Ep #7: How to Stop Craving the Cookies, Donuts & Cupcakes in the Break Room



I recently had a listener pose a question, and I think all of you are going to relate so I thought I'd address it on the podcast this week! If you're overwhelmed by your cravings for foods, especially all the sweet treats in the break room, this episode is for you. 

Cravings can feel very intense, and when you're working and feeling stressed out, reaching for that cookie or cupcake can seem like the answer to your discomfort. What I'll be addressing today is why we as humans have cravings and how you can embrace them in a way that will help you lose weight.

The tool I'm sharing with you has changed my life and many of my weight loss clients' lives, and I'm so excited for you to start practicing it! You can have power over your emotions and cravings and I'm walking you through the whole process here!

To celebrate the launch of the show, I’m going to be giving away Starbucks gift cards to three lucky listeners who subscribe, rate and review the show on iTunes. Find out how to enter here!

What You’ll Learn from this Episode:

  • What cravings actually are.

  • The 3 reasons we have cravings and where they come from.

  • How cravings can be managed.

  • One simple question that will help you discover what you're thinking about cravings.

  • How to truly embrace your cravings.

  • Why practicing the "emotional check in" has been life changing for my clients and I.

Listen to the Full Episode:

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Full Episode Transcript:

Welcome to Permanent Weight Loss for Busy Nurses, the only podcast that teaches busy, working nurses the practical tools they need to feel better at work and keep the weight off for good. Here’s your host, Registered Nurse and Certified Weight-Loss Coach, Charmaine Platon…

Hello my amazing nurses. Welcome to episode number seven. I literally can't believe it's episode number seven already. I just felt like I just started this podcast so that is so amazing. Anyway, thank you all for joining me for another Thursday. I just had a gender reveal party for my older sister who's having a baby boy. She's also the sister I ran the Hot Chocolate Run with a couple weeks ago in San Diego, which was incredible, you guys. She ran the Hot Chocolate Run in her second trimester. I was like, wow, is that safe?

So if any of you OB nurses out there can give me the scoop, let me know, but she's fine. And they had an ultrasound last weekend, the baby is healthy. You could see the whole body developing now, you could see the nose, you could see the brain. It's so crazy. Anyway, so I helped to coordinate the gender reveal party and it's a lot more complicated than I thought to get the gender of the baby ahead of time. We needed to coordinate with the medical office but the doctor wasn't in and then I didn't have the gender in time for the cake so we didn't get the right gender. We just had to put both genders in the cake but it was still cute.

So what we ended up doing was we had this really, really cute plastic bag that was both pink and blue on the outside. We got it from Party City, and so we stuffed it with the blue balloons and then at the time of the reveal my sister and my brother-in-law opened up the bag and then you just see all these blue balloons flying out. So it was really cute. I'm so happy for them and I'm so excited to be an aunt, you guys. So, it's so crazy.

So, for this episode, I wanted to create it based on a question that I actually received from my listener Maui, who is a telemetry nurse. She asks, "How do you lose weight as a nurse if there is an abundance of sweets at work, especially donuts and cupcakes?" I'm so glad you asked this, Maui. First of all, if you have a question that you want answered on the podcast, join my Facebook community. www.facebook.com/groups/nurseweightloss. And you could ask me any question in the group and I'll post a link to this in the show notes as well.

But I do a Facebook Live Q&A in that group every Friday, but if your question is super good and something that I want to share in the podcast as an episode, I will mention your name and I'll say you came up with the question and I will turn it into an episode. So anyway, the question that Maui asked me is like, everything. And it's something that so many nurses will ask me about on my Instagram, which I'll also link to in the show notes. It's also what so many nurses at my work talk to me about. And yes, I still work per diem as a nurse, so on the floor it's still something I hear about constantly and it's one of the biggest challenges that I face personally at my work.

But I'm here to tell you something. Cravings are manageable. There is a cure, you guys, there's a cure out there for cravings, and there is hope, which does not involve reactively eating all the cookies and all the donuts and all the cupcakes in the break room. In fact, there is a proven way to do it, which I'm so excited to share with you all today. And I have a great story to tell you all about this and exactly how powerful this tool really is and the difference you can make in your own life if you apply it to your work right now.

