I was chatting with a client recently and told her that over the weekend, I drank a soda. This may not be a shock to you, but it was for me because I haven’t had a soda in about twenty years.
I was at a horse farm with my girlfriend enjoying some time away from home, and this craving came over me. I really, really wanted a soda.
Every time I’ve tried to drink soda in the past (after I quit soft drinks), I got an instant headache. This was a blessing when I was getting off my soft drink addiction because it made the cravings a lot easier to reject.
But on that Saturday at the farm, I opened a can and drank it without issue. And it was delicious.
I don’t tell you this to stimulate your cravings and make you jump up to grab a soda. I share this because there are two important lessons that came from this:
- Your mind and body naturally crave what’s missing
- Doing the thing you’re trying not to do doesn’t mean you’ve fallen off the wagon
Let me comment on both of these.
1. Your mind and body naturally crave what’s missing
This works both mentally and physically. If you didn’t receive enough hugs as a child, you may crave more physical connection than others as an adult. If you didn’t get enough praise to help you feel worthy and valuable, you may feel a low sense of self-worth and self-esteem today. And you may need a lot of admiration and attention just to feel somewhat balanced.
What about physical cravings? If you find yourself craving caffeine or sugar like I did that day, you may not be getting enough protein, carbs, iron, natural sugar, or even water.
Or how about craving comfort foods? This could point back to emotional stuff… or not.
I don’t want to turn this into a “How to eat healthy” article because that is not my area of expertise. But I do know what it takes to become more emotionally intelligent about your cravings.
Think about what you desire most today and ask yourself if you’re getting enough of that in any other way.
For example, feeling a low sense of self-worth might mean you need to do things that help you raise your self-worth and self-esteem.
You may need to show off a little bit to help you feel better about yourself and perhaps heal a wounded ego (some emotional wounds are very old).
Or maybe you need to accomplish a big task so that you can look back at what you did and feel a sense of pride. Some people feel pride when they clean a room in their house. I know I feel really good after I clean the entire kitchen.
How about watching an inspirational movie just to help you connect with a feeling you want more of? A movie might be a temporary rise in your emotional state but it can help you through the tougher moments. And some movies have the ability to change the course of your life. Sometimes you are instilled with different ideas of how you want to live your life after watching something that causes you to think of things a little differently.
The point is that many of these things can change your emotional and mental state because they cause you to work toward fulfilling what might be lacking in you.
2. Doing the thing you’re trying not to do doesn’t mean you’ve fallen off the wagon
I was sort of disappointed in myself for drinking that soda. I showed my girlfriend that I had grabbed one from the cooler and she looked at me with a puzzled smile. She didn’t have to say anything because I could read her mind:
“You? A soda? Seriously?”
She’s never seen me drink one.
But like I said, it was delicious and it hit the spot. But a disappointing feeling came in right afterward: “Does that mean I’m going to start drinking soda again? Oh no! What if I can’t stop?”
I had to figure out what just happened and what was going to happen in the future. I know I did not want to go down the soft drink path again – Way too much sugar for my blood.
- that particular line of thinking was ridiculous. Of course I’m not going to start buying soda again. It was a one-off thing.
- that as an adult, I can make a decision to drink one soda in twenty years. And maybe in a few years I’ll make that same decision again.
- that it wasn’t wrong, bad, or even emotionally unhealthy to partake in such a behavior that I once considered completely unacceptable in my life.
In fact in that moment, I made the decision to accept that after 48 years on this planet, this is my life and I can do whatever I want with my mind and body.
I thought, ‘If I want a soda, dammit, I’m going to drink a soda!‘
It was freeing to think this.
It gave me a sense of liberation from the old perfectionist-self that used to judge and set high standards for others. I gave up many of my judgments toward others years ago, but I believe this was sort of a final nail in the coffin to an old belief system that made me critical about my and other people’s behaviors.
It doesn’t mean I will start drinking soda again.
It doesn’t mean I believe soda is healthy now (it’s not, sorry).
It also doesn’t mean that I will ever do it again.
It just means that I’ve allowed myself a simple, single thing that, in the grand scheme of all that exists, probably won’t make a difference in my health or personal growth.
Sometimes a setback isn’t really a setback at all. Sometimes a setback is a reminder that you are free to do whatever you want.
Yes, of course, there are consequences to doing whatever you want. You may have the license to do as you please, but you still have to be responsible and stay aware of the results of using that license.
However, whenever you “mess up” and give in to an old craving, don’t think of it as falling off the wagon. Think of it as the freedom to choose the behavior you want.
You have the freedom to choose
I know most cravings aren’t necessarily a choice for most people, but the idea isn’t to avoid the cravings, it’s to go easy on yourself if and when you give in to them.
The fear of “messing up” is much more likely to cause you to mess up. However, when you stop resisting and instead give yourself the freedom to choose to give in or not, you stop giving power to the craving.
You may or may not have work to do on cravings, but don’t let your fear of giving in to them run your life. You’ve gotten this far, and that’s a big accomplishment!
So if you are beating yourself up, ease back on the self-bludgeoning stick a bit. You may find that as you allow yourself to make mistakes every now and then, you free yourself from the fear of making them.
Note: Cravings and addiction are a very serious issue for some people. This article is not meant to be insensitive to those that feel controlled by them and cannot find a way to make any other choice. Always seek the guidance and opinion of a professional when it comes to your health.