The best way to beat a craving.

I didn’t know I was a sugar addict until it was too late.

Well, I guess it’s never too late but I used that phrase to catch your attention (which I’m supposed to do, according to marketers) and also as a confession to let you know about my addiction to sugar. And this is my Halloween-themed post for you. Kind of about sugar, mostly about cravings and how to beat them.

Sugar is one of my two main addictions. The other addiction I struggle with is critical mind. I’ve made major strides with that this year and I’m SO HAPPY! Critical mind is the tendency to mercilessly judge oneself and others. It often comes out as gossip and complaint but I’ve worked for years to the point that it’s mostly happening in my mind right now, not coming out as words very often at all. Not that it makes it OK! It’s just less…harmful. And that’s my work as a bodhisattva. To bring LESS HARM to myself and the world.

So what’s worked? What’s worked to help me do this and make kind of progress to beat my craving to use my killer insight and judgement to slay others down with one spiteful strike of my intellect?

What’s worked to help me refrain from lashing out and saying things I don’t mean (ok, maybe I mean them a little—or A LOT) to take back later (see previous parenthesis)?

What’s worked to stop engaging with people on Facebook when they’re saying things that make me want to bang my head against a wall or Google their address to go tell them off in person?

Well, it’s the same thing that helps me beat my cravings for sugar. I didn’t know I had a sugar problem until I became a health coach. I didn’t know when my liver got so toxic from sugar addiction to assuage my grief in my mid-20s. I didn’t know when I’d pass out comatose on Sundays mornings from eating sugar to recover from a week’s worth of teaching (betcha didn’t know I was a teacher back in the day).

I didn’t know I was addicted to sugar when I gained a ton of weight after moving away from home in New Jersey to Boston in 2006 and getting a full time job that felt fun and also f*^&ed up in more than a few ways and I used my addiction to sugar to compensate and got chronic colds and sinus infections month after month.

But after becoming a health coach I DID know I was addicted to sugar. So when I found myself wandering around the country last year as a major part or phase of my own healing process and I used sugar, I did it less. I was more mindful of it. I still eat sugar to feel better. It’s probably never going to NOT be part of my life because I refuse to quit it because my relationship to it has changed, for the better.

Because I’ve found the best way to beat a craving is by using a skill I learned as a health coach: give into it. Turns out you CAN have your cake and eat it, too. Someone I met this week told me we all have that saying all wrong, but I used my mindfulness of critical mind to embrace his opinion and be curious instead of think he was mansplaining. See! It’s awesome!

Yes, giving into a craving is indeed the best way to beat it. Whether it’s sugar or critical mind or coffee or other things. I suppose some hard drugs don’t really count, but I don’t know from my own experience but only from losing a dear friend to suicide two years ago.

I suppose if folks like him who USE those hard drugs allowed themselves less harmful substances in moderate amounts instead, they might not have the cravings for those really harmful things. Buddhism says the suffering that causes addiction of any kind is caused by a craving of a much deeper nature. Perhaps people could find how to alleviate that suffering caused by craving such severe substances by using gentler substances and it might help to wean them. I’ll probably get myself in a lot of trouble for saying that. I’m saying it anyway.

The fundamental source of craving is a feeling of lack. It’s part of being human. Because Western society (a.k.a. THE UNITED STATES—and anyone else?) makes us feel really bad about being human beings in general, we’re set up to feel lacking most of the time. Marketing is really good at capitalizing on this so it sells anything and everything to us all day long we never have to feel lack.

We get really bad at embracing lack of loneliness or low vibe feelings in general. We can just buy something to make it better. But is that always bad? Might it be part of the solution?

I say YES! But it all depends on your mindfulness and awareness of it. If you’re not behind the wheel and just buying and giving into your craving from impulse on auto-pilot, you have no mastery over yourself. The craving HAS YOU.

For example, like last month, I bought two bags of candy corn. One for me and one for my colleagues.

They destroyed the one I bought in less than a week. And it was a 3 pound bag!

My 1 pound bag lasted several weeks, and in fact I think it got stale and I threw the rest away. How did I do that? Because I let myself buy the candy corn, the first time I bought it in many many years, and I let myself have it. I let myself have a few pieces when I got the craving and I stopped with that small handful.

It’s the same technique I use every single day. And there are probably plenty of health coaches who think I still eat too much sugar to be a good role model for my clients. And to those people, I try not to give into my addiction of my critical mind and judge them and their opinions of me based on their own insecurities about themselves. Whoops. Did I just think that out loud?

OK! See how it works?

The best way to beat a craving is just a constant process of seeing the craving, knowing what’s happening and using our minds and our decisions to give into the craving consciously.

Happy Halloween!