Identifying Urges and High Risk Situations

Distinguishing cravings (urges) from hunger, conquering cravings and behavior chains are all points we need to face – spotting the urge before it occurs. Urges can become a signal for corrective action.

Think carefully about when you are most likely to find your diet threatened. Is it when you have certain feelings, like loneliness or frustration? Is it when you have to deal with some person? Is it when you feel bad about your life and your weight? Is it when someone offers you food? Look back over your Monitoring Records and your dieting experience to identify these situations.

Now that you are able to identify urges and high risk situations, let’s plan ahead. We will learn a technique called “outlasting the urges” and learn to use alternatives to eating when high risk situations arise. These become our armor when we are barraged with temptation.

Outlasting the Urge

It is possible to prevent a lapse by dealing with urges. I title this “outlasting the urge”, because an urge will usually go away if you just wait it out. This is easier said than done sometimes, but the rewards are high when you succeed.

Dr. Alan Marlatt, a psychologist feels that an urge can be compared to a wave, and that conquering the urges can be compared to surfing. A wave begins small, builds to a crest, breaks and then subsides. Urges follow a similar course. They usually build gently to their strongest point and then weaken and gradually fade away.

The wave analogy is much different than the way people usually think about urges. Some dieters feel that an urge builds and will create havoc unless it is gratified by eating. Actually, gratifying an urge by eating makes urges stronger and more frequent. In contrast, letting the urge pass, like the wave rolling in, will weaken it. If you can outlast enough of the urges, they will fade to obscurity.

The image of “urge surfing” is a good one. Pretend you are learning to surf. As the wave rolls in, you can battle it and be wiped out, or you can maintain your balance and “ride” the wave until it subsides. Being a good urge surfer involves identifying the urges early in their development and then readying your skills to ride the wave. If the wave is upon you at full strength before you recognize it, you may wipe out no matter how well you surf. If you recognize the wave early, but cannot surf, you will also wipe out. Therefore, both parts are important – early recognition and also having the skills to cope with the urges. Simply waiting for the urge to pass can be all you’ll need, but not always. Sometimes urges and high risk situations are stronger than others, so techniques other than waiting are necessary. Once such technique is the use of “alternate activities”. Please refer to “Using Alternate Activities” article.

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