Written by Leigh Ettinger, MD, MS, Medical Advisor to Camp Shane
Sure, we all get cravings. What to do when that hunger hits and you are tempted by the very food you swore off? I say think about the beach. It’s time for another analogy…..about water.
Visualize yourself sitting on the most idyllic beach imaginable. You are right at the water’s edge. It feels so good to have the waves wash over your feet. The water is warm and soothing and the sand tickles a little. The moment……is…..perfect…..but then that moment is gone. You long for the next wave to wash over your feet. THAT is a craving. When the craving is satisfied there is a moment of pleasure that is gone too soon. There might even be sadness or guilt after the passage of that pleasurable wave. You might move further into the water to experience the joy of bigger waves but those pleasures fade too quickly also. Be careful about going too deep! For example, the person addicted to drugs may succumb as they seek to satisfy bigger and bigger cravings. A person always wanting that more prestigious car or that bigger house may go too deep into debt trying to satisfy those ever retreating material desires.
DO NOT FIGHT THE CRAVING. Struggling against that urge for that pleasure is about as effective as trying to push the wave back into the ocean. There is no hope of doing that.
The key to dealing with that craving is to get up and walk away from the beach. Know that the idyllic beach and those perfect waves are still there and will always be there. Realize that sitting at the water’s edge will not get you to your goals.
What does this mean practically? Let’s say that you have sworn off of donuts. But, every day, on your way to work your commute takes you past a donut shop. And, most days you stop for a donut to feed that craving. Your plan to just keep driving pass is not working. In this analogy you keep going back to the beach to sit in the pleasure wave of a donut fueled sugar rush and your plan to drive past the shop has been as effective as a plan to push a wave back into the ocean. Instead, plot a different route to work that does not take you near the tempting donut shop. But that will take longer! Probably not longer than parking and waiting in line for the donut. But I work at the donut shop! Well, my friend, it is time for a new job, preferably not in the donut industry.
Figure out what is triggering your cravings and make the necessary changes so that the trigger is not there to tempt you in the first place. There is then no need to fight the craving, i.e. you have left the beach. Do you crave a bowl of ice cream as you sit down to watch your favorite show in the evening because that is what you have been doing for years? Then record the show. Watch it or stream it at some other time or place, like at the gym or at a friend’s place or in the park or on the bus. Go to bed early and wake up early to watch the show first thing in the morning so you don’t encounter a ruinous spoiler as you go about your day. Developing new routines can break old habits and get rid of the associated cravings. Use the Camp Shane experience as a reset on your routines. When you return home try not to slip back into those old habits but rather think of creative ways to make new routines that avoid triggers.