The last indulgence I had... fresh homemade biscuits with homemade strawberry jam.

If there’s one thing I know about myself, it’s this: the more I try to deny myself access to something, the more desirable that something becomes. Be it cupcakes, cookies, ice cream, brussel sprouts… whatever. If I deny myself access to it for long enough, the more desirable it becomes.

I’m willing to bet I’m not the only person wired that way.

Depriving myself of something, in a sense, means that even though I “reeeeeeeeeally want” something, I’m still saying “no.” This isn’t just a simple “I’d like to have it.” This is an “OMG I WANT IT AND THIS ISNT FAIR DAMN IT!” craving. That kind of compulsion is strange and it means that something else may very well be behind the craving – like a sugar addiction, perhaps? – that needs to be addressed.

Isn’t this part of what makes dieting so silly, though? Not only do you not address the real issue (why the craving exists), and not only do you deprive yourself of something you want, in most cases you’re depriving yourself of lots of the things you need. Like, well, food. C’mon – grapefruit is awesome and all… but I couldn’t imagine eating only grapefruit for breakfast and lunch and then having “a sensible dinner.” Substitute grapefruit for an [insert brand name] shake and, well… the same thing applies.

Deprivation – and by default, dieting – simply don’t work for me. I also have to admit that I, personally, don’t crave things like cookies, cupcakes, pies, donuts… really, I don’t have cravings at all anymore.

I wasn’t always this way, though. I used to be ruled by my cravings. Back when I found myself craving things like the entire bag of goldfish, I never considered why I would have such a ridiculous craving. I mean, really. An entire bag of goldfish?

That’s not a craving. That’s a catastrophe.

But there, I’d stand – I didn’t even sit down for ’em – with the bag in one hand and a ton of goldfish in the other, pouring them down my throat. It was an overall lose-lose situation for me.

For me, my cravings were borne of my emotional eating. I craved something that would “make me feel better” because there were things that I couldn’t/wouldn’t control in my life that were making me feel worse. Mind you, we all have things in our lives that we cannot control that make us feel bad – say, a tough situation at work – but using food to self-medicate has much more harmful side-effects besides “oh, I’m gaining weight.”

As someone who’s still learning about her relationship with food, if I find myself craving something then I have a personal dialogue with myself before and while I’m eating. I think to myself, “Do I really want this?” followed by “Why do I want this?” and if my answer isn’t sufficient or if it’s clearly just a case of me trying to talk myself into doing something I don’t want to do, I notice that.

I mean, even at my most manipulative, I’m still aware of when I’m trying to manipulate myself into doing something when I’m not sure it’s the best decision. It usually sounds something like a commercial for whatever product I’m craving at that time. “C’mon… you deserve…” or “It’s been a long time since you’ve enjoyed…” are two phrases that come to mind, here.

When I catch myself being manipulative, I ask myself… do I really want this? And I won’t lie. Sometimes, the answer is an emphatic “YES!” and I’ll indulge. But knowing that I’m eating because of a craving – no matter the size – and not for something that I’d personally consider to be a legitimate reason…. knowing that? It ruins the indulgence for me. I’m serious.

If I decide that I’m craving a croissant from the bakery around the corner, and I’ve set my mind on it… it does me no personal or mental good to tell myself “no.” I know myself. But knowing that this is simply a craving and not anything substantial makes it hard for me to enjoy the croissant… and it makes it hard to ever crave it again.

But what happens when, after all of that, I still indulge anyway? What happens when I decide to bite into that croissant? I think long and hard about whether or not I’m fueling an addiction. I think – for even longer – about whether or not I’m doing myself a favor by eating this. I think about whether or not, after I’ve thoroughly dissected my logic behind biting into it in the first place, I even really wanted it. Usually, the answers fall in line with the “I should’ve never done this” camp.

Am I shaming myself a bit, here? Of course. But, as I’ve written before:

To me, shame is inevitable. If you’re in a position of learning, you will feel like that same learning – that position of being the student instead of the teacher in regards to something “that should be common sense” – is highlighting a shortcoming.. and you may feel ashamed of that. I know I did. Shame brought on by someone guilting you – and trust me, you know it’s malicious because you can’t identify the person as someone coming from a place of love – is unacceptable.

If I’m in the position of learning about myself and my cravings, I’ll inevitably feel some kind of way about learning when and where I fall short. But since “knowing is half the battle,” this is the best path for me. It’s a path I could never embark upon if I lived a life of continual deprivation.

My cravings for croissants? Gone. Cupcakes? Gone. Cookies? Gone. Realizing the “why” behind my cravings, learning the reasons behind those cravings, addressing those “issues” and accepting the consequences of those indulgences has taught me far more than struggling for years with trying to develop some sense of “will power.”

And that’s another story entirely.

What about you? How do you deal with “deprivation?” How do you handle cravings?