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Urge Surfing: How to Keep from Eating too Much

What are urges?

Urges are a strong desire or impulse and they come in three different forms:

Reactions – Example moving out of the way of something coming towards you

Compulsions – a need to complete a ritual “I always touch the lamp post at the point where I turn around on my walk.”

Desires – Impulsive actions that get stronger if it’s not acted upon

Not all urges are bad – urge to eat and drink when hungry or thirsty as long as it’s not taken to excess.

There are times though where urges are associated with a craving which can come from some trigger or ingrained “always done it” habit. 

An example comes from one of my Mindset Coaching clients.

For years after her meal, while she cleaned the kitchen she would always eat a few cookies. She said she did this as a reward for doing something that she really didn’t like. Yet after many years of this, it stopped being a reward and became more of an expected activity, one that she did without really thinking about it.

This habit got to a point where it didn’t completely register with her that she was doing it. It was only after an activity I asked her to do where she wrote down everything she was eating for a 24 hour period did it become evident that the cookies-while-cleaning habit needed to go. 

As you can guess, this habit wasn’t going to be easy so one of the tools that I had her employ was “Urge Surfing”

So what is Urge Surfing?

Urge surfing is the idea of riding the wave of the urge without succumbing to it. It comes from the idea that urges come to us in waves, some are small and some are really big and you have two choices when it comes to these “urge waves”. You can let it swallow you and you let the urge win. This isn’t always a negative. There are positive times where you need to let the urge win, in the case of thirst.  

Or you can try to “surf” the urge which is to ride the feelings this urge is creating but not letting it overcome you. 

So how do you do this?

1. be aware of the trigger that creates the urge – While I clean the kitchen I always eat a cookie

2. Know how it physically feels when you actively avoid the urge – I start clenching my jaw as I try to not eat that cookie. This can take some mindful work to connect the feeling to the urge.

3. Don’t avoid the feeling of the urge, instead focus on what the feeling is. Meditation or writing in a journal about how it feels is a good start.

4. Tell yourself that this won’t last forever. Most urges don’t last more than 30 minutes.

5a. Genuinely congratulate yourself when you feel the urge go away. It’s not an easy thing to do but you did it.

5b. Don’t beat yourself up if the urge wins, especially when you first start this. You’ve been doing this habit for years. It’s going to take time to change it. 

For my mindset coaching client, this urge surfing worked really well for her and while she admits a cookie will find its way to her during her cleaning it’s much less often now just by knowing that she has this tool.

So if you find yourself giving in to habits and urges you would rather not, try to surf the feeling of the urge.

If you found this helpful and would like to know more about other tools and techniques you can use to get the most from your tool you can set up a call to talk about how mindset coaching can help you.