Cravings After Meals

Blog Post created by dr_hays on Nov 29, 2017

For many people, a particular challenge to becoming tobacco free is managing the desire to use tobacco after finishing a meal. This desire, like all cravings, becomes less intense and less frequent over time; however, the thought can persist for quite a while.  Understanding and planning for these cravings and thoughts can help extinguish the desire for a cigarette after a meal.


Tobacco, like any addictive substance, stimulates the reward system in the brain. In doing that it can become strongly associated with situations, moods, or emotions, that coincide with the tobacco use.  The pairing then reinforces that situation.  For example, having a cigarette after a meal will trigger the desire for a cigarette after the next meal. 


In addition, nicotine has a relatively unique characteristic of being a powerful ‘secondary reinforcement’.  That means that it enhances the enjoyment of the primary pleasure.  In the case of smoking after a meal, the satiety one feels after eating can seem to be more satisfying when accompanied with tobacco. The pairing then strengthens.


Here are a couple of suggestions to rewire that ‘after meal’ pairing.  1.) Remember, the craving for tobacco will go away in a few moments. 2.) Spend a mindful moment after the meal enjoying the feeling of satiety, or contemplating the taste of the good food just eaten. 3.) Distract your mind with a drink, even a sip of cool water. Your mind can’t focus simultaneously on a cigarette, and the taste of the liquid on your tongue.  4.) And most importantly, don’t smoke or dip.  Each time you finish a meal and don’t use tobacco, the association weakens.


I would be interested to hear from other members of the community on ‘beating the craving’ after a meal craving.