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Need versus Want-Mindful Eating Tips

Published on: October 17, 2023

Mindful eating for cravings. 

Fall has arrived and that means back-to-back holidays, baking, heavy savory meals, and possibly less time outdoors. Does it also signify the end of all of your good intentions around food? It doesn’t have to, let me tell you how to become master over your fall cravings…

Ayurveda and Fall Foods

Before I jump into cravings I want to spend a minute on the ayurvedic approach to fall meal planning. 

Ayurvedic nutrition is the ultimate in eating seasonally, all you have to do is take a look at what is growing in your area and using that to guide your nutrition choices. Keep in mind that like increases like, so if you’re feeling cold, sleepy, and dry as we move into fall look for foods and activities that are warming, energizing (or rejuvenating), and moist. 

Fall is the perfect time to mindfully indulge in grounding root vegetables, cozy up to a warming soup, and slow down with a cup of tea and a slice of pie. Spices that rule the autumn are cinnamon, cloves, and ginger. 

One of the best parts of fall is the opportunity to get into the kitchen and experiment with spices, soups, and breads. If you aren’t sure where to start, head to the farmer’s market or local grocery and notice the foods that are front and center. You can also use this website to see what is in season in your area. 

No need to Google a food list or worry about if you’re doing it right go with your intuition and keep these three things in mind for your fall meal planning: 

  1. Add a bit of oil- ghee, olive oil, or nuts and seeds are grounding plus they help keep your skin juicy and soft all winter. 
  2. Indulge mindfully- no need to skip the pie because it’s not on the “approved” food list. Do be aware of how often you are indulging. Sweets are heavy and when you pay attention, you’ll know exactly when enough is enough. 
  3. Skip the salad- raw veggies can be tough in the fall, try steaming or roasting veggies and making a nutrient packed grain bowl. 

Need versus Want

There is no end to the fall treats- from pumpkin spice lattes to apple pie to the overflowing candy bowls everywhere you turn. What’s a girl to do when cravings hit? It’s simple really, ask yourself: “do I need this or do I want this?”

Need

Needing a food means that you have a physical need that you have to fulfill – it can be hunger, feeling low energy, or any one of dozens of valid reasons that your body is telling you to eat. Generally when you need to eat a food, the type of food you choose is less important than simply eating soon. An example of needing to eat is eating a snack after work on your way to the gym. You’ll get a better workout if you aren’t preoccupied by your stomach growling all through spin class. 

There is no need to set up a bunch of rules around what’s appropriate here, simply listen to your body and if it feels like you need to eat- go ahead! 

Want

This one is a bit more tricky because it’s usually attached to guilt. Wanting a food because you like the taste, smelled someone else eating it (McDonalds fries anyone?), or know that it might bring you comfort on some level is totally valid! You never need to explain to anyone why you are eating a particular food. 

A “want” might be: something that brings you comfort, you are filling space, you enjoy it, it’s a social situation, you’re trying to distract yourself, and so on. Again, no shame for choosing a food based on want over need. 

Make a choice

Mastering your cravings is all about making a choice. When you are mindful and intentional about your choice you are more likely to make the choice that will serve you in the moment. The more that you practice making intentional choices and naming them, the more control you’ll have over your cravings. It might look like this: 

Choosing to eat popcorn for dinner because you’re too tired and popcorn is your love language. You choose to eat it from a bowl instead of the bag and only eat enough to feel full. Once you’re full you put the bag away and go about your evening feeling satisfied. 

Another example of want vs need: 

Grandma made her fried, double baked apple pie with caramel a la mode. You know that it’s a bit heavy but you only get her pie during the holidays. You grab a plate and indulge fully aware that in about 45 minutes you’re going to need a nap. 

In both of these scenarios you made the choice and then let it go. No guilt, no reasoning, no bargaining. If you want to overcome cravings you have to embrace them, understand them, and get to know them in and out. Knowledge is power. 

*Keep in mind that if you struggle with disordered eating, this practice is best done with the guidance of a professional. 

Using Need vs Want for Period Cravings

  1. Track. Pick a craving that feels overwhelming or out of alignment with your goals and make a plan to track it for 3 months. 
  2. Observe when it shows up, are there any triggers, is there something about the timing, can you identify anything that seems relevant?
  3. When the craving arises ask yourself: Do I need this or do I want this? Make sure that you are clear on your reason why then accept it. 
  4. Journal about your experience- this is a judgment free zone. Write the facts, your feelings, and observations. No need to create a story or “why” 
  5. Sit with the result- this could be an hour or a week. Give yourself the chance to feel your feelings. Notice how you feel- what feelings arise? Guilt, heaviness, freedom, satisfaction, bloating, etc. There are no wrong answers, you are simply looking for information. Journal what you notice. 

Keep practicing! The more often you practice the art of making a choice the more natural it becomes. Each time you make a mindful and intentional choice you’re building a database of experience to help guide you in future decisions. 

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Dog mom, vata/pitta, virgo.

Someday I’ll have chickens.

My perfect day is spent in the garden with a big-ass cup of coffee and the dog napping in the AZ sunshine.

Routinely found in tree pose while cooking.

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