Sugar. Childhood obesity. Adult onset diabetes. Makes one anxious. Feeling uncomfortable? Hey, h ave something sweet. Then, beat yourself up. Then try to get back in “control” of it. Then, eat it again. And again. Try to stop. Can’t? If this sounds familiar, you are so Not Alone. Me, I ask Jizo to hold the Craving Child inside me safely, just for this moment. Just For This Moment. No craving is permanent, even the ones I have been feeling lately.
I usually don’t walk down candy aisles. Usually. A couple of weeks ago I was in a big name drug store to pick up some sundries and I ran smack into an aisle of Halloween candy, side by side with an aisle of, yes, Christmas candy.
We are entering the trifecta of Food Pain: Halloween, Thanksgiving and then the onslaught of Christmas cookies, gelt, parties, Shoulds, ‘have just a little’ and then a little more and a little more.
I saw these little orange pumpkins. They screamed at me like a candy from when I was a kid, aptly named Screaming Yellow Zonkers, a rendition of Cracker Jacks. Now, I am haunted. Each day the thought of these orange pumpkins — pure corn syrup — that taste like candy corn — visit my mind and distract me. They are calling to me like the kid in a cartoon I saw called The God of Cake on a site called Hyperbole and a Half. The author, Allie, nailed the craving kid beautifully. Seriously, read her if you are craving candy or cake. Your inner kid, your Chibi, will thank you for the mirroring experience. Here’s her depiction of the cake-craving child:
The cravings that the pumpkins, pictured below, elicit is Insane. Having meditated for a while, I watch cravings come and go. I don’t judge them, usually, and I generally don’t act on them. Still, the cravings are there. Sometimes. As an executive for food conglomerate told a writer for the New York Times, “I feel sorry for Americans, they don’t stand a chance against the junk food industry.” The food is engineered to cause us to want more. And, no I can’t eat one.
So, what do we do about Halloween cravings in the short term? Notice them, tell someone you are craving sugar, and then, please, eat an apple or just sit with the craving until it passes. No craving is permanent.
Try the meditation for circum-respiration that I wrote. If that fails, there is always Overeaters Anonymous meetings, where the majority of members will not be eating Halloween candy, just like most members of Alcoholics Anonymous won’t be drinking for the holidays.
Anxious moments will always be part of our path. Blocking our development by caving into cravings doesn’t help. In OA they say, “I put my hand in yours and together we can do something that we could never do alone.” In Buddhist teachings, we call this sangha: community. If you are feeling alone with your cravings, there are places you can go. I promise you will be welcome as a member of the tribe, whatever your favorite Halloween candy is.
Meantime, should you encounter a craving, meet it with kindness and curiosity. Sit with it. Ask Jizo to hold that part of you safely. See what happens.