I want to share with you a simple approach to dealing with cravings - and thereby avoiding the regret that usually follows giving in to a craving - that I developed organically as a way to deal with my own sugar cravings.
It may sound too easy, but it’s honestly been the most effective thing I’ve ever tried.
I’ve always been a huge opponent of regret and guilt. I’ll do almost anything to avoiding feeling it.
In college I used to be the first one in my house to get all of my homework done because I just couldn’t stand the guilty feelings that went along with procrastination.
Come 10:00 I was the only one ready to party while my housemates were just getting started on their work.
Rewind to childhood. I was raised on a lot of sugar. I had unrestricted access to sugar for the entire day. I ate a ton of it all the time. Sugar cereal for breakfast, cookies in between, then a visit to the candy jar here and there, etc.
Even though I became vegetarian in college and educated myself about healthy nutrition, I still always had a sweet tooth.
Throughout Ayurveda school and until recently, my sweet tooth was fierce. I would try to resist it, try to talk myself out of it, use sheer will power, whatever. But it was always a struggle.
For a while when I was very strict about my Kapha-reducing diet, I would sit with a jar of honey and lick it off the spoon for an hour.
Then one day I let myself get present with the regret I felt after giving in to the sugar. It felt horrible and it turned out that it always had. I just hadn't paid much attention to it. I glossed over it.
I realized how guilty I felt after rationalizing and indulging in just 4 little cookies. Or a handful of chocolate chips. Or whatever sugary thing I could find when the urge was overwhelming. The reasons I felt regret and guilt were numerous. Eating sugar just simply didn’t fall in line with my health goals for myself.
It was then that I realized that I could use my aversion to regret as a motivation to not give in to the cravings. If in that moment of the urge I could imagine the regret I would soon feel, it was easier to walk away from it. Each time that I didn't give in to the craving, and thereby avoided the regret and guilt that always followed, I felt such relief!
So maybe this will help you too. Whatever your cravings or unhealthy desires may be, whether it's for muffins, a cigarette, or an early cocktail, contemplate the regret you will soon feel if you give in. Consider how stressful it is to feel guilt.
You can actually avoid it by making a conscious choice. This is what Buddhism calls “skillful action.” Or what is also called “mindfulness”. You are simply taking into account the logical consequences of your actions, and making choices based on that.
Guilt and stress wreak havoc on your health. Anything you can do to avoid it is important preventative medicine.
I indulge in sweets from time to time. There are special occasions where I consciously choose to have the birthday cake or whatever. But the choice isn't followed by regret when I make it mindfully. It's the auto-pilot response to a craving that leads to guilt.
Just to be clear, I’m not suggesting that you too need to avoid sweets, or that you should feel guilty about your piece of dark chocolate if you don’t have regrets.
What I am suggesting is that if you are giving in to certain cravings that you feel regret about afterwards, try this technique and see if it helps.
Let me know how it goes!