Notes On Defeating Desires
How I stopped eating candy
At first, I take a small bite, hoping for just a little bit of pleasure. But as soon as I start chewing, I shrink and I’m ashamed. I consider stopping, but my anxieties come back, and I continue to eat, hoping to hold onto something. It wasn’t like I wasn’t going to finish the whole bar. I keep eating and suddenly I realize that isn’t so far out. Please don’t finish the whole bar. Please, just stop. Look at yourself. You’re all ashamed. Stop eating. But I ignore it, and eventually I’m down to the last bite. My conscience is begging me to stop, but I think What’s the point I say, leaving this much left? I know I’m going to end up eating it anyway. And with that, the bar is over.
In the past three days, I’ve finished a bag of Haribo gummy bears, a roll of Mentos, and as mentioned earlier, a giant-sized Twix bar. I’ve considered it the side-benefits of being sick, but even though I’ve given myself permission to indulge in my desires, I can’t help but recall my previous binges.
The times when there was no excuse. When I wasn’t sick. When the excuse was, “If I eat it now, then it’ll be gone tomorrow. I won’t have to fight the desire tomorrow if I just finish the candy today.”
Because even though the candy next day wasn’t there, my victory would be short-lived. Three days later, somehow more candy would be appeared. Whether it be my sister, an apparent new shelf in the pantry, or [un]surprisingly myself, there was always something more to eat. And again, I’d pull the exact same excuse.
Now granted, I don’t necessarily struggle with this as much as it seems. I do often eat candy here and there, but I think we all do (if you don’t, let me know please. I’m trying to get myself on Chris Hemsworth’s diet, so that’d be helpful). And it’s not just candy. We struggle with diets, procrastination, even addiction.
While I’m not a licensed therapist, I have found certain things helpful when preparing for battle.
The first thing that usually comes to mind is understanding why these desires exist. The answer often times seem simple, but there may be something more.
With candy, I understand it’s biological. But often times when I procrastinate, it’s not just because I don’t want to do work. When I procrastinate and I end up, maybe writing comedy instead of doing homework, it’s because I genuinely enjoy writing comedy and I genuinely hate doing homework.
These desires, while they do lead to bad outcomes, there might be something underlying that’s there. An unmet need, a troubled past. Whatever it is, if there’s something there, explore it. See if you can understand it.
Of course, that in itself is a process, but once a certain level of understanding is reached, when you feel comfortable, there’s a choice: Do I want to fight this?
In certain cases, there’s an unmet need and if you address it, there’s no longer something to fight.
However, the typical answer is, “yes.” I want to fight this. I want to stop procrastinating, stop eating candy, whatever it may be. In that case, welcome to war.
Okay that’s a bit much, but it’s important to note the more you leave something attended, the deeper and deeper the hole gets. You can still get yourself out, it’s just a lot harder to climb.
With that said, here are the strategies I’ve found useful:
- Remove the attraction from them
In the case of candy, the reason we enjoy it is because of the image we have associated with it. We see some form of happiness or joy in the candy, and why on earth would you not want that? That’s powerful.
So, how do you reverse it? Change the image.
Our brain knows candy is damaging, but the image we have doesn’t know that. Change that. Create an image so powerful, you can’t help but just not eat the candy. It’s possible. Whatever that may be.
I try to create an image that tugs at why I fear giving in to that desire. Then every time I think about it, I’m reminded of my hate rather than love, and it works.
In the end, the hate for that desire is what lasts, not the love. It’s not necessary to always feel hatred, but it can help to remind you why you’re fighting.
2. Clean up the noise
These desires start out as thoughts. They enter our brains, and then the feelings start coming, and we act. But often times, they aren’t the only thoughts in our head.
There’s a whole giant mess in there. Random thoughts on what you’re wearing, what another person might be wearing, anxieties about stuff three days from now, and most importantly, gossip.
If we can recognize this, maybe we can find it in ourselves to quiet down all the thoughts and say “shh” (that one is from Chris Evans). It takes time and practice but reducing the intensity of the noise makes the battle a lot easier.
3. Find a replacement
Indulging in things take up time and often become habitual. When we combat them, finding a replacement habit, something that’s healthier, not only distracts you but gives you something else to occupy time with.
In the case of procrastination, it doesn’t have to be work, but it could be reading; if you’re going to procrastinate, spend it doing something worthwhile.
4. Create immediate consequences
This is already well-known, so I’ll keep it short, but the reason we give in is because it’s a short-term win. We get something now. Pleasure, relief, whatever it may be. Sure, in the long-term it hurts, but we don’t always want to think long-term and that’s okay.
Have a negative in the short-term. Create a short-term loss to match or overcome the short-term gain. Then regardless of short or long-term, you’re losing something.
It’s not necessary for you to suffer, but it may help to remind you of what you’re really losing.
5. Give in a bit
This doesn’t work for all ‘types’ of desires, but with a sugar tooth, I think it’s okay to give in sometimes.
That may mean every Saturday is my all-out cheat meal, or every day I can take one gummy bear. It’s up to you how you want to do it. Just don’t do both.
It’s not easy to resist. It’s hard, even if you’ve made a ton of progress.
The hope is, fighting becomes easier. With that said, I hope this helps and I wish you well.