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by Doreen Virtue, Ph.D.

If you've struggled with weight and dieting, then you already know how to lose weight better than anyone! Eat less fat and exercise more -- it's not rocket science. Yet the reason why Americans are heavier that ever is due to our overactive appetites. If we weren't hungry all the time, there would be no weight problems.

You can reduce the power of your food cravings. By interpreting why you are craving a particular food, and dealing with the underlying need, your cravings will dissipate or disappear. You'll feel more in control of your food choices. Instead of that box of cookies commanding you to eat it, you'll feel free to eat one, two, or no cookies.

Once you know how to interpret your food cravings, your urges to overeat will never overwhelm you again.

Peace of Mind
Every part of you is perfect, whole and complete. Your appetite is no exception. Food cravings and a voracious appetite don't mean that something is wrong with you or that your are weak in any way. Rather, they show that your appetite is operating exactly as intended.

Your entire body's functioning, including your appetite, reflects your inner state of being. Your appetite is designed like an airplane instrument panel - to warn you when spiritual and emotional fuel runs low. Hunger is a flashing red light signaling, "I need more peace of mind!"

Animals put on extra weight in preparation for winter hibernation. Humans who carry extra weight are in a spiritual hibernation, asleep to their true potential. The weight serves as a hedge against perceived dangers and lack, in a world that, in truth, is filled with safety and abundance.

Not knowing this, you may have tried to kill your appetite with external forces such as diets, powders or pills. As you discovered, that approach didn't work for long. What is needed, instead, is to heal your appetite using an internal approach.

Gut Feelings
Our gut is the center of our emotions. We feel fear, excitement, anger and love in our midsection. You've probably had one of these experiences: butterflies of excitement in your stomach; intuition in the form of a "gut feeling"; knots in your stomach when you felt anxious or afraid; nausea or a stomachache when you were nervous; hunger when you were lonely, bored or stressed.

Our gut is the link between the intelligence of the universe and our human experience. This inner voice encompasses a million years of wisdom inherited from our cave-dwelling ancestors. It tells us when a person is acting honorably, which career path to take, what house to buy, which person to marry, and so on.

When we listen to our gut feelings, we're always rewarded with peace of mind. But sometimes our gut's instructions seem frightening, because they ask us to go beyond our comfortable boundaries, and we mistakenly believe we will fail to fulfill our dreams. When we feel frightened, we pour food down our gut to drown out our inner voice.

Chocolate: Hungry for Love
Americans spend five billion dollars a year on chocolate. Ironically, that is roughly how much money is spent on weight-loss methods. Clearly we are a nation of chocoholics.

You may have heard that chocolate contains the same chemical that the brain creates when we're feeling romantic love. This chemical, phenylethylamine (pronounced fennel-ethel-a-meen) and abbreviated as PEA, has the same properties whether found in chocolate or in the brain.

PEA is so powerfully mood-altering that it used to be a prescribed medication! Until the early 1980's, PEA was the main ingredient in a pill called MDMA. Then it was declared an illegal drug, and was taken off the market. Today, the same pill is sold on the streets as "Ecstasy" or "X." With PEA as an ingredient, its no wonder chocolate is so craved.

Chocolate cravings are based on unfulfilled desires for love. Our serotonin and energy levels are drained by stress-filled days, too-tight schedules, unhealthful eating, and lack of exercise. We then turn to chocolate to feel better. Chocolate cravings can be temporarily masked by drinking ginger ale, pekoe tea, soy milk, diet soda, or coffee - -beverages that contain less of the same stimulating properties as chocolate. But the only lasting cure for chocolate cravings comes from inside. This means fulfilling your need for love by treating yourself like you are the most special person in the world (which you are)!

Anytime you start to feel unloved, go into a quiet space and completely focus on your gut. Look for the slightest inkling of a butterfly in your stomach: the feeling that you're about to open a wonderful present or you've just won the lottery. Consciously expand that feeling, as if you are riding the butterfly feeling up into the air. Soon, your heart will feel soft and warm. You will feel the identical feelings to being newly in love. This is what you are trying to reproduce by eating chocolate.

Dairy: The Antidepressant Foods
As infants, we all craved and consumed a great deal of milk. Some researchers believe that our earliest cravings for milk are, in reality, a craving for the sweet lactose that is found in this dairy product.

But there are other properties of dairy products even more powerful that their inherently sweet taste. When you break down the ingredients of milk-based products, you find an over-the-counter antidepressant - no prescription necessary!

Resentment and frustration, if ignored, eventually mutate into depression. To relieve depression, center yourself before eating. Give your gut feelings a chance to be heard above the din. Before picking up your fork, lower your eyes, take a breath, go inward and say grace in your own way. Your body will relax, and your inner voice will reward you with valuable guidance and inspired information.

