When you’re looking to tolerate difficult cravings for sugary foods, it’s important that you have a toolbox of skills to help you get through. In Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), we call these Distress Tolerance skills- they are strategies to help you bide the time for the craving to pass.
However, if you find yourself not reaching for skills in difficult moments, you’re not alone. Even though listening to a podcast, taking a walk, calling a friend, or reaching for a hot cup of tea can seem “so easy,” we may feel unable or unwilling to use these skills at the moment. This frustration can lead us to shame ourselves for what just seems so easy.
What we have here is an expectation problem. Of course, you have a hard time reaching for skills in a challenging moment. How many years have you practiced doing the complete opposite of reaching for skills in these moments, and instead reached for the quick-fix AKA food? That’s why this seemingly easy task is so hard in the moment- our brain is not wired and habituated to doing it.
So let’s set our expectations straight- reaching for skills is very difficult to do in a moment you aren’t used to using them. Now, with the expectation that this is hard, we need to lower the obstacles and barriers to using them. For example, if you find your urges to eat to be the hardest to manage at night, let’s plan to already have your podcast and headphones ready on your bedside table, along with a tall glass of water, a stress ball, or incense to soothe with the senses. Or, you might make sure your journal is set out (pen already sitting on it) so that you can write out what you’re feeling, or set an alarm set to call a friend.
What’s more, you want to choose a skill that feels approachable and more comfortable to use at first. We like to call this “the skill of least resistance.” Maybe doodling in a notebook feels easier than calling a friend. Or stretching in bed feels easier than doing a full yoga practice. The key is choosing a skill you are more likely to use.
To sum it up, if you’re having trouble using skills, the name of the game is all about:
- Identifying the skills you are more likely to use
- Making that skill more accessible at the moments you need it most
As always, know that Team MC and the Beacon are here to help you break free from overeating and binge eating, and establish a loving and healthy relationship with food. We’re here rooting you on!