So I'm going to tell you that story towards the end, after I teach you how to use the tools so there's a little bit more context, but I'm going to show you how this tool changed my life at work. And I'm not even joking you guys, I'm so excited to share this with you.

So first, I want to explain what cravings actually are so we're on the same page and in the most basic terms, a craving is an intense desire for a specific food. And gosh, when I say that definition, I feel like that's such an understatement. A craving is like, to me, this is my definition. A craving is like the world is caving in on you and there's this impending doom. You feel like - this is what I imagine it's like when patients are having a heart attack or an MI. It feels like the world is caving in on you, like there's an impending doom and that it's so intense. It's just like, you are going to die. I don't know how else to describe it. And for example, my thing at work, which I struggled with for years was that I always wanted Pop Tarts from the vending machine after work. I was also a sucker for cookies in the break room but the Pop Tarts was also its own situation, you guys. So when I wanted those things, if I didn't have it in the moment, like before I had this tool, before I had all these mindset tools that I share with you here on this podcast, the feeling that I would have would just be this overwhelming desire for that food.

I would want it so badly. I felt powerless against the food. And so I want to tell you guys that your feeling of powerlessness can be helped. I also want to dive into why we have cravings because as you guys know, I'm all about treating the right cause of a problem. With any committee I'm in, with any patient I take care of, I always want to know what's the cause of the problem and really get down to the bottom of it so that we are treating the right problem. So I want to tell you a little bit more about why we have cravings, where they come from, and how it's so difficult to lose weight when we do have these cravings. So there's a reason why cravings are so difficult to manage and I broke it down into this - I think you call it a pneumonic. Correct me if I'm wrong.

But anyway, I broke it down into a pneumonic called ECT and if you're a psych nurse, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about but if you're not a psych nurse, ECT in the nursing world stands for electroconvulsive therapy, a.k.a the shock treatment that you see in the movies that really isn't that intense but that's a whole 'nother story.

But anyway, check it out on YouTube. So anyway, I broke it down into a pneumonic called ECT. So these are the three reasons why we have cravings. So the first reason E is evolution, and it stems from our primitive brain. By the way, did you guys know there's three parts of our brain? It's pretty crazy.

So I'm going to explain that. So there's a theory made by McLean, which states that our brain is divided into three parts. There's the reptilian brain, the oldest part of our brain, which I'll go into, the mammalian brain, and the neocortex.

So we have this reptilian brain, which is what I refer to as the primitive brain, so during this podcast if you hear me say primitive brain, lizard brain, that has to do with this reptilian brain. So the reptilian brain is the oldest part of our brain and it's so old it's like 500 million years old and this is the part of our brain that has our basic vital control centers for all our vital organs.

It's the one that determines how we breathe, our heart beating, and it's also been wired to literally find danger and run away from it. The only three concerns of the reptilian brain or the primitive brain is to avoid pain, seek pleasure, and conserve energy. This is called the motivational triad and this is what has helped our species survive for so long.

So basically, the main function of this part of our brain is to determine what is dangerous and what is not. Familiarity is what creates security for our brain, but anything unfamiliar or out of the ordinary or different from our routine is what our brain interprets as dangerous and stressful and so we should run away. Okay, how when I describe the brains, I want you to imagine like, a Chia Pet. If you grew up in the 90s, you know what I mean. So a Chia Pet, it's this little clay figurine and so it has a head - please look it up on Google. I don't know how to describe it well but anyway, it has a head and there's plants growing out of it but it's kind of like it has hair. The plants are like hair growing out of it like a head, if I'm remembering this correctly.

So imagine a Chia Pet. So imagine the reptilian brain is like the base of the Chia Pet. It's the first part of it. Now imagine the plant is growing and you see the hair growing outside of it and you see kind of like a little bit of plants going around the top of that Chia Pet.

That is how the limbic system formed over our reptilian brain. It's like imagine evolution and over time the brain just grows and builds upon what it already has. So the limbic system is the next level and it emerged in the first mammals. It's about 150 million to 200 million years old.

So it's responsible for emotions in human beings, with the main structures being the hippocampus, the amygdala, and the hypothalamus. It is the seat of the value judgments that we make, usually unconscious judgments that we make and it exerts a very strong influence on our behavior.

