Hello February! Wow, it seems 2013 is just whizzing by. I am entering week 3 already of my Lean Eating & Loving It Experiment where I kept my diet clear of sugar, booze, grains, dairy and of course, all gluten, for 4 weeks. All the while choosing to feel good about it not feel what I usually feel when tightening up my nutrition: deprived, restricted, sad, angry and like life’s not fair. Well I’m happy to report having shaved just over 4cm from my waistline and I’ve really felt no angst about any of this. The shift in attitude going in was KEY for me to be this strict with myself. I won’t do this forever but I needed to make a clean break from bad habits and push myself a bit to build my confidence that I can do it: I can shed this extra “post baby – life is stressful – I’m too busy – bad habits slipping in” fat. This feel good vs. bad mindset about eating clean has definitely helped me. But I’ll admit, this past week was a rough one. My neck is still giving me grief and I feel completely locked up from head to waist. There has been so much family stress for Joe and I these past 2 weeks, seems everyone around us is in big time crisis – let’s just say many a night I felt I just needed a treat! (Read: I needed a drink. Or a piece of chocolate. Or ten pieces of chocolate.) What I learned this week about my cravings when I had a non-negotiable deal with myself not to give in was: Slow down. See what I’m feeling, vs. what I’m wanting to eat or drink. What I’m looking for is to feel better than I do right now. That in itself lifts the feeling a bit. And when eating around the feeling wasn’t an option, I was forced to just feel it or to think of something else that would feel good to do. What made this past week even worse is that I still can’t exercise, even long walks are out, so my main stress reliever was also not available to me. But it was good – I had to hang in there with it and learn other coping skills. Have allowable alternatives. When I really wanted a glass of wine I had soda water with a few dashes of bitters in a pretty glass. It was something nice, something out of the ordinary and it did make me feel better. I even drank a Zevia soda (xylitol sweetened natural soda) in a champagne glass – hey, it had bubbles and it was more fun than water. After Joe and I would talk through the family stress of the day, I had a cup of warm almond milk (sugar free, I sweetened with a pack of Truvia) and cinnamon and nutmeg. It felt comforting and nutmeg is a natural sedative so I relaxed a bit (about 30 calories and no sugar :)) No matter how badly I felt, keeping my word to myself trumped any craving. This commitment to myself really fueled me. It felt great to know that I could stick with it even when it was really tough – and this feeling built up stronger each day I triumphed over a glass of wine or a bit of ice cream. When we break our word to ourselves it starts this spiral: we feel guilty about getting off track, we realize we didn’t keep our word and that starts the “see, I will never be successful at weight loss” chatter in our minds. Ultimately this decreases our self confidence that we will ever be able to do it. Simply put: we lose faith in ourselves. When we don’t trust ourselves we really can’t win. This loss of faith in ourselves is a dangerous time. This is when we throw in the towel for this round – and we are less likely to have any confidence that our next attempt will be successful too. Anyone who’s yo-yo dieted feels this fear when they start a new plan – that sinking feeling that this “probably won’t work either”. And finally, I’m no Buddhist, but this little gem of a teaching may be the best craving buster yet: When you’re trying not to dive into that treat, slow down and let it RAIN… Recognize. Become aware of what is going on. Become aware that you are having a craving. Simple, I know, but try it. Just recognize it, name it and accept it. Accept. Just accept that you are having a craving. You are experiencing a temporary moment of weakness, a temporary desire for some food or treat, that’s all. But you’re doubting yourself. Can I really avoid this treat? Am I strong enough? But I feel so bad! Just accept it, it’s just a craving, don’t ask why. Don’t trip on what this means for the future. Don’t should or shame (i.e. I shouldn’t feel this way, I should be coping better, I feel guilty for wanting this, or I am terrible because I don’t feel in control all the time). Simply accept with kindness to yourself what is going on. And if you do give in, don’t shame yourself by saying, “I will never be successful at this.” It happened, move on. Investigate. What are you feeling: anxious, sad, lonely, stressed, tired, guilty, etc .Where do you feel it in your body? What images are you seeing? I often see myself moment after giving in feeling guilty and beating myself up. Just look, perhaps you’ll see something that will help you through this moment and have more understanding for the next time. Non-Identify. (AKA detach) You are not a craving. You are not a weakness. You are not powerless over chocolate. Disassociate from the feelings that are driving the behavior (i.e. the stress is making you want the chocolate). Remind yourself that you are not the feeling – feelings are simply passing through. You are more than any one of your feelings. You can choose not to respond to each feeling that passes your way. I really loved this little scheme because it doesn’t deny the feeling, just shows you that you can be powerful in the face of them. Feelings come and go and you can let a few pass by without responding. The feeling police will not come after you shouting, “Hey, you missed one!!” You can feel a craving and decide not to respond to it. Much like when someone calls your cell, you look down, see their name, and think, “Hum, I don’t want to pick that up right now.” The good news is that research on cravings shows that while they may come many times per day, they only last seconds to minutes if you can detach from them and not obsess (obsessing keeps them alive). What I’m really talking about here are emotional cravings, driven by stress and feeling, not by hormones. If your diet is off (too low carb, too high carb, not eating frequently, too low protein, too low fiber, etc) then a craving may be physiological and not psychological. I’ll be posting a blog about this very soon – so you’ll be armed with crave-curbing ammo no matter what the cause! Hopefully some of what I’ve shared here can help you through a craving or just with processing the inevitable ups and downs life throws at you when you’re attempting to take care of yourself. Life is never all smooth sailing, it will throw a curve ball – you have to be ready. You have to have back up plans. Sometimes knowing the best back up plan comes from knowing yourself, knowing what YOU need to get you through the tough times. So slow down, pay attention, and learn how to do it BETTER next time. So this picture has nothing do with cravings, but as I write this my little one is walking, talking and already 17 months old today!