Have you ever noticed the more you try to resist your food cravings, the stronger the cravings get? There’s a saying, “What you resist persists and insists!” That doesn’t mean you eat whatever you crave. It means you stop trying to white knuckle it!
This short article will introduce you to a strategy for coping with cravings using a simple mindfulness technique.
Coping with cravings using mindfulness
Mindfulness strategies may help prevent or interrupt cravings for food. Mindfulness has been shown to help with cravings in a number of ways, for example, by:
- promoting awareness of bodily sensations,
- developing an attitude of acceptance toward uncomfortable feelings,
- and helping individuals see themselves as separate from their thoughts and emotions.
One way to use mindfulness to take the power out of your cravings is to picture your cravings in a neutral way. Here’s an example of how to picture your cravings like something that holds no power over you whatsoever: A duck!
A calm lake, interrupted
I had a limited view of a lake through the window from where I was sitting. The water was calm and peaceful, when from the edge of the pane, a duck drifted into my awareness. I watched it bob in the middle of my view, then float away. The ripples slowly receded back into the lake and it was still again.
Minutes later, several ducks paddled in from the other side of the window. They splashed about, apparently struggling for something below the surface. The strongest duck swam directly toward the window, circled several times then paddled back the way it came, followed by the rest.
Duck Your Cravings
Those ducks were just like cravings for food when I’m not hungry. They seem to appear from nowhere and capture my attention (some more than others).
The difference is I’ve never had a seemingly uncontrollable urge to jump up and devour a duck!
Instead, I watch a duck with a detached awareness. I feel curious, even entertained, but not compelled to take any action. I allow the duck to just drift away, unconcerned about where it came from, where it goes, or when another will emerge.
Observe your cravings without attachment
Learning to observe your cravings in a curious but detached manner can take the power out them. Try this mindfulness exercise the next time you have a craving:
- The next time you have a craving for food when you’re not hungry, stop whatever you’re doing.
- Pause, close your eyes, and focus on your breath.
- Observe the craving as if it was a duck, bobbing around in your awareness.
- Become curious about it, but remain calmly detached as you watch it.
- If the craving becomes stronger, imagine that it is simply paddling toward you.
- If you feel compelled to stop and eat the object of your craving, smile as you picture yourself chasing down an innocent duck.
- Practice slowing and deepening your breath as you patiently wait for the craving to turn and float away.
- Imagine the lake returning to peaceful stillness.
It’s also important to remember that when you want to eat even though you are not hungry, you always have the option to eat anyway! Simply having a choice takes some of the power away from your cravings. (Read Chapter 3 of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat.)
After all, what you resist persists and insists!
This article was updated from a previous version.
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