Now finally, the last part of the brain, the neocortex is the outer most layer of the brain, which if you imagine the Chia Pet, the hair has grown very long. Imagine a fro almost kind of thing. That is like the neocortex, the top most layer of your brain. So it's the newest and most advanced part of our brain and it's only around two to three million years old.

And this is for when the genus homo emerged, which is basically the human species. So the neocortex is responsible for all the human skills that we have like the development of human language, abstract thought, imagination and consciousness. And it's what has enabled human cultures to develop.

So just picture that, you guys. You have all three of these brains from literally reptiles, like 500 million years ago, all the way up into our human species, which was only young, about two to three million years old. So we are carrying around this brain that has literally been cultivated for hundreds of millions of years with us at all times.

So if you can imagine with our evolution, we still have those instincts from our reptilian ancestors that say when there's danger, run away. We only want to stay safe, we want to avoid pain, we want to seek pleasure. That part of our brain is still there. So I know that was a bit much of a history lesson but it's very important to know that when we have these instincts, these urges, these drives, they're literally primal drives that formulated from evolution. So that's the first part of the E. What were we talking about? ECT, so this is why we have cravings. The evolution.

So the next part is C, conditioning, and so this refers to social conditioning. So imagine all the celebrations and all the parties you went to when you were younger. What were you told to do at those parties? In your birthday, we were taught that we had to have a cake to celebrate. In Thanksgiving, we were taught that we had to eat turkey.

And for me personally, as a Filipino, eating is basically a form of respect in our culture. It's a way of showing hospitality to your guests, but it can also be seen as impolite if you don't eat the food. Just a heads up if you go to a Filipino person's house. But anyway, that is our culture. We are taught that we eat as a sign of respect and a sign of hospitality.

So food, if you think about it, is literally present at basically any gathering you go to. Graduations, Super Bowl parties, unit potlucks, oh my gosh, where do I start with the unit potluck, you guys? So that is the C for conditioning.

The last part of the ECT is the T, which is thoughts or your thinking. Your we learned in episode number two how to stop stress eating at the bedside that your thoughts are what create your feelings. So if you think of a craving as a feeling, which it is, it's basically a desire for food, it's the feeling of desire, what creates your desire for food? Your thought about it.

And a great way to discover your thoughts about your cravings is asking yourself one simple question. Why? Why do you want that food? What is the outcome that you hope you will get from eating that thing? So to wrap it all up, the cause of our cravings is ECT, E for evolution, C for conditioning, and T for thoughts. So you're up against all that when you have a craving, so that must be why it feels like you're going to die when you have one. So anyway, how do we manage all of this though? We're up against evolution, we're up against social conditioning, we're up against our own brain with our thinking. How do we rewire our brain to no longer want the food?

Well, lucky for you guys I'm going to share with you in this episode exactly how to do that. But before I teach you how to manage your cravings, I want you to see that throughout most of our lives, we've been conditioned to believe that we must be happy all the time. So we try to literally shoo away our discomfort. We try to hide it under the rug, we try to pretend it's not there. We avoid it with food, we avoid it with the internet, we avoid it with going online.

There's this belief that feeling discomfort or feeling unhappy is universally negative. Like if you ask someone how are you feeling today and they said not feeling so great, you're like, oh gosh, someone's not feeling well, this is awkward, okay bye. At least that's how I would feel sometimes when someone says that to me. And it's because we have this belief that we have to be happy all the time as humans, but what I'm inviting you to see is that as part of the human condition, we're supposed to feel discomfort. There's a reason why it's there. If we weren't meant to have it, it wouldn't be there. It's just like when I talked about evolution like, we have all these three parts of our brain that were there and they all serve their purpose, and it's been cultivated for hundreds of millions of years.

So no, I don't believe that having an emotion, having a negative feeling is an accident. I believe it is purposeful, and it is. So once you really truly understand that your discomfort is an emotion and it's not anything to be feared, it's not anything to shoo away, you can truly embrace your craving.

So what we want to do here with my tool is we want to practice allowing our emotions. That basically means we're not avoiding it, we're not resisting it, and we're not reacting to the emotion. So just to quickly break it down, what that means like I want to show you what it means to allow an emotion instead of avoiding, resisting, or reacting.

And I have an analogy with taking care of a patient. So in a psych unit, or even on your unit, if you're in a medical floor, your emotional management is literally like taking care of a patient who is agitated. So I'm just going to say the psych unit. Imagine there's a patient in the psych unit who is agitated.

