For many years in my food journey, I tried to grow my self discipline and self control to “stop” food cravings. I thought my problem was a lack of discipline and will power.
So I barricaded myself against my cravings in my attempt to control them. I created a fortress around myself – both internally, with my thoughts, minds, and emotions, and externally, with my friends, surroundings, and relationships. I did this so my desire for food couldn’t penetrate my armor and hurt me.
This created a lot of anxious control where I suppressed so many thoughts and feelings so I wouldn’t crave sugar or food. I didn’t want to get caught in the pain of a craving because I didn’t trust myself to handle it.
This approach always fails (and failed me!) because putting up – and keeping up these walls – takes a tremendous amount of work – your work, your energy, your time, your life. The cost becomes too much to bear and we just get too tired. Our will power gives out.
Cravings aren’t wrong
You will crave food. It happens. It will happen again. It’s not your fault. Cravings aren’t proof that you’re failing or that you’re not healed from food. They’re merely a sign of your human vulnerability.
You will never do enough inner work so that you never experience another food craving again. They may soften. But they may come up again at some time. Here’s why: emotional cravings, at their root, are a sign that you’re human and that you need; that you feel.
Try and go a day without feeling; without needing. It’s impossible. As collective humans, can we soften the shame we feel about craving, about desire, about wanting to feel pleasure; about wanting to end pain?
Doing this inner work isn’t about making these feelings – your very humanity; your inherent neediness – go away. All of humanity is in this same, very big boat – of needing, of wanting, of this soft core of tenderness.
Growing our compassion
Instead, I invite you to look at cravings in this way: rather than trying to control, minimize them, or make them go away, grow your ability to care for them. Cravings are a way you grow a bigger heart; how you stretch and expand to say yes, to love this part of you: the part of you that hurts and needs.
These parts of us are typically very young, and very tender. They’re infants, toddlers, small children. What they most want and need is a loving, caring parent to come alongside them and to scoop them up, to hold them in their arms and say, “Sh, sh it’s okay. I’m here. I will take good care of you.”
This self care is a form of spiritual reparenting; of loving these young parts of ourselves – parts that continue to act out in our daily lives today. When you turn towards your cravings and love them; when you nurture these tender, hurting parts of yourself, your cravings soften. It’s what you most desperately, deeply need. The pull for food – the easy, go to substitute for this care and compassion – isn’t so strong.
Wanting more hands on help?
- This is an excerpt from Heal Overeating: Untangled, a compassion based program to break free from emotional eating.
- You may enjoy watching this video blog on how I befriended my little sugar binge devil.
- You may enjoy reading this blog post on softening sugar cravings with kindness.
- You may enjoy reading this post on using empathy to end emotional eating.