craving food, but I’m saying no, all is well, I can be safe in this moment”. This is an individual journey that can be very intense or tangled for some people and less so for others.

When we learn to get the loud parts to settle down and feel calmer, what will naturally arise is our higher self. It will know what to do.

Resources 5 Powerful Quotes from this Episode

“With intuitive eating, you learn how to make food decisions out of a choice to honor your body wisdom.”

“You just want to try to listen, go within, and open your mind and your heart to this part of you. Because you want to honestly understand why it is doing this.”

“You had this cellular memory of deprivation that gets trapped inside, and in order to get it out, it must be heard and witnessed and no longer repressed.”

“The trick is learning how to understand [that] they’re little parts within you. Once you separate from them and get this relationship with them, that's when you get the healing shifts.”

“We are the healer we've been waiting for. We are it.”

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Have any questions or want to schedule an appointment or enroll in my class? You can email me at or visit my website.

To making peace with eating,


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