Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A Surprising Way to Reduce Sugar Cravings

Much to my own surprise, I have discovered a new way to reduce sugar cravings. Best of all, it is simple, it is free, and it only takes about 15 minutes a day. Anyone can do it, no matter your age, lifestyle, or health condition. You don’t need any equipment and you can do it anywhere. All it requires is a few minutes of uninterrupted time in a quiet space. Care to venture a guess? 

It’s meditation.

Yep!  Meditation.

I know meditation can sound intimidating.  If you aren't familiar with it, you may hear the word “meditation” and envision a bunch of Zen Buddhist monks sitting on the ground harmoniously chanting “om”.  Or, you may think of something vague and New Agey or as something  you do to reach “Nirvana” (and I don’t mean the grunge rock band).  Well, meditation certainly can be all of these things, but in short, it is simply breathing.  Sitting quietly and breathing.  Breathing in, breathing out. Letting thoughts come and go in your head and not attaching yourself to any of them.  Just letting yourself sit in stillness and peace.

In fact, if you practice yoga, you already meditate. 

What?!  One of my favorite yoga instructors, Baron Baptiste, describes yoga as “meditation in motion”.  In fact, yoga actually originated in India as a practice designed to rid the body of excess energy and to calm the mind in preparation for meditation itself.  One of the key principles of yoga is breathing.  Most of us think that achieving the asanas, the yoga poses, is the focus of our yoga practice, but it is actually the breath that supercedes the poses.  It is the breath that matters most.

The breath can be many things – cleansing, nourishing, detoxifying, and calming.  It can also reduce cravings by helping the body to rid itself of excess anxiety, energy and tension.  It is incredibly surprising how simply stopping and resting your restless, active “monkey mind” for a few minutes each day can help you become centered and less apt to reach for sugar or starchy foods to calm yourself in times of stress.  By simply breathing, you can calm and change your internal energy.  It is quite a powerful and easy way to help yourself eliminate cravings.

Okay, I know what you might be thinking.  “That sounds great and all, but there is NO WAY that I will be able to sit still and meditate for one minute, let alone 5, 10 or even 15 minutes without my mind wandering off.”  You are so right.  At first, you might find your mind does have a tendency to wander off quite often, and that is perfectly okay.  You don’t need to fight it.  You don’t need to judge yourself.  Meditation is not about doing it “right” or “correctly”.  It is about just doing it. 

So, here is the deal:  When you catch yourself thinking about your to-do list or doing your laundry or whatever else, just gently bring your attention back to your breath by focus on breathing in and out in slow, deep breaths.  Like anything else, it takes practice and repetition to focus your mind and to let yourself sit patiently in silence.  And, the more you do it, the easier it gets.

To meditate, simply sit on the floor cross-legged, sit on a cushion, sit upright in a chair, or even lie down.  It doesn’t really matter.  What matters is that you have contact with the ground in some fashion (to literally ground you), and that you are relaxed.  Some days will feel easier than others.  Some days it will feel effortless to quiet your mind, and other days a little harder. You simply need to accept where your body is on any particular day, and do your best to stay present. Stay in the moment.  Stay open to how you are feeling.  The result for this gift of quieting your mind is that you will move more calmly and steadily throughout your day, without the need to reach for sweets or sugar to alleviate your excess energy.

My wish for you is that you challenge yourself to start meditating.  Just a few minutes each day can make a big difference.  I hope you just try it a few times, so you can feel the magic of your own inner transformation.  Spoil yourself with the loving gift of watching yourself transform day by day into a calmer, more centered being.