Keto and Low Carb Success

Urges and Cravings

October 06, 2022 Miriam Hatoum Season 1 Episode 19
Keto and Low Carb Success
Urges and Cravings
Show Notes Transcript

Episode 19 - Urges and Cravings

Don't miss my PEEPS STORY this week, which kicks off the episode that explores the reasons  for cravings, including physical reasons, emotional  and other reasons, examining what you can do when faced with a craving.  More detail is given with examining urges and the differences between cravings and urges. Learn the "pickle theory" and how putting in a pause between the craving or urge, and the giving into the craving or urge will make all the difference in the world. This week's ACTIONABLE COACHING ADVICE, will pull apart this week's VFO on Working through Urges, showing how to make the best use of everything in it.  Next week's episode will investigate this matter more fully with habits, triggers and emotional eating. 

1:15.      Personal Story
3:33.      What is a food craving?
4:17.      Physical reasons for a craving
6:34.      Emotional reasons for a craving
8:05.      Other reasons for a craving
9:25.      What can you do about a craving?
11:00.    What is an urge?
12:19.    The urge you feel is always in direct relation to the trigger
12:42.     What can you do when it is an urge?
13:50.      For both cravings and urges I want you to think of this (THE PICKLE THEORY)
16:29.      This weeks actionable COACHING ADVICE
20:32.      This week's VFO (Valuable Free Offer)
21:46.       Episode 20, coming up.

Breaking Free From Diet Prison Book
Breaking Free From Diet Prison Course
THIS WEEK'S VFO:  Learn To Work Through Urges
ADDITIONAL VFO:  Learning your Hunger Scale
Breaking Free From Diet Prison Facebook page
Roadmap To Diet Success Instagram
BLOG: The Mechanics of Physical Hunger
BLOG: Forgiving Yourself: Buddha's Second Arrow
ACCESS Transcript Here
Cleveland Study

Episode #: 19    Urges and Cravings 

You’re Listening to the Roadmap to Diet Success, Episode #19, Urges, Cravings, Triggers and Habit Eating.


 Did you know that you don't have to spend money on a diet program or weigh, measure and track your food? What if you could learn to have success by following an easy roadmap that takes you on adventures from learning how to change your mindset so that you can believe in yourself, to learning about what foods work best in your body and why? Join me, Miriam Hatoum, health coach, course creator and author of Breaking Free From Diet Prison, as I give you actionable coaching advice that is sure to empower you so that you will finally find peace with food and learn to trust your body’s signals. You’ve got this, girl! 

 Oh, and before we start, I want to let you know that the primary purpose of this podcast is to educate and does not constitute medical advice or services, and I’m keeping up with the science as fast as I can so I can share with you the latest breaking research in this area to help you achieve your dreams!

1:15.     Personal Story

I promised you my PEEPS story, and here it is:

Let me start by introducing myself. "Hello, I am Miriam Hatoum and I am probably the most food suggestible person you will ever meet." So here's my story. Was it a food craving or an urge?

About Easter time I am in the home stretch of a long commute after an exhausting and frustrating day. I am listening to some inane talk show where they are going on and on about Peeps. How they used to just be yellow ducks. Now they are pink bunnies or green dinosaurs or purple eggs. On and on.

I don't even know why I am listening to this drivel. Probably I am tired of weather and traffic reports, or music is just hitting me the wrong way. I probably didn’t have a new book to listen to, and it was a long time ago before I had the option of listening to podcasts. Neither here nor there. Anyway… I'm listening to this stupid conversation. I come down the street that I always come down, passing a convenience store and a Walgreens.

Without even knowing what I am doing, I pull out of my lane of traffic and swerve into the parking lot. I get out of the car, walk into Walgreens, purchase a package of Peeps and eat them in the car. 

It was as if I was not even the driver. The car had a mind of its own and pulled into that parking lot. I did not even have a craving for Peeps. I just had this urge that was a reaction to the trigger of listening to that conversation. 

