Cravings are like water, like waves, and need to move.
Here as we find ourselves in a pandemic, journeying through cycles of uncertainty, financial stress, and social distancing, you may notice that you’re feeling more sugar cravings than normal.
You may find yourself using sugar more often to self soothe, and wonder how you can support yourself during this time – especially if many of your normal outlets for stress relief are unavailable.
This is what I often hear from folks:
How do you stop yourself from giving into sugar cravings? I can say no for a while. But then stuff happens, I start craving sugar, and eventually I give in.
I’ve seen this pattern play out over and over when people are trying to eat less sugar. It can feel very frustrating, especially when stress happens. It can be a pandemic, certainly, but other stressors – a new baby, a new job, a move – can impact your relationship with sugar.
While finding ways to reduce your stress load is important and beneficial, at the same time, life is just life, and this includes some stress.
So in the face of life’s uncertainty, how do you care for yourself when sugar cravings intensify?
Leaning into your sugar cravings
The answer is simple, but not easy: Stop fighting your sugar cravings. Instead, soften. Lean into them.
Feel your sugar cravings more, not less.
I know this sounds counterintuitive and goes against your instincts. It’s the equivalent of running towards a snarling dog rather than away from it. But softening your resistance to feeling your sugar cravings is what enables you to say no to sugar.
Sugar cravings are simply a form of energy, an emotion – and emotions are meant to move. It’s this movement that brings emotional balance and integration to your life – how you care for your cravings rather than reacting to them and giving into the impulse to eat sugar.
Because the energy of a craving is uncomfortable, your instinct is to try and clamp down against it. You may fight, control, restrict. You may try to ignore, suppress, or stuff this emotional energy.
Most of us learned these patterns in childhood and have simply carried them forward into adulthood. So we minimize, dismiss, and shame our feelings.
But all of these strategies to shape, suppress or control emotion doesn’t work. Energy – including emotional energy – doesn’t go away, even when you’re trying not to feel it. Like water, it needs to flow.
How cravings build in the body
Over time, this stored energy builds in the body and in the heart. You feel this build up as physical and emotional tension. The tension represents how much you’re trying to suppress or control this emotional energy and keep the cravings at bay.
When you try to control or overpower your sugar cravings, what you’re really trying to do is control and overpower your emotions.
Similarly, what we think of as the “will power” to say no to sugar isn’t true will power at all. Rather, we’re measuring our ability to control our feelings – to suppress or tamp them down.
When you run out of “will power,” you’ve more accurately run out of the energy to suppress your feelings. You release this built up tension by eating the sugar.
The relief that comes from feeling your cravings
By contrast, when you befriend your cravings, soften your defenses against them, and feel them, the physical and emotional tension softens.
It’s this softening of tension that allows the cravings to move. You release the stored emotional energy, and in doing so, release the feeling of craving, the longing for sugar – what you want in the moment to feel more comfortable, secure, or soothed.
This release of tension creates relief and relaxation in the body.
But beyond the emotional and physical relief that comes with softening, feeling your cravings – and all your emotions – creates healing and wholeness. It’s a gift, a profound invitation to your humanity: to allow yourself to simply feel whatever you’re feeling.
This invitation – to accept and embrace all of yourself, all your feelings, all your needs, the sum total of your human experience – is what your craving, tender heart most deeply needs.
This openhearted acceptance not only softens your cravings. It creates an openness through which your very life can flow.
Softening the fight against cravings
You may need to change your relationship with sugar and how much sugar you eat to experience greater physical, emotional and mental health. And yet the power to say no to sugar is not found through fighting or control, but through opening and releasing.
The fight we exert against our sugar cravings is a measure of how much we’re judging our feelings – and often, our very humanity. It’s a symbol of our resistance.
Our degree of fight is how much we’re telling ourselves, “I shouldn’t be feeling this way,” whether it’s feeling irritated, lonely, frustrated, or craving.
If you drop the resistance, if you drop the fight, if you allow yourself to crave – to feel – to need – all you have left is this simple, tender craving; this tender, human need; this tender, human feeling. There’s nothing to fight.
Rather than being stuck in fight or flight and the stress that makes it harder to say no to sugar, you move to tend and befriend. You care for your cravings. You soften. The stress softens. The cravings soften. You have the space to respond differently to the impulse to eat sugar.
Instead of feeling like a boxer in a boxing ring, you’ve become a martial arts master: you’ve simply moved out of the way.