The Cravings Monster
Updated: Mar 4, 2019
Do you have cravings or bad habits you are trying to break? Do these things sneak up on you out of nowhere?
It is probably because (like most of us) you have a Cravings Monster inside of you.
The Cravings Monster is a being that shows up when you least expect it or when you are feeling the most stressed or tired. It will put things in your hand you didn’t mean to grab. It will put you on the couch when you didn’t mean to stop there. It will keep your finger scrolling when you didn’t mean to spend the last 37 minutes on your phone (let alone the next 53 minutes).
Fighting the Cravings Monster head-on is a harder game than going with it. The more attention and resistance you give to it, the more power it has. The more you try to ignore it, the more frequently it will try and surprise you.
It is like our training in the gym. If we try and strongarm our way through bad technique, we will end up failing or getting injured in the long run. If we try and ignore our weakness and skill work, they will only get worse.
We are going to combat the Cravings Monster with Jujitsu, but don’t worry if you haven’t stepped on a mat before! If you aren’t aware Jujitsu means “Gentle Art” in Japanese. It is called this because you aren’t supposed to fight the resistance head on strength against strength. You are supposed to ‘go with it’ and redirect it.
But how are we supposed to ‘go with’ the Cravings Monster? How is that going to help!?
You must start with some self-observation. When a craving comes up, STOP what you are doing and observe what is going through your mind. What thoughts are in your head? What events or actions happened immediately before to trigger the craving.
You need do this with a clinical approach. Do not judge your thoughts or your cravings. They are not evil and you are not a bad person for having them. Just observe. It is even better if you can take notes or keep a journal of these events.
It is okay at this point if you still ‘give in’ to the craving. You can try to distract yourself by choosing a different action or healthier option, but do not beat yourself up if when you fall off the wagon. At this point it is more important that you gather the information about what was going through your mind right before and during the craving.
You will notice trends. There is a series of events or thoughts that will summon that Cravings Monster every time. It could be walking past the pantry. It could be a stressful day at work. It could be hidden in your evening routine.
This step is to just acknowledge that you are having these thoughts, and to recognize the Craving Monster as it is rearing its ugly head. It still isn’t critical that you avoid the behaviour every time at this point. You’ll start to have some successes, but don’t spin out of control when you slip.
All you need to do is add the phrase “I am having the thought…” once you notice the craving starting. “I am having the thought that I want a snack.” “I am having the thought that I need a drink after a hard day at work.” “I am having the thought that I want to watch another episode and that I need some desert while I watch it.”
This is also where you can start trying to ‘break the pattern’ by changing the environment. Once you know your triggers you can try and set yourself up for success. Take the ‘bad’ food out of the pantry and put it in a bin in the garage. Do something right after work that reduces stress (like working out or meditating). Change your evening routine so you aren’t dancing the same dance every night that leads to the same ending.
The last step is to notice that you are having the thought. Add the phrase “I notice” to “I am having the thought…”. With this step we are going to create even more distance between our actions and our thoughts (and the Craving Monster). “I notice I am having the thought that I want a snack.”
Now that we have created distance, we can give the Craving Monster to have some space. We can let it be without getting into a tug-of-war with it.
What most people find, is that if they actively aren’t trying to ignore, argue with, or fight the Craving Monster, it loses it power and goes away. That viewing our thoughts as separate from who we are, we can treat ourselves with compassion and avoid the negative thoughts that make us feel even worse.
If you have trouble with the compassion part. Imagine you are talking to a good friend with the same/similar problem. What would you say to them? How would you encourage them? Write it down and read it out loud to yourself when you need some motivation.
Step 1: Observe behaviour and look for trends
Step 2: Add the phrase “I am having the thought…” each time the craving comes, and start setting up your environment/routines for success
Step 3: Acknowledge that you notice when you are having the thought, and accept that the Craving Monster is there and that these thoughts are separate from who you are as a person
Changing our behaviours and breaking bad habits can feel impossible. By accepting our cravings, creating distance, and building compassion for ourselves, we can learn to tame that Cravings Monster and focus on the things that make our life better.