Can you soften sugar cravings with kindness? When we crave sugar, we tend to have 1 of 2 reactions: we either try to control, white knuckle, suppress, shut up, or cut out the feeling of wanting. Or we act out the craving by eating the sugar.
Both scenarios can be painful. The first creates inner tension, stress and anxiety because we’re trying to control our inner experience. We use our precious life energy trying to control life and ourselves so that we never crave sugar. As this is impossible – desire and “wanting” is a part of being human! – we’re caught in a battle of keeping these feelings down, stuffing them away. We may even create other addictions – even healthy ones like exercise – so that we can escape from this painful feeling of “wanting.”
The other scenario – indulging our cravings by eating whatever we want – can lead to the pain of overindulgence or the pain of a binge.
Fortunately, there’s a 3rd possibility. It’s radical and counterintuitive – showing your cravings kindness. Rather than looking at cravings as something to control/eliminate or indulge, you can look at them as a hurting part of yourself that wants your belonging. You turn towards your cravings to soften them.
You can think of this process as how woman described it to me – “rocking your cravings to sleep.” Imagine an overtired, overspent, stirred up child. Imagine a meltdown, or a tantrum. What that child needs is emotional holding, someone at his side to contain his experience, to be with him in his emotional storm, and to bring him to rest.
This is what you do for yourself when you rock your cravings to sleep. Have you ever embraced your cravings, the part of you that is hurting and that wants – that longs for the sugar to make the pain go away?
What would it mean to acknowledge what is – that you’re hurting and craving? What does it feel like to say to yourself:
Oh, of course you’re craving ice cream right now. That makes a lot of sense. Something cool and creamy sounds good to you.
You’re feeling lonely and you want the cookie to make the loneliness go away. I understand, sweetheart.
You’re hurting. I am so sorry.
I hear how angry you are!
When you talk to yourself this way, you may feel your whole body soften. You may relax as the inner tension, the shoulding – You shouldn’t be feeling this way – softens. You may relax even further with this empathy, with understanding – Of course! This makes sense.
Relaxing creates the space to respond differently.
Conversely, giving your cravings empathy may bring up rage, anger, or disgust. You may feel silly talking to yourself this way. You may uncover a deep, strong aversion to your needs, emotions, tenderness, and longings. That’s okay too – if your feelings were not allowed as a child, you may have built some strong, understandable defenses against your vulnerability. Over time, these responses can soften.
This past weekend, I was feeling anxious, alone and sad. My lifelong pattern has been to eat my hurt. I wanted to do this, too. So I went and sat in my rocking chair (I literally rock my cravings to sleep!) put my hand on my heart, and allowed the hurt to be there. I held it and said, “I care. I care about this suffering,” as tears poured down my face, as I felt the grief unfurl. I rocked and cried and rocked and cried and rocked and cried.
And this is what I found – I realized how much I react to pain with, “I must’ve done something wrong. This is wrong. This shouldn’t be here.” Whenever I get caught and am feeling un-blissful – whether it’s craving, sadness, anger, frustration, loneliness, fear, anxiety, depression, aversion/hatred – anything that smacks of “I’m not at peace right now” – I blame myself. I judge myself and make my inner experience wrong – “I shouldn’t be feeling this way.” Then I feel flawed, ashamed, broken, separate, unhealed because of these difficult feelings.
Oh, ouch. What a vulnerability.
So the question that arises is this: what happens when we don’t make our cravings or moment to moment experience wrong?
In my journey of healing from sugar, I’ve learned this truth over and over again: healing a sugar addiction does NOT mean that you won’t ever crave sugar again. In fact, count on the fact that you will. Having a craving is not proof that you’re doing anything wrong or that you’re not healed. It’s merely proof that you’re human.
You can’t control your cravings. Hurts, challenges, pain can and does arise. That’s okay, because this journey is not about control. It’s about relationship and connection. You can connect to any experience, to any emotion.
We may not prevent cravings from arising, but we can choose how we relate to it. We can relate kindly or we can make war.
It is kindness that enables putting the cookie down. It is kindness that enables holding hurts without a plateful of food. It is kindness that heals.
I invite you to try it. Rather than suppressing or indulging a craving, turn towards it with care. Shower it with every bit of mercy, forgiveness, understanding, compassion and love that you can. Hold it like a tender, crying baby, like a bird in your hand.
Care for it and watch the craving dissolve in this tender space, in the love of your beautiful heart.