Thich Nhat Hanh often talks about our cravings being like a crying baby who is trying to draw our attention.
Just as a mother goes to the crying baby to ascertain what it needs and then endeavours to meet the baby’s requirements, we too should treat our cravings in the same manner.
What is it that our cravings are telling us that we need? Are we actually seeking nutrition and/or energy? Or are we craving pleasure, comfort, or a distraction?
Are we hungry?
Or perhaps, sad, bored, lonely, or stressed?
Is there something we can do to meet our cravings more effectively? Or, are we able to sit with them and let them pass on their own accord?
Clients are often able to identify that they eat in response to their emotions. However, they then expect that they should be able to simply resist the urge to eat and often become more distressed when they can’t/don’t. This is no different to leaving the baby cry just because it has already been fed, without considering what else it might need.
In some instances, it might be appropriate to leave the baby cry and soothe itself. In other instances however, the baby might have another need that actually requires attention. You make this decision after acknowledging the crying baby, tuning into what it is telling you, and then taking an action that is kind and based on its best interest.
Next time you experience a craving, treat it like a crying baby; try to understand what the craving is drawing your attention to and then (with curiosity, kindness, and non-judgement), decide what is the most helpful action to take (acknowledging that deciding not to act on the craving and rather, making space for it, is action in itself).