Put Down the Spoon and Step Away from the Ice Cream

How to Deal with Cravings

It’s been a stressful time in the Castillo house.

Our family is moving from Hawaii to Germany this month (Army life!) and I’ve been engaged in the painstaking process of sorting through all of our stuff and decluttering for the move (or as I like to call it, conducting “The Great Purge”).

Meanwhile, there are about a million other tasks that come with preparing for an international move that have been consuming my time and energy–vehicle shipping, packing to live from a suitcase for the next several months, official passports, lodging reservations, travel plans, kids’ school and medical records, and on and on.

For those of you familiar with the military lifestyle, this is just par for the course every few years as we pull up roots and start again in a new place.

Still, it’s never quite “easy”...no matter how much experience we might have with it.

A few days ago I was sitting amidst the chaos of my oldest daughter’s room, trying to sort her various crafting supplies, books, toys, paper clutter, and trash for packing.

It was the end of a long day and I was starting to feel overwhelmed by the immensity of the task (for those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of meeting her, let me just explain that my beloved firstborn is the messiest human being alive).

It was in the midst of all this stress and chaos that the thought kept coming to me:

"I just want to have a drink and eat ice cream.”

Actually, it was more than just a thought. It was a deep longing to numb the stress of my situation with “low and earthly things” (as St. Ignatius of Loyola would call them.)

Now, for those of you who are familiar with my story, you’ll know that succumbing to these kinds of “comforts” on a regular basis contributed to my depression almost getting the best of me a few years ago.

So, even though I wanted with everything in my being to just numb my own discomfort and escape from the difficulty of my situation–I paused. I reflected. I did a little “self-coaching.”

Just in case you’re also dealing with some intense cravings (whether for food, alcohol, or any other not-so-good-for-you thing that you crave), I wanted to just walk you through a simple strategy that you can use the next time you find yourself in the same boat.

How to Deal with Cravings:

1. Recognize that you’re having a craving.

Sounds simple, but awareness is key! Sometimes we’re halfway through a bag of chips before we even realize what we’re doing.

2. Get curious.

What is happening in reality? Where are you, what time is it, who are you with, etc? It’s helpful to just observe here without judging yourself, almost like an impartial 3rd party. “Oh, look at that. Jessica is surrounded by a giant mess and is pressed for time to finish this big project. It’s late in the day and she’s hungry and tired.”

3. Ask yourself what you really need.

Okay, continue on as an outside observer here. What does that person in step 2 really need? Do they need a break? A snack? Cravings are just a response to a legitimate need most of the time. Try to pinpoint what “problem” you’re really trying to solve. In my example above, I recognized that what I really needed was some rest and help coping with stress.

4. Be compassionate with yourself.

This part is critical. You are not “bad” or “weak” or “undisciplined” for having a craving. You’re a human being with legitimate human needs. Recognize that your craving is just sending a signal to you that you have an unmet need–and then be as kind to yourself as you would be to a child or a sick person who needs your help.

5. Meet your legitimate need.

Ideally, you do this in a healthier way than pulling out a spoon and a carton of ice cream! This part requires both your intellect and will as well as the virtues of prudence and fortitude to make a sound decision about what you really need.

In my example above, I ended up taking a break to eat dinner Then I went for a walk with my husband and shared with him how stressed I was feeling and that I was dealing with a strong craving to numb it all with alcohol and sugar.

Then--even though I wanted to make a Gin and Tonic and watch Netflix--we prayed the family Rosary and I had a warm cup of magnesium (from a brand called Natural Calm) and went to bed early.

I share all of this with you not because I’m perfect at always choosing the healthier option (because I certainly am not!) but to let you know that I 100% sympathize and understand the struggle that we all have to maintain healthier habits.

How to deal with cravings is just one of the many topics that I dive into in my online program for Catholic Moms, Thriving in 30 Days. This program helps Catholic women kickstart their healthy habits and put them on autopilot so they can have abundant energy and joy.

But I don’t just rely on physical habits like diet, sleep, and exercise (though, of course, that’s included). I also incorporate spiritual practices that will supercharge all the physical habits.

Because, as Catholics, we know that we also have a supernatural source of energy and joy. In fact, The Holy Spirit is the real change-maker in our lives. So, if you’ve tried other programs to “get healthy” in the past that didn’t quite work out as you had hoped…it could be because you weren’t using all the tools at your disposal.

And that’s not your fault! We don’t know what we don’t know, after all.

If you’re interested in learning more, you can check out Thriving in 30 Days here.

I just wanted to end with the scripture passage that inspired me to write this post today. God always gives us exactly what we need just when we need it, and when I read this passage this morning, I knew that I wanted to share it with you:

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

Maybe you, like me, just need some true rest. Let’s not forget where we can always get it!

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