The problem with cravings
A craving is an intense desire or urge to eat a specific food.
Chocolate is by far the most commonly craved food in Western cultures* and in a world where it’s on sale everywhere round the clock, it’s something that clients often struggle to eat in moderation.
Attempting to resist only increases the desire and the resulting internal battle produces cycles of unwanted eating, feelings of guilt and lack of control.
How can you help your chocolate-craving client feel more in control?
Whether your client wants to reduce their craving so they can lose weight, or so they feel a greater sense of freedom around food, there are techniques that can help.
In my Masterclass for professionals I teach those techniques and the theories behind them. In this blog I want to share with you one simple tip that you can pass on.
A really interesting study
The tip I want to share with you is from a study from Flinders University in Australia**. Eva Kemps, Marika Tiggemann and Sarah Bettany started from the knowledge that imagery tasks can reduce food cravings. They felt that creating images might take too much time and effort for some people to be able to use them effectively.
So they set out to see whether actually sniffing different odours might have a similar effect.
Will different smells have different effects?
The researchers tested green apple, jasmine and plain old water to see what happened to chocolate cravings in the lab. They reasoned that a food odour such as apple might increase craving, as the smell of food stimulates the appetite system, but a non-food odour such as jasmine would not have this effect. They included plain water to check that any effect wasn’t due simply to the act of sniffing.
All of the participants in the study liked chocolate. No surprise there!
In the experiment, each participant was shown attractive images of chocolate-containing food (a slice of chocolate cake for instance), and asked to retain the image whilst smelling one of the odours – apple, jasmine or water. They then rated their craving for chocolate.
So what did they find?
The craving ratings after sniffing green apple and water odours were the same, but chocolate cravings were significantly lower when they smelled the jasmine oil. This means that simply sniffing an odour may help reduce a craving when it strikes.
Will other smells work too?
Other smells may work too, though this wasn’t tested in the research.
Remember that it may be important to use a non-food odour so that the appetite system is not stimulated by the smell.
Easy-to-use for your clients
A commercially available odour like jasmine oil is easily available, though jasmine itself may be expensive. You could suggest to clients that they choose an oil which they like, and which is a non-food odour. They can carry it around with them and smell it whenever they experience a craving.
In the lab study, participants smelled the odour during the 8 second interval they were asked to hold the tempting chocolate picture in their mind. So maybe suggest a few sniffs is likely to be enough.
If this simple idea doesn’t work for your client there are other strategies…
Want to learn more evidence-based techniques?
In my Masterclass “How to help your clients overcome food cravings” I teach you practical, simple, evidence-based strategies from Clinical and Health Psychology which you will be able to put into practice immediately and enhance the quality of the work you’re able to do with your clients.
The Masterclass covers the theory about what’s happening in the brain as a craving develops. We look at how you can explain this simply to your clients, and how you can integrate craving reduction into your existing clinical practice.
*Hetherington, M. and Macdiarmid, J. (1993) “Chocolate addiction”: A preliminary study of its description and its relationship to problem eating. Appetite, 21: 233-46
**Kemps E., Tiggemann M. and Bettany S. (2012) Non-food odorants reduce chocolate cravings Appetite, 58: 1087-90
photo by Freestocks for Unsplash