Urge Surfing: How Meditation Fixes Compulsive Eating, Food Cravings
"Urge-Surfing": How Meditation Helps Us Master Food Cravings
Should We Give In Or Should We Resist?
There is a delicious pumpkin cheesecake in the refrigerator... But you can't think about it.
If you do, your food cravings will begin. And once the urge starts, like an avalanche, there is nothing you can do to stop your sweet-tooth from leveling everything in it’s path.
Before you know it, your shirt is covered in pie crumbs, your belly is full of delight, and the next 24-48 hours are marred by guilt.
Conventional wisdom states that, when we get hit by food cravings, we have two options. We can either give in to the urge, or we can resist. Easy, right?
Here is a little exercise. For the next ten seconds, don’t think of the famous nursery rhyme singing, ultra-dopey purple dinosaur that once polarized everyone over the age of four...
Did it work? If you could withstand the image of "Barney"burning a hole in your brain, then you either have super thought-control or haven't had the fortune of catching one of his "chalk full of wisdom" TV episodes.
Now, imagine the same exercise lasting for three hours instead of just ten seconds, and now the thought of heaven-sent pumpkin cheesecake (waiting in the kitchen right now!) must be repelled from your mind instead of that ridiculously annoying purple dinosaur... Not so easy.
The point is, resisting our thoughts only makes them stronger. Forcing ourself to not think of the delicious pumpkin cheesecake in the fridge only makes us think of it more and want it more. It’s a belly ballooning paradox.
"So, if I give in to my cravings, then I will gain weight. Yet, if I resist my thoughts of food, then I will also gain weight. Great! My life long dream is to be a sumo wrestler!"
Actually, there is a third option. It’s called "urge surfing." Fortunately, meditation unlocks this wonderful superpower.
Meditation Trains Our Mind To "Urge-Surf" Food Cravings
By observing our mind without judgement, mindfulness helps us realize that we are not our thoughts, we are not our urges, and we are not our cravings.
Like waves crashing upon the shore, our thoughts come and go. No wave is any more important than the one before it or the one after.
With a little bit of time and practice, mindfully urge surfing our food cravings as they surface, peak, and crash to the shore can be more wonderful than a day at the beach.
The Ridiculousness Of Fighting Food Cravings
Fighting with our cravings is like punching Niagara Falls' massive wall of water to make it stop. Eventually, our ridiculous efforts fail, and our swim skills get put to the ultimate test.
A simple yet beautifully elegant solution, meditation allows us to simply step aside from our cravings as they pass right by.
Mindfulness shifts our thoughts from "I’m a bad person who is doomed to be forever fat, why not give in and allow myself this pumpkin cheesecake?" to "I’m having a craving and just like any thought, it too shall pass."
In this way, we don’t have to resist the thought or push it away from us. By not labeling our craving as good or bad, we strip it of it’s power to control us.
Pro Urge Surfing: Master Your Mind, Master Your Physiology
"I've noticed that my food cravings don't just affect my thoughts, they attack my body like a crack-head itching for a hit. Does meditation fix that too?"
Yes. Because our mind and body are joined at the hip, meditation solves this easier than a two-piece puzzle.
Instead of our "must raid the fridge at midnight" food cravings triggering within us a massive "I'm starving, feed me now"physiological fake-out (crazy stomach growling, heart racing, saliva glands pumping, etc), meditation cuts the thought’s power down to nothing.
When our body no longer freaks out in response to what’s happening in our mind, then we gain a whole new set of superpowers above and beyond getting slim and trim.
Like a surfer watching the ocean horizon, meditation allows us to spot a wave (craving) long before it comes to shore. Knowing what’s coming down the pike helps keep our shirt free of pumpkin cheesecake crumbs.
And when a wave does make it to shore? We do what the legendary 11-Time World Surf League Champion, Kelly Slater would do. We get our favorite shortboard, wax it down, paddle out, and carve that wave into a masterpiece.
By mindfully observing our senses mid-craving: how our stomach feels, how our taste buds water, how our throat tightens, and so forth — we allow them to recede into oblivion.
Each time we successfully surf our urge instead of giving in to it, we forge a new mindful brick. In time, we have built ourselves a "higher thought" castle impenetrable to pillaging and plundering food-cravings.