We all know, way too well, what urges and cravings are.  We all have them, especially when we try to strike a balance with our eating.  Coping with food cravings is something very achievable. Any change can make us have increased urges and cravings.  It’s like I remember wanting to chew my left arm off or bite someone’s head off as I was making changes with my eating.  That’s because I had been giving so much power for so long to the urges.  The good news is, even though I still have urges and cravings, I have learned how to allow urges instead of buffering all my emotions with food. 

When we have an urge or craving, there’s nothing going wrong.  Just take things super slow and create self-awareness.  Be curious.  Let me help you get unstuck from the urges and cravings.  I know, especially with pandemic weight gain and then being home during the summer, that there’s a lot of mindless eating and snacking.  Again, nothing going wrong.  Let’s talk about how you can create a healthier way forward and get some freedom from urges, cravings, stress eating and buffering with emotional eating. 

How to Get Started Coping with Food Cravings and Urges

We’re going to focus on how to allow urges and I’ll tell you right now, you are not broken.  We are all in the same boat when it comes to urges and cravings. It’s truly a process of learning and creating self-awareness and when you know that urges and cravings don’t go away, but you have the skills to allow them and be in the moment of feeling the emotions that are coming up, that lead us to buffering with food, then that’s all you need.  

It’s not like a switch.  It’s like a dissipation or a process.  Remember, progress not perfection.  Perfect doesn’t exist.  Perfection is a lie.  It’s a waste of our time and our lives to pursue it. 

Our thoughts create our feelings and our feelings drive our actions or behaviors.  Urges are feelings created by our thoughts.  I look at urges as habit thoughts that create what we perceive as negative or painful feelings.  

Urges and cravings are also habituated or conditioned pathways in our brain.  It’s brain science.  We have a ton of added sugar to our foods and we get an immediate dopamine zing when we eat a sugary food.  It’s a short-term false pleasure.  

The Science Behind Food Cravings

Ready for more science?  Most likely, you have a thought that is permissive or judging or shaming yourself when an urge comes up.  Again, I am the Queen, probably the King of both types of thoughts.  No shame.  Just learning.  

So, a permissive thought is one that’s like, “I deserve this.  I’ve worked hard all day.  It’s been a really stressful day. I’ve earned eating this.”  

A shaming thought is one that’s like, “Might as well eat this because I never stick with anything. It doesn’t matter. Screw it!” 

Believe me, I have lived and continue to live this.  I’ve been talking about learning to feel our emotions, in a way that we respond by recognizing, creating a pause and then a shift, instead of reacting, avoiding or resisting our natural human emotions.  We haven’t been taught this skill in our families or our society.  In fact, we’ve been taught the opposite, to suppress, not talk about, and to buffer our emotions with food, social media, online shopping, overworking, perfectionism.  All the things.

When a natural human emotion comes up that we sense is negative, we believe something is wrong and we need to fix it.  What better way to get out of what we believe is a negative emotion and pain than getting a quick dopamine zing from sugary food?  

There Is No Shame in Having Food Cravings and Urges

No shame here.  It’s just learning.  I’m the Queen of buffering and emotional reactivity.  That’s been the amazing power of showing up every day to learn the life coaching skills that help me to be more intentional about allowing all of my human emotions which helps me to allow urges and not go to food for a quick sugary fix.  

Remember, self-love superpower, so lots of self-compassion.  Our brains are conditioned by the food we have in our society and a lack of vulnerability in feeling our emotions.  I’m not saying we have to be all Kumbaya and sit around singing and holding hands. This isn’t wacky.  I promise.  

Take Back Your Power

So, what is buffering? This is the definition from the Life Coach School which is where I trained.  Buffering is when we use external things to change how we feel emotionally. We buffer when we don’t want to experience any type of emotion.  Our brains are wired to seek pleasure and avoid discomfort and keep us in the status quo and we are constantly bombarded with ways to feel pleasure.  

The more power we give to these pathways in our brain, the more powerful the pathways become.  What we focus on, we create more of.  

Children and teens have been seen as commodities for food companies, so it makes sense that we are stuck in this pleasure seeking, emotion avoidant, buffering with foods that don’t serve us, society.  

We become entitled to feeling happy and pleasure all the time.  But, the truth of life is that we aren’t happy or feeling pleasure all the time.  In fact, these are short term false rewards or pleasures and life can be way better without false pleasures and by creating true pleasures and showing up as our true self for our true lives.  

The Reverse Your Insulin Resistance Challenge: Week 3

Ready for Week 3 of the Reverse Your Insulin Resistance Challenge?  Let’s go!

Monday Motivation:  What are the ways you buffer?  Food, social media, shopping, sleeping, procrastination?  All of the above? 

What are the negative consequences of buffering in your life? Poor health, weight gain, not achieving your goals, not getting the grade you want, feeling a lot of negativity? 

How will you manage your urges to give in to buffering? Start recognizing when you have an urge and think about stimulus control and contingency management that I talked about last week.  You can create an environment and a plan to help decrease your urges and cravings that lead you to buffering.  

Tuesday Tracking:  What times of day do you have urges and cravings and tend to buffer with food?  Write it down.  What are some of the trigger foods for you that once you start eating them you get in kind of a fog?  It’s okay.  You can learn to eat those in moderation. 

Get foods on your plan that serve you if you are hungry and have an urge, craving or desire to buffer.

Wednesday Wisdom:  After you allow about 100 urges, the urges will start to dissipate. Allowing an urge means feeling your emotions that are coming up instead of looking to an external source like food to fix your feelings.  Since buffering with food is what you do to avoid pain, when you stop buffering, you will feel pain.  The emotion is still there even when you buffer with food.  You can handle it.  You can learn the skill to allow your human emotions.  

I really like the book, “LiveWired” by David Eagleman a neuroscientist, researcher and writer at Stanford.  It’s so interesting.  His research shows that our brains are malleable and adaptable if we challenge our brains.  What we focus on we create more of.  Keep giving all your power away to urges, you will keep buffering and stay stuck!  Start challenging your brain and start allowing your emotions and you will be well on your way to break the cycle! You can unstuck (is this a word) your brain! So cool and nerdy!

Thursday Thoughts: What emotions are you attempting to avoid when you buffer?

What are your thoughts that cause your emotions you are trying to avoid when you buffer? Take some time and get curious. You are creating self-awareness.  You are not your thoughts and thoughts are optional.  

Friday Fun: Can you shift to other thoughts that serve you?  How can you enjoy food, keep it simple, and have an exciting life?  What are you doing for fun this weekend?  Focus on what’s fun instead of what is a short-term pleasure like a sugary dopamine zing.

Saturday Success:  Get an urge jar that creates evidence for yourself that you are figuring this out.  Only count the positives.  Put a bead or marble or $1 in every time you allow an urge instead of buffering.  Now, how will you celebrate your wins?  Of course, I’m going to suggest not using food as your main way to celebrate. 

Sunday Strategy:    What are the ways that you showed up as your Future Self this week?  What did you learn about yourself? Spend some time asking yourself these important questions: What are your true pleasures in life?  What’s meaningful?  If you’re a teen, maybe you don’t know yet, so you get to figure this out.  So fun!

Watch the Video Replay

Up Next: Week 4 – How Much Physical Activity Is Enough?

Previous: Week 2 – Why Do We Overeat?