5 Ways Creative People Satisfy Their Cravings | Wellness & Artful Living
Artists of all types need to fuel their bodies the right way. For a happy and healthy relationship with food, fill your plate with color and meals that please your palette (and they won’t hurt the waistline either!) according to a few freeing and sensible guidelines brought to you by Dr. Sarah Chipps, who specializes in treating problems with eating.
Downfall of Deprivation
Over the years I’ve witnessed a profusion of diets take hold in the United States, each claiming to oﬀer superior rules and strategies for eating. Whether pushing grapefruit, cayenne pepper, whole grains or protein, the goal is always the same: to shed pounds.
Recently the word “diet” has tanked in popularity, and a culture of “clean eating” has emerged. Clean eating rules can include eating only nonprocessed, organic or raw foods, encouraging the consumption of food in its purest possible form. Although this seems a rational notion, clean-eating rules are restrictive, and like all restrictive diets, can result in the eater feeling deprived.
One of the main reasons the idea of dieting has become unpopular is that research now backs anecdotal experience that dieting doesn’t work. In fact, putting restrictions on which foods or what amounts of food you allow yourself to eat actually increases the chance that you’ll gain weight.
The reasons for this frustrating fact are based in both biology and psychology. Humans are designed to survive natural disasters. When we don’t take in enough energy, over time our bodies think Famine!, slowing metabolism and increasing hormones that signal hunger in order to prepare for the next shortage.
Inner Food Critic Battles
Psychologically, deprivation caused by a restrictive mindset can undermine weight loss, even when your body doesn’t feel physically deprived. Picture it: You’ve just come home from work. You’ve eaten “healthy” foods throughout the day and feel proud that you didn’t indulge in a vending machine “treat” or a sugary drink at the coﬀee shop.
You tell yourself you want to continue to eat “healthy” at dinner and skip dessert. Suddenly, another voice in your head pipes up: Maybe you could have just a small scoop of ice cream. Just one. After dinner you have that one scoop. A pang of disappointment and guilt hits you. Well, I’ve already blown it, you think. I may as well have a little more. And that one scoop turns into two or three or maybe the whole container.
The problem with this picture isn’t that you’ve eaten a quart of ice cream. The problem is that the experience of eating has been hijacked by an argument — a squabble between the part of you that feels deprived and your inner food critic.
Instead of enjoying the creamy, sweet goodness that is ice cream, you’re in your head — battling about how much you can eat, punishing yourself for eating and feeling guilty for breaking the intention that your inner food critic had set for the day. Deprived and punished by the food rules of your inner food critic, eating can become an act of rebellion and desperation.
Conversely, people who eat in accordance with their intuition and physical cues — eating what they want when they are hungry and stopping when they are full — have been shown to have lower body mass indexes and to be at reduced risk for heart disease. Called “intuitive eating,” the practice of choosing foods according to internal physical cues along with nutritional knowledge has also been shown to improve body image, self-esteem, the ability to cope with stress more positively and, overall, more positive health indicators.
I’ve been blessed to work with many creative people in my career as a psychologist. Whereas most of my patients ﬁnd developing an intuitive relationship with food challenging after years of following culturally imposed food rules, creatives often transition to intuitive eating more easily.
Having the experience of following an intuitive aesthetic sense, creatives have a knowledge base to work from. They know, for example, when a swatch isn’t just the right hue, when the layout feels heavy, when lighting needs adjustment. In the same way, they can learn to know when they feel more like eating a ham sandwich than a salad, when they’re craving protein or about to be full.
5 Steps to Success
1 Give yourself unconditional permission to eat whatever you want.
This is the ﬁrst and most important step. At this suggestion you’re probably guﬀawing, Eating whatever I want will lead to weight gain and health problems! You may also be thinking, If I let myself eat anything I want, I’ll just eat junk food all the time.
Permission to eat what you like when you want it is key to ending the cycle of psychological deprivation and rebellion that triggers unhealthful eating habits. It takes time and patience, but by continually checking in with your physical experience of food, you can learn to notice which foods and which amounts make you feel good after you eat them, as well as which give you the best sensory experiences.
2 Eat what you love when you can enjoy it.
If you’re full after a hearty lunch and anticipate feeling stuﬀed after eating your favorite piece of pie for dessert, skip it or take it to go. There’s an abundance of pie in the world; you can always have pie later when you’re feeling hungry for it.
3 Plan a time and place to eat without distraction.
That means not while you are working or in the studio, artists! Then, when you are sitting down to your meal, eat mindfully, paying attention to the full sensory experience of the food. Notice not just the taste of food, but tune into the scent, texture, colors and sound of the food as you bite into it.
Take in food as you would take in a work of art, noticing all the sensations it oﬀers. Try eating with the quality of presence, intention and attention that you give to your creative endeavors.
4 Listen to your hunger and fullness cues.
People experience hunger and fullness differently. Some of us feel pain in our stomach when we’re hungry; others start to get cranky. Identifying hunger and fullness is a skill you can develop over time by paying attention to subtle physical sensations and listening for messages your body is sending you.
5 Make a list of “unhealthy” and “healthy” foods and your negative and positive judgments about them.
Consider where you formed these judgments. Do you have any positive memories of eating “unhealthy” foods from your childhood or a time before you decided these foods were unhealthy? Notice if you ﬁnd any holes in your inner food critic’s logic. Consider words of compassion for yourself for enjoying foods your inner food critic condemns.
Just as artists can apply their aesthetic sense to their relationship with food, eating intuitively can strengthen artistic discernment. Listening to that deep sense of what you hunger for trains you to focus on your desires and passions in art and beyond.
A Year of Art
At the beginning of each year, we often assess what we value and what we want more (and less) of in our lives. All of us want more art. It calls to our creativity and to the wellness of our lives. To put all that goodness into your life on a regular basis, get your Artists Magazine Yearly Bundle. Hundreds of pages celebrating art, art history and living the creative life will be yours. Enjoy!
A version of this story, written by Sarah Chipps, appeared in Artists Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.