In fifth grade, I was allowed to be at home alone after school, instead of going to the neighborhood daycare.
The kitchen was my first stop when I walked in the door. After flipping on a small black & white TV to watch another “Gilligan’s Island” repeat, I began grazing my way through a line-up of Cherrios and milk, toast and peanut butter, saltines and cheddar, and on to a warm bowl of SpaghettiO’s.
I remember feeling like I was never satisfied or had enough to eat, although I wasn’t actually hungry. Even now, I have moments being physically satisfied after dinner but find myself inwardly searching for more.
Maybe you can relate to being consumed by the feeling of wanting to eat even though you’re not hungry.
And when you’ve made a conscious commitment to your health and well-being, these moments can be frustrating and demoralizing.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. We all have the ability to relate to cravings without giving in to them.
Here are a few simple steps aimed at taming those hungry urges:
1. Stop your mind and body
The very moment you recognize an inner fixation on food is a decision point. It is the moment when you can create change. Begin by recognizing the existence of a craving and decide to stop in your tracks. Don’t move your mind or your body. Consider trying it right now .Don’t move your mind or body and count three breaths…..1….2….3….
In those few seconds, you may experience clarity of mind or a subtle feeling of spaciousness. It is exactly that quality of experience that is helpful when you’re overcome by cravings. Stopping puts a little distance between you and your “hunger.”
2. Invite your craving in
Invite your craving in for a moment. Let its presence linger. Recognize your desire and combine that recognition with a welcoming attitude. This is a different approach than resisting, ignoring, or pushing it away. People tend to relate to cravings by resisting or ignoring them, temporarily holding off the hungry urges. Eventually, that resistance strengthens the urge, creating a vengeful comeback. Resistance adds more stress to the breaking point. Being receptive to our desires, without acting on them or pushing them away, gives the space needed to set them free and neutralize their power over our actions.
Inviting cravings comes with a receptive, open attitude to the experience. Any moment of wanting to overeat can be transformed into wonderful opportunity to change the course of old habits. This way of relating to your craving makes room for its presence without having to carry out its demands to “get food now!”
3. Acknowledge your competing “wants”
I recently heard it said that we consider ourselves as one person, but actually we might be a crowd of different parts, each representing different concerns and wants. There’s the part that wants to save for retirement and the part that can’t resist buying a new camera. In terms of your health, what part of you decides to go on a diet? What part decides to have “a little bite” and “just one more”? Or decides “this is all too hard”?
The problem with a craving isn’t in the craving itself. Wanting red velvet cupcakes lathered in cream cheese frosting isn’t the issue. The struggle comes from internal conflicts within. Part of us wants to eat cupcakes (badly) and another desperately wants to lose weight and feel good.
Perhaps instead of pitting these parts of ourselves against each other, we could acknowledge the presence of a craving in the same breath in which exists the desire for a healthy, balanced body. In a few seconds, we could allow wanting cupcakes and wanting body pride to co-exist, creating a balance of power.
These three steps, Stop, Invite, and Acknowledge, have the potential to slow the velocity of our desires rather than hasten them. Seconds might be all you need, because the momentum of craving is interrupted and balanced against something equally compelling – your desire for health.
Consider that these moments are a wonderful opportunity for thinking and acting differently, for behaving beyond the limits of our urges and for stopping history from replaying itself, over and over again.
Face your cravings. Instead of fighting them; let them teach you about yourself. Consider stopping long enough to turn towards them, welcome them in as an exquisite, three-breath count experience in which you tame the part of you that wants to snack, munch, and graze – aligning it with the “you” that wants to lose weight and be in control of your health.
Written by Maria, Greenlite Educator