Here's some psych 101 for you guys. If you resist or fight that patient or argue with that patient, that patient is going to escalate. If you avoid the patient, if someone tells you hey Charmaine, your patient's kind of - your patient looks a little agitated, maybe he needs a PRN and if I were to avoid that patient, that patient's just going to escalate. The patient is going to keep looking upset, keep pacing up and down the hallway, keep clenching his fists. It's just going to escalate.

Now, if you react to the patient, if you are finding that you're kind of just instinctively reacting to the patient like the patient yells at you and you just reactively yell back like you don't even think about it, you just kind of reflexively yell back, what do you think will happen? The patient is going to escalate.

Now here's the trick. If you see your patient getting increasingly agitated and they're yelling, they're pacing, they're clenching their fists, you allow them to verbalize what's going on for them. You ask them, hey, what's going on? I see that you're going up and down the hall, it looks like you're frustrated, can you tell me what's going on, I want to understand.

And then when you allow them to verbalize their feelings, you allow them to be present with what they're feeling, to tell you what is on their mind, if this is before they're in the place where they're already hurting people or throwing things, this is before that. Obviously if it's too escalated you can't do this, but anyway, if it's before that phase you can ask them what's going on, I see you're upset, can you tell me a little bit about how you're feeling.

They will gladly do that and they will open up to you. And when you let them be in that space, I would say nine times out of 10 it works really well and they will calm down. You talk to them about it, you give them the few minutes to process their emotion and they will calm down.

Now, the same is true for when you manage your own emotions. If you don't avoid your emotions with food, if you don't resist or say no, or try to fight that craving, if you don't react to it and just eat something just because you think about the food, if you don't do those things, you can truly learn how to master the skill of embracing your discomfort.

And then you don't have to run away from your emotions. You will truly learn that your emotions are all just sensations in your body. And I know it sounds a little dismissive, I know, but it truly is that. If you really simplify it and you don't make it mean that the world is ending and that you're terrible and that everything's awful, your emotions are all vibrations in your body. So with all my weight loss clients, with all the nursing clients I have, I teach them this tool that I'm about to share with all of you and I really can't begin to describe how life changing this tool has been for me. I call this tool the emotional check in. It only takes one or two minutes to do, you can do it anywhere, no matter what you're doing at work, you can even do it in the bathroom if you need a quick break from the unit.

Who else runs away to the bathroom? Is it just me? If you really need a break. Anyway, taking that one to two minutes to do that quick emotional check in will help you manage your feelings without having to avoid, resist, or react to them. Plus, it only takes about 90 seconds to actually process your emotion.

So right now, I'm going to walk you through the entire process. And really practice while I'm here on the podcast with you. It's much easier to do when someone else is asking you the questions first and walking you through it first. So I invite you to practice it right now here on the podcast. So I want you to visualize a recent situation at work where you were just craving a specific food like crazy.

And in the future, I want you to do this when you're actually feeling the craving but for the sake of practice, I want you to think of a recent situation where you were craving something like crazy. no matter what you did, you couldn't stop thinking about the food and it felt like impending doom, like you were going to die if you didn't eat the food, and that's exactly how I felt for so many years.

Now, I want you to pay attention to how that feels like for you and to ask yourself these questions. Where do you feel the sensation in your body? Really be in tune with where it is in your body and be very specific. What does that sensation feel like? Is it numb, tingly, prickly? What is the temperature of the sensation? Is it hot, cold, lukewarm? What is the shape of the sensation? Is it moving quickly or slowly? Does it feel heavy or light? What feeling are you experiencing right now if you could describe this as a one-word emotion and how does this feeling make you want to react? Lastly, why are you feeling this way?

So that is the whole process of my emotional check in tool. If you're feeling a craving or literally anything that's uncomfortable for you, you walk yourself through these questions and you really hone in on your physical sensation in your body. And at first when you do this, it's going to feel like nothing happened and I'm just telling you to expect that. You're not going to be an expert in the beginning. It takes practice because in the beginning you're not in tune with your feelings.

You're been avoiding your feelings so long with food or the internet or whatever you've been avoiding it with, but once you do practice this consistently, you'll really be able to see that your feeling is truly like an itch on your body. And I'm not meaning to say that in a dismissive way but it's all the same.

