Mindful acceptance is being aware of your own thoughts and desires (including your cravings) without taking them too seriously, judging them, feeling guilty about them, or reacting to them in an automatic or habitual way. Mindfully accepting a craving does not mean that you are happy about it, but only that you see it and accept it for what it is: a natural occurrence that will soon pass, is not a cause for concern, and does not require a response. As you take them less personally and less seriously, the psychological power of your cravings will diminish, and your ability to make calm, rational food decisions will increase.
So how do you develop a mindfully accepting attitude toward your food cravings? Whenever you feel a craving coming on, use the RAD (Recognize, Accept, Defuse) method to mindfully accept it. The RAD method helps you notice a craving and accept it without giving in to it. There are three steps:
1. Recognize – “I’m having a craving.”
2. Accept – “It’s OK. It’s natural and nothing to feel guilty about. It doesn’t mean I’m hungry.”
3. Defuse – “It’s only a passing emotion. I don’t have to follow it.”
When you finish step three, go back to step one, and start again. Keep this up for at least a minute, or until the craving is gone. You may want to write these three steps on a card to carry with you as a reminder. See the sample wallet-sized card at the end of this chapter.
Take a Brisk Walk
Scientists at the University of Exeter conducted a pair of experiments that demonstrated a brisk walk can make chocolate less tempting. In one experiment, they instructed a group of chocolate lovers to either take a brisk walk or rest for fifteen minutes before beginning work. The chocolate lovers were then allowed to snack on as much chocolate as they wanted while working. Those who had taken the walk ate only half as much chocolate as those who had rested instead. In the other experiment, a fifteen-minute walk was found to significantly reduce chocolate cravings. If it works for chocolate, it should work for just about anything!
At the first sign of a craving, stand up and head for the door. If brisk walking isn’t convenient, try a different exercise. Be sure to exercise with enough intensity that your heart rate increases. If you can’t spare fifteen minutes for exercise, do ten minutes or even just five. When you finish, focus your mind on something else.
Also try this technique as a preventive measure. Take a brisk fifteen-minute walk before your usual craving time.
This technique not only calms your cravings, but also gives you the added benefit of burning calories and improving your emotional well-being. Using it four times a day would give you a well-spent hour of fat-burning, mood-enhancing, craving-reducing exercise. What tool can beat that?