Curiosity Killed the Craving (and the Bingeing)

I used to binge on cookies.

Giant peanut-butter chocolate-chunk cookies. 

Each binge was followed by relentless self-attack and self-loathing...feelings of guilt, shame and weakness....and, of course, promises to never ever do it again.

Yet, somehow, despite my best intentions, I’d find myself right back in the same place days later. Standing in my kitchen in the dark shoving cookies in my mouth. Crumbs scattered on my shirt. Chocolate smeared across my face. Belly beyond stuffed.

I haven’t binged like that in years. 

I no longer experience such intense cravings.

It’s not because I have tremendous willpower.

It’s because instead of beating myself up, I became curious.

Instead of shouting at myself, “You have no self-control, you suck!,” I started gently asking myself, “Hey, what’s this all about? What’s going on here?”

By pausing and becoming compassionately curious, I was able to cultivate greater awareness for why I was doing what I was doing. 

Stillness coupled with expanded awareness is far more powerful than willpower. 

Often, before we can say "no," we have to understand why we say "yes." Every action has a positive intention and every action is to fulfill a need. 

When I finally understood what was driving my compulsion—a rigid diet, false persona, pleasure deficiency—and the deeper needs I was trying to meet, my binge eating ended. 

I stopped focusing on keeping sweets out of reach and started focusing on fulfilling my unmet needs and desires. When I quit depriving myself of the life I longed for, I no longer relied on cookies to give me something they were never meant to.

How can you bring more compassionate curiosity to your relationship with food?

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.