How to Build Your Brain to Overcome Cravings

No Pain Principle #6: Self-Manage Your Stress, Health, and Movement

“You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.” – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

I think that if Marcus Aurelius were alive today, he’d probably write a meditation to the effect of “Never go to the grocery store hungry.”

Sunday was a bit of a fasting day where I limit my caloric intake a bit (I don’t fast all day but eat a regular meal late in the day), so I was hungry but still had to pick up a couple things at the grocery store.

My “couple of things” turned into nine things as it always does but having to pass through a couple of the aisles to grab my items stimulated my hunger a bit. Here’s the list of cravings that struck me as I wandered amongst the Sunday shopping crowd:

Megastuff Golden Oreos (go big or go home) and a giant glass of milk
Salted caramel ice cream (Damn you Ben and Jerry!)

Upon returning home, the football game was on TV and of course I caught a glimpse of the pizza commercial that was running at the time. Add one more craving to the mix.

I then enjoyed my meal of this amazing egg casserole quiche thing that The Gorgeous One makes that fits my current calorie and macronutrient intake.

Was this an amazing feat of willpower?

Not really. Well, not anymore. Here’s what happened.

I saw the junk foods that stimulated my desire to eat them, I thought about how delicious they would be, and I recognized that while I would enjoy them, my end result would be disappointment for not sticking to my current eating plan and setting my progress back. Therefore, I chose to bypass the cookies, ice cream, and pizza and eat my regular meal.

Sure, it was a close call, but I celebrated my victory over my cravings as I ate dinner.

Way to go ME!

Self-control is just another muscle that gets stronger with exercise. In fact, in her book The Willpower Instinct, Kelly McGonigal, PhD, makes a similar comparison when she describes the powerful effects of mindfulness meditation.

“The brain appears to to adapt to exercise [Bill: referring to meditation in this case] in the same way that muscles do, getting both bigger and faster in order to get better at what you ask of it.” – The Willpower Instinct, pg. 25.

Thankfully, it doesn’t take much meditation practice to start to make those changes in the brain. Dr. McGonigal references a study that showed that accumulating just 3 hours of meditation practice over time results in improved attention and self-control.

When’s the best time to meditate?

Whenever you SCHEDULE it. Yes, schedule it.

Don’t count on ever having enough time to get to it. Just like your work, your workouts, your vacations, or anything else important in your life, you must schedule it.

Even as little as three minutes at a time makes a difference.

Get three minutes in the morning before you go to work. Take three minutes at lunch. Add three minutes when you get home. Finally, do three minutes to quiet your brain before you go to sleep.

You’ll have accumulated three hours in no time.

Do it right now. Just three minutes.

Your comeback starts today.

If your interested in reading The Willpower Instinct, here’s my affiliate link to the book:

Get started on your pain-free comeback to the gym today

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