What you feel is a sensation in your body, so that craving is going to feel basically like an itch and you'll be able to manage it and not have to react to it. And you'll have this deep connection with your body and this closeness, so that the next time you feel something coming up for you, you will know exactly what you're feeling and you will not budge. You will not run away. You will face the feeling, allow it, and accept it for what it is and be okay.

Now, one more thing before I go. I just wanted to really quickly share my story using this tool because I wanted to show you firsthand how powerful it is and how I applied it to my own experience at work. So at work, if you're anything like me, I always use food to manage my stress, and when I feel stress, my cravings for food are very intense. They can be very intense. And so it feels like the world is ending, I just want that food, I'm constantly thinking about that food. So one of the most recent experienced I had was I actually encountered my first patient death on the unit not too long ago, and being on a psych unit, this is a big deal. I've been working as a nurse for seven years and I never experienced my own patient passing.

And it was such a new and different experience for me that I was feeling so many emotions and so if this was me a few years ago, I would have immediately turned to food. It felt horrible, you guys. I felt so many feelings. I felt frustrated, I felt regret, I felt shame because I kept thinking is there something I should have done, is there something I could have done differently, it's my fault, stuff like that, so I felt shame and frustration and regret. And so I remember it like it was yesterday and I remember thinking to myself in the break room, I was alone in the break room and I remember it so clearly. I was thinking to myself I saw these cookies in the break room, these cookies from Diddy Riese and I said to myself, it's okay if I eat that cookie. I had a hard day at work, I deserve it, it's fine.

I literally remember thinking that, but then I thought, wait a minute, why do I want this right now? What am I feeling? And then I walked myself through the emotional check in that I just taught you. I had to do it a few times but the overwhelming sensation of the regret, the shame, the frustration, it literally dissipated and it was so relieving, you guys. I truly discovered that all I was feeling at that moment was a feeling, a vibration in my body and it wasn't a reason for me to overeat.

And so I didn't. I didn't eat the cookies in the break room, which I normally would do, and I would normally have three of them at a time. But I didn't have to do that because I knew in that moment that all I was feeling was an uncomfortable emotion and that I could handle it, that I could allow it and be present with it and accept it for what it is and not have to run away from it, that it was totally okay to be there with it, that it felt like I was wearing a heavy purse or a heavy backpack or a sandbag or something that was weighing me down, but that's all it was.

And I invite you, all the people listening to this podcast, all the nurses who are struggling with any intense cravings at work, the next time you see all those cupcakes, all those cookies in the break room, I invite you to have a similar experience by cultivating your own ability to allow and process your emotions. That way, you can be a person who embraces discomfort, you can start losing weight because you won't have to overeat to avoid your emotions anymore, and you can start feeling better at work. It's possible for you guys because I did it. I went through it and it was for the most intense situation at work that I ever experienced in my life and it worked for me and I know it can work for you. So before I go, I want you guys to know that I am on a mission to tell as many nurses as possible about my tools and my approach to weight loss. And not just weight loss but how to manage your life. These are all tools that I've used on myself that have helped me literally maintain my weight effortlessly and have so much better relationships with people at work, better stress management, and so much more.

But in order for me to do that, you guys, I need your help to spread the word about my podcast by rating and reviewing my show on iTunes. And it doesn't have to be a five-star review. All I need, all I'm looking for is your honest feedback because I want to reach as many people as possible while also making the show as valuable as possible for nurses everywhere.

So join me on my mission. Join me on my movement to help nurses everywhere take care of themselves with the right tools. Plus, you get free coffee as a bonus. So to help me in my nurse self-care movement, to help me in my mission, go ahead and visit www.thenurseweightlosscoach.com/itunes to learn more about the contest and how to enter. I’ll be announcing the winners on the show in an upcoming episode and I'll also post a link to this in the show notes.

So thank you guys for joining me again on another Thursday. Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to join me again, to listen to me either on your commute to work or after your shift. I appreciate every single one of you. I love hearing from you, I love hearing your questions, I love hearing your comments, your feedback, and I'm privileged to be here with you every single week. So I hope you have a great shift today and I will see you again next week.

Thanks for listening to Permanent Weight Loss for Busy Nurses. If you like what you heard and want even more, head over to thenurseweightlosscoach.com today!

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