What are urges anyway?
Urges can be defined as desires that have been habituated. Managing urges can take different forms but one is more effective than others.
Sometimes I feel like my brain is like a toddler laying on the floor of the grocery store screaming for candy. This toddler brain got that way because every time I went to the store I got candy. My brain learned that shopping meant sweets. Once I started trying to lose weight my toddler brain still screamed for sweets every time I went shopping.
Urges tend come up during certain times, certain events, certain places and even when you are feeling particular emotions (sad, stressed, happy, etc.). Sometimes the urge is for a specific food or type of food – sweet, salty, both.
Once you have an urge there are 4 actions you can take: react, resist, distract or observe. Only one of these actions hold the key to overcoming overeating.
Reacting to an urge means you just give in. It fuels the habit and reinforces the habit cycle. The habit becomes even more ingrained over time.
Resisting an urge is using willpower to tell yourself no. This is like white-knuckling, gritting your teeth and fighting against it. It takes a great deal of energy and eventually it wears you down. You can’t recognize the habit cycle or learn anything from it when you are resisting.
Distracting yourself from an urge is when you busy yourself with something different. You may do other tasks like clean the house or you may decide to avoid certain situations all together. Many people distract themselves with other rewards. So they still give into the urge (and reinforce the urge) but they use something other than what they had the urge for. This is the reason that people gain weight when they are trying to quit smoking. They replace the urge to smoke with food.
Observing your urges means to be curious. Take a good look at the urge and allow it to be there without answering it.
This action can change everything for you.
When you have an urge your toddler brain screams to let you know that it feels terrible. It tells you that resisting pizza (or whatever you are having an urge for) is unbearable. But if you take the time to tune into how your body is actually feeling you realize that you feel restless, or antsy. You realize that your brain is creating a whole lot more drama than you are actually physically feeling.
The urge itself is not an emergency but your thoughts about it make it feel like one. The discomfort is created by your mind screaming,
It’s not fair.
I need this.
It’s not that bad.
Everybody else gets to.
I’ve been good all day.
I deserve this.
Use this as an opportunity to learn from the experience. To figure out the things that trigger your urges. To learn to sit with the urge and be curious but not give in. Do a thought download. You may be surprised by what you learn.
What does your toddler brain say during an urge?