How many times do you find yourself elbow-deep in a bag of chips or buried under the crumbs of a coffee cake? More than you care to admit? Yeah, my friend. You are not alone. You are not the only one with monkeys playing dodgeball in your head.

3:33.      What is a food craving?

·       A food craving is a strong desire for a specific food and is not the same as an urge. 

  • I had no desire for Peeps.
  • I had no intention of eating those Peeps when I set out for home that day.
  • Eating them was the result of an urge more than the result of a craving. 
  • A craving for a specific food might be the end result of a trigger much in the same way an urge is, but an urge is immediate.
  • With a craving you can go for a week until you get just the perfect food you are thinking about.

4:17.       Physical reasons for a craving

·       There can be a physical reason for the craving. Example:

  • One time I was craving chopped liver.
  • I am not a liver person and if I eat it once a year at a holiday that's enough for me.
  • But recently I was absolutely CRAVING chopped liver.
  • I assembled all the ingredients and took my time making an absolutely delicious batch of chopped liver.
  • I ate it every day for four days until it was gone.
  • I was puzzled though, and because inquiring minds want to know, I did some digging:
    • I learned that specific food cravings (that aren't obviously accompanied by social and emotional triggers such as Thanksgiving) may mean that your body is lacking in an important element. 
  • It might mean that you need certain vitamins, minerals or other nutrients. 
  • It made sense to me that maybe I was depleted in iron if I was so strongly craving liver, but my body could also have been looking for chromium, phosphorus, zinc or tryptophan. 
  • Nighttime food cravings, especially, can be caused by the hormones insulin, ghrelin, leptin and peptide YY. If you are interested in this – and I hope you are – please see my blog on The Mechanics of Physical Hunger. The direct link is in the show notes and transcript.
  • Furthermore, if you don't get enough sleep and your cortisol is high because of it, you can be craving food at night. 
  • There are very physical reasons for these cravings and so don't be imagining that there is necessarily something horribly wrong with your goals, whys or intentions. I put a link to an interesting study from the Cleveland Clinic on bingeing in the show notes and transcript as well. 

6:34.      Emotional reasons for a craving

This one is sort of easy. Let me take the same chopped liver. The particular time I am talking about I think there really were nutritional needs behind wanting to eat the liver. I say this because when I am on top of taking my supplements I rarely get that craving. When I am careless about them - especially the desiccated liver I take - my mind wanders to chopped liver.

·       But I can see that it could easily have been emotional to want the chopped liver. For me it is a popular appetizer at some favorite holiday dinners.

  • Over the past few years the matriarchs of two of our families that celebrated these holidays together have passed away (my aunt was 101 and my mother was 104).
  • Then my brother moved over 1000 miles away, further diluting the joy of getting together.
  • Then with the Covid-19 pandemic, family holiday celebrations totally stopped.

Do you think I might have been craving a food that symbolized family get-togethers and love? Still, it was not an urge to eat chopped liver because it did not have that immediate nature.

8:05.      Other reasons for a craving

Sometimes it is as uncomplicated as craving pizza because you heard of a new pizza place that just opened. But it's not an urge, and you can wait until the circumstances are right to order just what you want and sit down and savor it.

  • Sometimes it is as uncomplicated as craving Chinese food because you hardly ever indulge and you just want to have those flavors. But it is not an urge and you don't stuff yourself at an all-you-can eat buffet and eat it all just because it is there.
  • Sometimes it is as uncomplicated as craving an iced-coffee on a hot summer day. But it is not an urge and you don't have to order the largest size and have them put a scoop of ice cream in it besides.
  • Sometimes it is as uncomplicated as loving Peeps and enjoying one row - or one small package - of them every Easter because you just want to. But you don't swerve off the road, into the parking lot, and come out with your mouth stuffed full of flavorless, yet colorful, marshmallow candy – that’s urge territory.

