Let’s talk about food thoughts and cravings—the differences between them and how to navigate them. We’re heading into the holiday season in the U.S., and food goes along with those holidays.
Many of us experience profound food cravings. A food craving is like a dragon. Dragons are scary and intense, and feel like they can swoop in and then swallow us alive. They motivate us to fulfill their wants and desires. They’re hard to escape from—much like cravings.
With cravings, it can take emergency measures to escape alive. Phone calls to supportive Bright Line buddies can be useful, as can prayer, meditation, or gratitude and service—these are the five actions that science shows can help replenish your willpower.
But here’s the important thing: cravings subside when we do Bright Line Eating. The dopamine downregulation that is the source of those cravings becomes less acute as we abstain from sugar and flour and give the dopamine receptors a chance to replenish.
But that doesn’t mean you’ll never think about food. I call food thoughts dragonflies. Dragonflies are small, harmless winged creatures that may alight near you, but can be shooed off. It’s pretty easy to get them to fly off. That’s a food thought—not a craving.
The trick is to shoo away your dragonflies before they turn into dragons—which they will do. Don’t let them hang around, and certainly don’t feed them. This can happen when we’re not clear in our identity, or not clear about intending to stay bright.
The food indulger part of us wants to eat all kinds of foods and has lots of reasons why it would be a good idea to eat addictively. But we can recruit our rebel part to say “hell, no!” to this.
My favorite way to keep dragonflies from growing into dragons is to use this mantra: “Thank you, God, that’s not my food. That’s poison to me.” Prayer can also help: “God, please remove this food thought. Take it away. Help me to focus on something else.”
There’s also an in-between creature, bigger and more grotesque than the dragonfly but not quite a dragon. It can be shooed away, but you’ve got to be more aggressive with it.
I discovered this when I was in Australia, and was struggling with dragons. When I got about 21 days away from sugar and flour, it felt like it wasn’t a dragon anymore, but it wasn’t yet a dragonfly either. I had some choices restored and had tools that worked. I had to work my tools hard, though. But I kept stringing those days together, like pearls on a necklace, until I had something quite beautiful. 21 days was the turning point for me to be back on firm ground.
So as you live through this holiday season, I want you to know that it’s vitally important to protect your state of mind. If you succumb to the notion that you need to make exceptions because it’s the holiday season, you’ll find that there’s always something that serves as an exception: your birthday, Independence Day, a summer trip....modern life is one long string of “special” invitations to eat off plan. There’s no peace in a life of breaking and rezooming.
If you’re new to Bright Line Eating, know that it will pay off if you double down this holiday season. The first holiday season will, of course, be the hardest, but after that, it will be so much easier because you’ll have done it before. No bite of holiday food is worth the trade, no matter what your mind tries to convince you.
So if you notice that you have a dragonfly, when a food thought rests lightly with you, all you have to do is stay clear and shoo it away. If you let it sit there, it’ll grow. Use whatever tools you can: mantra, prayer, meditation, whatever works for you.
Don’t let it grow into a dragon.