Why I Couldn't Stop Eating Conversation Hearts

Valentine's Day reminds me of a time in my life when I couldn’t be left alone with a bag of conversation hearts without eating every single one of those pastel sugar bombs. And, thanks to handfuls of those cutely packaged Valentine’s Day mini candy bars, February afternoons at my corporate gig became much more bearable.
 
Of course, my wicked sweet tooth didn’t rear its demanding, insatiable head just in February. Bingeing on sugary treats was a year-round occurrence back then. Eating them made me feel alive when I felt dead inside from doing unfulfilling, uninspiring work.
 
The less alive I felt, the stronger my desire was for quick hits of intense food. When I flatlined, sugar was my lifeline.
 
A Symbolic Substitute
For many of us, sugar is a symbolic substitute for fulfillment and freedom. For others, it’s salty snacks, fatty foods, booze or pot. These things take us to a place where we can forget--albeit temporary--about the dissatisfaction and discomfort in our lives. We use them to leave ourselves when life gets hard.
 
It’s not that these things are necessarily bad, or that we’re bad people for consuming them, or that they shouldn’t be a source of pleasure. Challenges arise when we rely on them to fulfill a need they were never ever meant to fill.
 
If this sounds all too familiar, what steps--big and small--can you take to feel more alive in your day-to-day existence?
 
How can you infuse more vitality into the realms of your life that feel lackluster and lifeless, whether it’s work, relationships, intimacy, physical movement, spirituality, personal growth, creativity, etc.?
 
Take a minute to write down all the things that make you feel more alive. Don’t hold back. 
 
A few items on my list include: aligning my passions and values with my career, running at sunrise, re-centering at yoga, challenging my body with a new workout, walking with a friend, reading a captivating book, learning new ideas, hiking along the coast, planning trips, exploring foreign lands, losing myself in a creative project, helping others, and connecting with my coaching clients.
 
What makes you come alive?
 
Remember, food can fill you up, but it can’t fulfill you.
 
Although there are many reasons for cravings, once you start doing more things that make you feel truly alive, energized and free, it’s quite likely that your intense desire for chocolate, ice cream, cupcakes, chips, cheese, wine--whatever your fix may be--will start to dwindle. This has been true for me and for many of my clients. It certainly can be for you, too.

 

Are You Making This Craving Mistake? How to Befriend Your Cravings

How do you feel when you're struck by a mad craving?
 
Whether it's for chocolate, french fries, steak, ice cream or booze, most of us mistakenly believe cravings are a sign of weakness, a lack of willpower, and an overall bad thing (thus making you a bad person for having them). They're often something we want to squash, ignore, or hush with unsatisfying substitutes.
 
I'd like you to consider that cravings are actually a good thing.
 
Cravings are your body's way of telling you something is out of balance.
 
The key is to listen to and decode the messages it's sending you. Here's how:
 
1. Pause
The first step when a craving strikes is to pause and become still. Listening to your craving is essential, yet impossible without presence and awareness.
 
2. Befriend
Rather than try to push it away, ignore it, quiet it with an unsatisfying substitute, or stuff it down as fast as possible, welcome your craving with open arms. Greet it with compassion and curiosity, rather than contempt or judgment.
 
3. Feel
Notice if your craving is driven by a physical or emotional hunger. Feel and honor what wants to be felt. Try not to suppress or fight your feelings or urges. Rather, befriend and breathe into them.
 
4. Deconstruct
Play detective. Investigate the source of your craving. Try to reveal the underlying cause that's triggering it.
 
You may truly have a nutritional need, or your body might be really yearning for a non-food form of nourishment that your mind is trying to pacify with food or drink. Ask yourself what you're really hungry for.
 
Here are just a few examples of craving causes:

  • You may crave meat, eggs or nut butter when your body needs protein or is yearning to feel more grounded, stronger or more mentally focused.
     
  • Chronic chocolate cravings may arise when you're magnesium deficient.
     
  • A sweet treat hankering may be your solution for a mood or energy boost when what you really need is a hug, nap or walk.
     
  • A craving for cereal with milk or grandma's special casserole could be a desire for the ease, security and comfort of childhood.
     
  • Urges for foods like ice cream, pudding and avocado are often driven by anxiety as their creamy texture relaxes and soothes. A hot bath, massage or some meditative breaths may better alleviate your tension.

5. Restore Balance
The longer you ignore your craving, the bigger the backlash or binge. By getting to the root of your craving, you will know how to best nourish it.

When you befriend and deconstruct your cravings, they will point you toward the foods and lifestyle you need to restore balance.