These other strategies also help relieve depression. Eat a nutritionally balanced diet. Exercise. Do grief work. Get professional help if necessary.

Salty Snack Foods: Stress, Anger, and Anxiety
Stressful eaters crave crispy snack foods such as potato chips, popcorn and crackers. The crunchy textures provide a cathartic outlet for all the tension held in the jaw. Like pounding a punching bag, we take our tensions and anger out on every crispy bite.

When those frustrating cravings urge you to eat chips, crackers, popcorn or pretzels, ask yourself, "Who am I angry at?" It makes no sense to punish yourself by overeating unhealthful foods. You're devouring those salty, greasy potato chips, so you are the only person who will suffer the effects of feeling sluggish, bloated and overweight. Take out your anger in healthy and productive ways (such as exercise), instead of attacking yourself.

Address the source of your stress. Push yourself to resolve some of your uneasy feelings right now. Deep down, you already know what steps to take, but you are afraid of the consequences. You're afraid you'll make things worse instead of better. Visualize what a better life would look like and then act on it. Tell others what behavior you will and won't accept. You'll be doing yourself an incredible favor.

Spicy Foods: The Drive for Excitement
Do you season your food before tasting it? Is your food philosophy, "The spicier the better"? Do you adore Mexican, Thai or spicy Chinese food, and abhor bland English or traditional American dishes?

Food isn't the only area of your life that you prefer spicy. You may also crave excitement and high intensity in your work, love, and play. If you aren't getting enough thrills, you may convert that frustration into intense cravings for spicy foods.

Excitement is a physical high stemming from adrenaline production. It is short-lived and ultimately very draining. Enthusiasm, on the other hand, provides a lasting high and results in increased energy. Excitement is drawn from external sources, such as eating spicy foods, going on a roller coaster, or being in a dangerous situation. Enthusiasm comes from internal sources, such as taking steps toward fulfilling your dreams.

Really hot spices encourage the brain to release pain-relieving chemicals that bathe and numb the entire body. It's a natural way to seek emotional anesthesia, but it's a Band-Aid, a temporary measure. Ask yourself, "What's really bothering me?" and, "What do I really want and need?"

Once the answers surface, it's a part of self-responsibility and self-love to take steps toward fulfilling these desires. Even before you achieve your ultimate goals, you'll feel so much better. Knowing that you are progressing in the direction of your dreams is a therapeutic feeling that will relieve any desire to self-medicate with chili peppers.

Love is the Filling Feeling
We are spiritual beings who inhabit a body that is perfect, whole and complete. Every part of our body responds to our beliefs, thoughts, and emotions. When the body appears to be malfunctioning, we must look at the thought that needs healing. Heal the thought and we heal the body.

Our gut is the center of all emotions, negative and positive. We can pour one of two things on our gut feelings: food or love. Pouring food on our gut is easy; we all know how to do that. Pouring love on our gut requires some patience and practice, but it is worth it.

Paying attention to your gut feeling means that you trust that you have the talent, time, energy, money, intelligence and creativity to fulfill your dreams. This trust comes from a faith that you were born in the image and likeness of your Creator. When you follow your gut, you are rewarded with a satisfying existence. Everybody has a Divine right to love, fun, creative expression, perfect health, and prosperity. When you claim your rights, your body responds in gratitude and harmony. Suddenly, you are no longer fighting your appetite.

When your appetite normalizes, your excess body weight will drop off naturally, almost without thought. Then, as long as you maintain your peace of mind, you will not struggle with food cravings. Long-term weight maintenance, then, is actually peace-of-mind maintenance.

Doreen Virtue, Ph.D., is a psychotherapist specializing in women's issues, especially those relating to weight and eating. Dr. Virtue personally transformed from a "fat, unhappy, and uneducated housewife" into an author of the bestselling books Yo-Yo Syndrome Diet and Losing Your Pounds of Pain.

Dr. Virtue is a frequent guest on talk shows such as Oprah, Geraldo, and Sally Jessy Raphael. Her articles have appeared in TV Guide, Woman's Day, Complete Woman, Woman, and New Body Magazine.

Dr. Virtue's books can be ordered through Hay House, Inc. at 800-654-5126.

Condensed from Constant Craving: What Your Food Cravings Mean and How to Overcome Them, Hay House, © 1995 by Doreen Virtue. Available through Hay House Publishers (1-800-654-5126).

Click below to purchase or read more about these books.

Losing Your Pounds of Pain

Constant Craving: What Your Food Cravings Mean and How to Overcome Them

The Yo-Yo Diet Syndrome: How to Heal and Stabilize Your Appetite and Weight

Pounds of Pain Constant Craving Yo-You Dieting Syndrome


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