Almost everyone experiences food cravings from time to time. For dieters food cravings can be an unhelpful distraction and temporarily derail our best laid plans for weight loss. If cravings are a problem the first question to ask yourself is - "Does eating the food serve a purpose?" For some, eating can meet emotional needs. Food can be used to stuff feelings, deal with boredom, or fill a sense of emptiness. What emotional need might the food you crave be serving? Are you needing comfort, nurturing, or a reward? If the craving is really about an emotional need, taking care of that need in healthy ways may stop the craving. How else might you meet this need that doesn't involve unhealthy eating?

The second question to ask yourself is - "Am I cutting calories to the point that I'm actually feeling deprived?" The craving might be an effort to help you feel less deprived. Cutting calories past a certain point may decrease metabolism such that the body thinks it is starving. The body then hoards calories and weight loss slows down. If a feeling of deprivation is the problem what healthy food could you add into your diet plan that would keep you on course to slow and steady weight loss?

If you experience food cravings at a similar time of day such as late afternoon you may actually need some food as fuel. Perhaps you are low on energy and your body is telling you that it has some nutritional needs. Eating a healthy snack may curb that unhealthy craving. If you crave something sweet try eating some fruit. Gaining some insight into the reasons for the craving can help us focus on solutions.

Otherwise, there are some effective imagery tricks that can decrease the intensity of a food craving. One of the most effective ways is to imagine the food you crave. Chances are the food is in color and tantalizing in your imagination. Maybe you picture the food up close or can even taste or smell it. Now create some changes by making the image a black and white still photograph. Notice if that decreases its appeal or realness to you. Perhaps imagine the image out of focus and further away. Experiment with making any changes that result in the food being less real and less enticing to you.

You can get even more creative with the image by picturing the food as old, spoiled, and, dare I say it, insect ridden! Add anything to the image that decreases its attraction and that increases its repulsiveness. Let your imagination run wild! Shrink the image down until it is tiny and push it away.

Many times food cravings are temporary and will pass with time. Practice being an observer of the craving without the requirement to do anything about it. Approach the craving as if it were a cloud on the landscape of your mind. Allow it to be impermanent as it moves on and out of your awareness.

Think about what else could satisfy the craving that would be healthy and keep with your weight loss plans. Imagine a variety of healthy foods that you enjoy. Create a picture that is bright, colorful, and motivating.

Ideally, avoid thinking about any food as being completely off limits. You may be clear with yourself that eating one potato chip almost always leads to eating the entire bag. In that case, know that this food is a problem for you and ought to be avoided much of the time. You know that keeping chips in the house is a set-up for failure given your weight loss goals. However, if you are the kind of person that can eat a small amount of the food you crave and put it away, then do that.

Food cravings can provide an opportunity to discover some insight into ourselves when we find the source of the craving. They are always an opportunity to find our sense of control and mastery over food and eating. Successfully handling food cravings allows us to get to our healthy and weight loss goals more quickly and to feeling better about ourselves.

Author's Bio: 

Sue Stevenson, Ph.D., is a Weight Loss Coach in Tucson, Arizona, who works with individuals and groups to help them reach their weight loss and fitness goals. She specializes in innovative techniques such as hypnosis, NLP, and the Emotional Freedom Technique. For more of her articles and blog visit her website at