9:25.      What can you do about a craving?

Even with a craving such as pizza and beer, Chinese food or whatever, if you have mastered where you are on the hunger scale (to know if you are truly hungry and when you have had enough), even a craving won’t be enough to sidetrack you. 

Once you have learned when you are satisfied (6) or can stop yourself mid-way through a 7 (full) before you have done any damage, physically or emotionally, you can address cravings with little worry.

In other words, if you are craving pizza and 

  1. it is allowed on whichever food program you are following, and 
  2. you have identified you are hungry and later when you are full  
  3. even if that means leaving some behind or having a little bit more, 
  4. it will make no difference whether you have eaten the pizza or a salad with tuna on top.

With this example, and you are eating low carb and only eat between a 4 and a 6, then this is where there might be little difference between the salad and the pizza.

As long as you do not overeat and you are aware of your carbohydrate intake the rest of the day, your choice may not make a difference. If you are on a Keto food plan, then no, you won’t want to have the pizza (unless you have made a Keto crust). You will have to sit with that craving a bit.

11:00.      What is an urge?

An urge is a strong desire or impulse to do something usually in response to a trigger.

  • For instance, you might be frustrated with a phone call, hang up and then have a strong urge to get up and get something to eat.
  • You might have an argument with a friend and have a strong impulse to dive headlong into a bag of anything will take the edge off.
  • Usually an urge that lands up with eating something is your impulse to soothe a trigger in some way.

Often you are not looking for a specific food. Any food will do as long as its corresponding "nature" matches what you are looking to satisfy.

  • If you are reacting to sadness, you might turn to candy (its property is sweet and welcoming).
  • If you are reacting to anger, you might turn to chips (its crunchiness lets you work out some energy).
  • If you are reacting to anxiety you might turn to ice cream (its soft texture is soothing). 

12:19.       The urge you feel is always in direct relation to the trigger. 

  • Sometimes you don't even know what that trigger might be.
  • For me and my Peeps fiasco, I knew after the fact that the trigger was the talk show.
  • In the immediate I wasn't even asking myself, "Why the heck do I want these Peeps?"

12:42.      What can you do when it is an urge? (More immediate than a craving)

Short and brief:

  • Acknowledge it (when you can).
  • Watch it pass by and let it dissipate.
  • Set a timer.
  • Sit on your hands.
  • Get out of the room or out of the house or out of the bakery aisle - whatever it is.
  • Breathe deeply and pay attention to your breathing because your brain cannot fully attend to two things at once. If it is engaged in the attention to the breathing it cannot be engaged in the attention to the urge.

When you don't see the urge coming or don't even recognize that is there, stop yourself in the middle of the behavior of eating. 

  • You know you are eating. 
  • You know your hand is moving things to your mouth. 
  • No matter what you paid for the food, throw it out. 
  • It is going to land up in the trash from your hand or the toilet from your...

13:50.      For both cravings and urges I want you to think of this:

"You can change a cucumber into a pickle, but you can’t turn a pickle back into a cucumber.” 

A quick aside here for a science lesson: Neurons are the building blocks of our brain. Neural pathways are the connections between neurons where information is passed through electrochemical signals. And you can think of them as a pattern that represents any thought about anything you’ve ever had. 

Now back to pickles. Think of these neural pathways as pickles. Once you have them after years of habits, associations and behaviors, you cannot turn them back into cucumbers. What this means, is no matter how hard you work to break the association to the trigger, you will always have them. They might be buried deep underneath a new cucumber patch, but the pickles will always be there. Always. 

 This is why I could go for 15 Easters and never want a PEEPS. But for some reason the cucumbers and baby pickles of working with urges, triggers and habits to the point where I rarely do that, are pushed aside and an old pickle pops to the top. If I had taken a second to say to myself, “I don’t want PEEPS, those yearnings are just my pickles,” I probably could have driven on. But I didn’t take that second. That’s why it is so important to put a pause in between the urge or craving and the behavior. Don’t berate yourself. Don’t think something is wrong with you. Don’t even stress too much about how it came out of left field. Just put a pause, say, “Oh that’s my pickles talking,” and see if you can let it pass.

