For a while after beginning to live alone, I found myself buying quite a lot of soda (mostly cola) and sugary sweets. I guess I was exercising my freedom to do so without my parents getting on my ass about it.
Eventually, though, I started thinking:
Does this cola actually give me more pleasure than fruit juice?
Do these sweets actually give me more pleasure than fruit?
To which the answer was usually, no. I would buy them, enjoy a bit of stimulation for a short while, and then afterwards not feel really at all more fulfilled than before.
And on top of that, my body didn’t really like these things. If I stayed centred and noticed my body’s response during and after eating, I could tell I wasn’t really doing myself much good. Getting rid of a sugar craving, for sure, but fruit does that just as well, and my body responds so much better to it.
Which begs the question, why do I crave this artificial stuff so much? Why do I get excited about some silly sweets?
The day before yesterday I was at a checkout line and found myself having a familiar stare-off with a pack of sweets which I knew were vegan. The mental conversation went like this:
“Should I get it?? It’ll taste good.”
“But it won’t make me feel good, and I can get rid of my sugar cravings by eating almost anything else. And it doesn’t taste better than other foods, really.”
“Am I using my coercive voice? [Gives self permission to buy sweets]. No, it just doesn’t feel worth it.”
“Maybe I could just screw it and get it. Just as an experience. To feel what it would be like and learn from it.”
[The excuse of having an “experience” convinces me for a couple of seconds and I feel a blind craving, telling me to stop thinking and just grab it].
[I hold enough presence about me to withstand this moment of craving]. “No, I know what would happen. Sweets just don’t bring that much happiness. It’s not worth it.”
It’s strange that I should have such a long conversation with myself just on this topic. Why do I have such strong cravings for something I know isn’t positive for me in any way?
I figure it’s a combination of the addictiveness of a fast sugar hit, the bright colours and strong flavours, the marketing, and the fact that my parents always limited my consumption of these things. This latter thing gives the message, I guess, that sweets are some incredibly important thing that you have to fight to get a hold of.
Marketing is huge though. In my cola-drinking period, I noticed that when I saw a cola advert, be it a full-length skit or just a big sign saying “Coca-Cola” somewhere, I would crave cola. This annoyed me a lot, because in the end I wasn’t sure if I wanted cola because of the ad or because I really wanted it.
I did notice that, while cola was satisfying, a fruit juice would be just as satisfying. Was I craving cola or just water and sugar? If I was just craving water and sugar, why did I always think of cola first?
A friend of mine told me about a study where a group of cola drinkers were kept in a controlled environment where they weren’t exposed to cola advertising. After a month, they naturally stopped drinking cola without making any effort to.
I’m not sure if that was a real study. I could imagine it being an urban legend. But it did rather vibe with my experience. It seemed like my desire for cola was manufactured.
Eventually I gave cola up, mostly because I could see it wasn’t doing my body any good (mainly I think because of the phosphoric acid). It was a bit of an effort to start with, but nowadays I could care less about cola. I drink fruit juice instead.
Something else I want to go into — something that was interesting about my inner conversation a couple of days ago was this bit: “Sweets just don’t bring that much happiness.”
It was interesting to realise that some part of me expected sweets to bring happiness. And it was interesting to remember that such things barely affect my overall happiness at all. Well, eating is necessary for happiness. But, the choice of one thing over another barely affects my overall happiness at all.
When I was a child, I had no idea what happiness was. Sad but true. I guess that’s why food and TV was pretty much my life at that time. Now that I experience true happiness, I can see what a lie junk food is.
Compare the tiny pleasure one food or another gives you… to friendship. To hugs. To self expression. To dignity. To autonomy. To healthy occupation and achievement.
It’s nothing. Particular foods can’t give you happiness. It’s a lie.
So those are my observations on dealing with junk food and sugar cravings.
If you’re struggling with a craving, just remember this. You can pretty much always quench a craving for a particular type of food by eating some other food. Cravings, as far as I can tell, are usually basically just hunger, or maybe low blood sugar. It’s weird that cravings are often so specific (and usually for unhealthy stuff), but if you just take the craving to mean you are hungry, you can resolve it easily.
What do you think? Do you have any special tactics for dealing with junk food cravings? What’s your experience?