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Body Posture and Cravings

  • Eating

Disregulated eaters often find that tips and techniques in managing cravings are as useful as understanding what drives unwanted eating. We know that our mental attitude affects how we feel in our bodies and vice versa, but what about our posture? Could that affect our emotions and actions around food? Turns out that it might.

In “The right stance can be reassuring” (Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 6/11/13, Health and Fitness, p. 7E), Kate Murphy reports that “expansive postures release a flood of hormones that make you feel more positive and at ease. Striking a commanding pose can change how you perceive yourself….” She says that recent studies suggest that “posture may precipitate, rather than just reflect emotions. How you carry yourself can actually change your mood, which greatly affects how you approach situations and solve problems…” This makes sense. Think of what actors do to get into playing a part: they walk or stand like the person or character they’re portraying. Consider the approach of speakers when they’re about to give a presentation or speech: they stride purposefully onto the stage with shoulders back, spine straight, and heads held high.

Research done by Amy Cuddy, social psychologist and associate professor at Harvard Business School, shows that “assuming an expansive pose (think Wonder Woman with legs planted apart and hands on her hips) for two minutes will increase testosterone and lower cortisol in your bloodstream,” and that “recovering alcoholics were less likely to relapse if they had an expansive versus a slouched posture.” Moreover, research says that these “hormonal changes persist for at least 15 to 20 minutes.”

What use might these conclusions have for managing food cravings? Well, they remind me of an exercise I encourage clients to do to exhibit their untapped power: put a challenging food on the floor (well, on a plate on the floor) in front of you facing a mirror and notice how big you are and how tiny the food is. This action is empowering and helps you put food into perspective. The visual cues tell you that you are larger than your craving. Taking an expansive stance evidently goes even farther by sending signals to your brain to release empowering hormones.

For those of you who’ve felt weak and vulnerable around food and want an edge in being in charge of your eating, try striking and holding an expansive pose when you have an unwanted craving. Stand like Wonder Woman or Superman. And, it wouldn’t hurt to give yourself positive, empowering messages while you’re at it.