This is an addendum to an earlier post I wrote entitled “Riding the Urge.” In the post I described Alan Marlatt’s metaphor of “urge surfing” as a way of staying present with the intensity of craving without needing to act on it. He actually suggested that you picture the urge as an ocean wave and imagine yourself surfing, using the breath as a surfboard to ride the wave. You can breath deeply as you feel the urge rising and falling, like a wave. Imagine yourself riding the wave of the urge through its peak and its decline.
I suggested that you pay attention to the cravings and urges you have for food as well as the urges and cravings you have for other things–shopping, gossiping, arguing, drinking, watching TV, etc. If you can pay attention to how you are being pulled into various activities or behaviors before you act on them, you have greater choices in life.
This week in the Eat for Life class we were talking about how to cope with our emotions without using food. Because, let’s face it, one of the reason why we have “urges” and “cravings” for some guilty pleasure or “fix” is often because we are trying to suppress or avoid an unpleasant emotion or situation.
So, here’s the challenge!! (and it is the one I gave my class). At least once this week, determine with all your might, that you will not give into at least one craving (whether it is for food, shopping, or whatever). Determine ahead of time (like now) what regular craving you have that you will not give in to –at least once. When that craving arises, check the time then go ahead and re-engage in whatever you were doing. In the background, notice when the craving ends and how long did it take? Maybe the craving ends and maybe it doesn’t. It is all useful information. Sometimes cravings pass and sometimes they are still there but you notice that you don’t have to act on them. Both of these experiences are quite helpful to know for yourself.
I’ll give you an example. I don’t usually have what I call “cravings” for food anymore. When I want food, I eat it and I eat it from a calm and centered place so that I don’t “act out” around food and it is not a problem. However, I do have “urges” and “cravings” around shopping. I am particularly attracted to sales (never want to pass up a bargain) and boots (there are two pairs in particular that I am currently lusting after). I say this to point out that we ALL have cravings and food is just one particular area that we can get caught.
I think we are not very skilled in this culture to take care of our emotional needs. We have been so used to using food (or shopping) that it is what we naturally turn to. Take some time this week to find more healthy, skillful ways of nurturing yourself. Examples that quickly come to mind include taking a walk, calling a friend, reading a book or interesting magazine, playing or listening to music, meditating, doing yoga, coloring or painting, cooking for fun, getting a pedicure or massage. In addition, give yourself some time to fully allow your feelings, particularly if they are difficult. Imagine holding them like you would hold a small child. Bring compassion to yourself and the challenges that you face from day to day. By befriending yourself through nourishing activities and with time to experience your emotions you might find the “urges” and “cravings” to fix with food come less often.