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 are 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 - leads to guilt, shame and suffering as we binge or eat foods that make us feel terrible. It further ingrains the very habits we’re trying to heal – like sugar addiction.
Fortunately, there’s a 3rd possibility. It’s radical and counterintuitive. And it is powerful, so powerful: it is showing your cravings kindness. Rather than looking at cravings as something to control/eliminate or indulge, we can look at them as a hurting part of us that wants our belonging; our care; our love. We turn towards our cravings to soften them.
In Overcoming Sugar Addiction for Life, I call this “rocking 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, dear one. I am so sorry.
When I talk to myself this way, I feel my whole body soften. I relax as the inner tension, the shoulding – You shouldn’t be feeling this way – softens. I relax as I just allow the feelings to be there. I relax even further with this empathy, with understanding – Of course! This makes sense.
Relaxing creates the space to respond differently – response-ability.
This past weekend, I was feeling anxious, alone and sad – I was hurting. 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.
So the question that arises for me and you is this: when we make our cravings wrong, how does that hurt us? And if we don’t make our cravings wrong, how does that help us?
In my 15 year journey of healing from sugar, I’ve learned this truth over and over again: healing from 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.
I can’t control my cravings. I can’t control my hurt. It will – and does – arise. That’s okay, because this journey is not about control. It’s about relationship. It’s about care.
I may not prevent a feeling of craving from arising in my body, but I can choose how I relate to it. I can relate to my hurt kindly or I can make war.
War leads to more war. War leads to suffering. War, as master Yoda says, leads to the dark side. War is ouch, ouch, ouch.
Kindness leads to strength, fortitude, courage, faith, growth, healing, change.
It is kindness that enables us to put the cookie down. It is kindness that enables us to hold our hurts without a plateful of food. It is kindness that heals us, that brings us home, that helps us remember - there is nothing wrong with you dear one. There is nothing wrong. You are safe with me, in this abiding, unconditional love.
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 big, beating, beautiful heart.