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Michele Promaulayko smiles and leans against a window with the NYC skyline in the back.

Michele Promaulayko

Updated: 03/24/2022

If eating more healthfully is on your new year's agenda, these tips can help quell the urges that threaten to derail you.

Sometimes sugar whispers at you from the grocery store aisle; other times it screams at you from the freezer. Regardless, you can learn to silence those calls. I’m talking about cravings. Webster’s Dictionary defines a craving as “an intense, urgent, or abnormal desire or longing.” Synonyms include: yearning, hankering, wish, want or lust. Sounds about right when it comes to describing how I feel about chocolate!

In fact, my desire for sweets can be so intense that it inspired me to develop Sugar Free 3, a three-week program to end sugar dependence, knowing how detrimental over-consuming sugar is to health. It can hinder your immune system, cause weight gain, brain fog, unstable moods, flagging energy levels, poor sleep and more. Conversely, cutting back on sugar can dramatically improve your well-being.

While researching cravings, I discovered something super fascinating: Aromatherapy can be used to thwart food hankerings. It makes sense (pun intended), since smell is intertwined with appetite and hunger.

"Up to 90 percent of what we think we are tasting we are actually smelling."

“Our sense of smell is the most primordial of our senses and has a great impact on our sense of taste. In fact 80 to 90 percent of what we think we are tasting we are actually smelling,” says Michelle K. Gagnon, bio alchemist for THE WELL. Gagnon travels the world and works, in her words, “exclusively with wildcrafted/organic botanical ingredients and essential oils sourced from farms and artisan distilleries around the world.”

If you have ever walked by a kitchen where the aroma of a freshly cooked meal has made you salivate or triggered hunger, then you have experienced the power of scent affecting your appetite. We process odor in the same part of the brain as memory and emotion, linked to past and personal experiences. The beautiful thing about essential oils is that they work on our holistic well-being, affecting the physical, emotional and spiritual body.

Best Scents to Shut Down Cravings

Several essential oils are proven to help combat cravings and promote homeostasis within the body. Gagnon suggests:

  • CITRUS ESSENTIAL OILS: Citrus fruits, such as grapefruit, lemon, orange and bergamot can assist in curbing the appetite, especially grapefruit with its high content of d-limonene. D-limonene is a terpene found in the peel of citrus fruits, where its essential oil is stored, and is a potent antioxidant with anti-inflammatory properties. It is also a great aid in curbing cravings and appetite. Other chemical constituents found in citrus essential oils offer uplifting properties that can boost the spirit and mood and promote energy.
  • CINNAMON BARK ESSENTIAL OIL: This one can help curb sweet cravings, while making you feel satisfied and warm as well.
  • ANISE, PEPPERMINT AND BASIL: These three can actually stimulate the appetite, supporting healthy digestion and metabolism. I work with peppermint essential oil often as a digestive aid, and find it has somewhat adaptogenic properties. (Learn how adaptogens help fight stress and fatigue here.)
  • GERANIUM AND LAVENDER: These two scents can help calm the mind and support the challenges that may arise physically and emotionally, especially when facing emotional cravings. They are great at promoting balance and homeostasis as well as a good night’s sleep.

How to Use Essential Oils

Inhalation: A simple inhale of essential oil triggers their effects. When we smell, we smell with our brains. The odor molecules come into direct contact with the brain, where scent receptors receive, interpret and transmit the messages these chemical signals offer to various parts of the body. It happens so fast that before we are aware we have smelled something our brain and body have already reacted to it.

Alternatively you can apply a couple drops of essential oil to a cotton ball to keep in your pocket and inhale throughout the day or as cravings arise, or add a few drops to a diffuser. Gagnon suggests diffusing grapefruit and lemon during the day and a combination of lavender and orange in the diffuser at night, for a comforting night’s sleep.

For a refreshing mist, mix 10 to 15 drops of essential oil in one ounce of distilled water (which can be found at most grocery stores) and mist onto your skin throughout the day, taking a moment for a long, long inhale. (Try any of the essential oils I’ve mentioned or a combination of two.) Working with these materials with intention also provides the opportunity to reflect and reinforce your manifestation.

Topical application: Our skin is our largest organ and things we apply to it get absorbed by our bodies and pass through our bloodstream. Applying essential oils topically is a beautiful way to receive their beneficial properties for the skin and the body as a whole.

Apply 15 drops of essential oil to one ounce of your moisturizer or into a carrier oil such as jojoba, avocado or apricot kernel oil and massage onto clean, damp skin. Citrus essential oils have a mild exfoliating effect on the skin so be cautious — there are photo compounds in citrus essential oils that can cause photosensitivity to the skin when applied and exposed to direct sunlight. Geranium balances not only the inner workings of the body but the skin as well, and is great for all skin types.

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