(A Therapist's Encounter with a Food Craving)
It often happens at night, when I'm home alone. It sometimes happens when I'm driving, like it did today. I wanted something in my mouth - badly. I was craving something, wanted something, needed something. Then I remembered the caramel chews that I had stashed in my glove box.
Caramel! There's something about the sultry salty sweetness that makes the back of my mouth water with barely a bite. Dare I say, it almost beats chocolate? These caramels were calling me - loudly. And I heard a voice say something like, "You shouldn't eat those. You know the sugar's not good for you." And another voice said, "Aw come on. It's just a couple of caramels. You deserve a treat."
In the past this internal dialogue might have gone on for awhile - the debate between the depriving self-loather and the well-intentioned, but less than completely honest indulger. But today I took my own advice, that which I normally give to my clients. I paused, breathed, felt my feet, got reconnected with my body, and checked in with myself to see what was really going on. I noticed a tinge of what felt a little like sadness. Instead of pushing it away or running from it, I opened up inside of myself and made a space for it. As I did, I noticed that the sadness felt more like longing. I could feel it in my chest - more specifically in my heart.
As I continued to breathe, staying connected with my body, and giving my judging brain a little vacation, I let myself feel the longing a little bit more. And with my thinking, judging brain out of the way, I heard the words,
I want love. I want reassurance. I want comfort. I want to be seen
and recognized for who I am. I want to feel appreciated.
As I heard the words - actually it was more like feeling the words - I cried. I cried with recognition – recognition of the truth in those words – a truth that, up until then, I had been completely unaware of.
I felt real compassion for myself at that point. And then, as it usually happens once genuine compassion enters the picture, the sadness and longing began to dissipate. It wasn't until I was several more miles down the road that I realized I'd completely forgotten about the caramels. My mind had pleasantly drifted off to something else.
I wish I could say it was always this easy - this process of releasing the real feelings behind a craving. But it's not. Like you, I struggle with many things. Firstly, I often forget to use my own tools - the ones I teach others. Secondly, it's sometimes hard for me to stay with the unpleasant feelings. It would for sure be more fun just to eat the damn caramels and be done with it. Thirdly, there are some feelings that aren't as easy for me to feel compassion for. The longing for love feels more OK to me than feeling helpless, for example.
My main purpose in sharing all of this with you, dear reader, is this:
A) If by chance your craving for food is really about something else, I want you to know that you're not alone - not by a long shot.
B) I also want you to know that your longing for love, reassurance, comfort, and to be seen and appreciated is perfectly normal, perfectly human, and perfectly understandable.
C) And lastly, I want to reassure you that with practice, patience, and maybe some help, you can learn how to respond to such longings consciously, so that you can get what you're really longing for, but get it from yourself.
Let me know if you need some help. We're in this together:)