 And by the way, as new cucumbers turn into pickles, you still have the old ones underneath… Just always be aware of that and don’t put yourself into old situations where triggers that cause cravings and urges to still pop up.


·       The first thing I want you to do is to download the Urges booklet that I offer you this week. The direct link is in the show notes and transcript.

·       Then I want you to read – carefully – the “Stop, Drop and Roll” must have worksheet to get you thinking about urges and cravings. Then I want you to go to the next page and fill out your own. It uses a method of thinking and analysis that I will cover in a later episode.

·       Cut out the box on the front page that is entitled “Forget the Bubble Baths” and tape it onto an index card – maybe several, and put them in the kitchen, your bedroom, in your desk at work, the glove compartment of your car, and anywhere else you have ever experienced a trigger that started the ball rolling headlong into an urge.

·       “Stop, Drop and Roll” and “Forget the Bubble Baths” have helped me and my clients more than any decision about an eating plan or exercise routine.

·       Finally, If you find yourself in a total trance and don't even know you are eating until it is gone, please read my blog on The Power of Forgiving Yourself and take a lesson. You can't make things better if you hate yourself. Forgive yourself and tell yourself that you will try to be more awake when the next urge hits.

With all my heart (and that is why I am doing all this) I want you out of diet prison forever.

So, in addition to this coaching, I also want you to download the hunger scale if you have not already done so.  Once you know for sure that it is not real physical hunger that you are experiencing you can address your cravings and urges in a much more logical manner.

In addition:

  • Get yourself a timer – (I like the little hour-glass type timers that are available to run for 90 seconds – I have 3 or 4 that I keep all over the house).
  • You can use your phone, but there is something about a physical timer that makes you really aware that you are waiting something out. 

·       The timers will help you to put a pause between the food craving or urge, and reaching for the food.

  • I have, on occasion, gotten ahold of the food (I think a bag of marshmallows was my last run-in with an urge food) and I held them, opened and smelled them. Dare I say I caressed them?
  • I waited for that little 90-second timer to run out then I closed up the bag and put it away. 

Just learn to pause and I promise you can sit with your urges and food cravings, and break out of diet prison forever! This is one of the Kaisen practices I talked about in Episode #18. Don’t worry about changing all your habits and behaviors all at once. Make a gentle change like putting a pause. The next level could be making the pause longer or doing something physical to distract yourself, even if it is just leaving the room for a few moments. Those pickles are really pickled! Just start by going to the store to buy new cucumber seeds!

20:32.      This week’s VFO: Valuable Free Offer
This week I would like to offer you the Working with Urges workbook available at Also, as part of this week’s actionable coaching advice, I would like you to download the hunger scale workbook at As always, the direct links are in the show notes and transcript.

 And, if you like what you hear, please like and subscribe, and remember to leave a review wherever you listen to your podcast. It helps other people find the show. Also, don’t be a stranger. Come on over to my Facebook page, Breaking Free From Diet Prison, and let me know if there is anything you would like to hear on the show. I always look forward to hearing from listeners. You can also email me directly … I would especially like to hear about episode ideas you are interested in.

 21:46.      Next week’s episode

 Next week will go further into non-physical hunger with a look into triggers, habits and emotional eating. This is where physical hunger has nothing to do with your desire to eat, and it is important to face this so that you can move forward on your road to diet success. Nothing derails good intentions and good work, like being rolled over by emotional hunger and emotional eating. We call it head and heart hunger.

 So go share the show with your friends, let them know that’s coming up in the next episode, and invite them to tune in with you and learn how to become free from diet prison with my Roadmap to Diet Success.

 Until then, go live free from diet worry — I’ll see you back here next time.