The Weirdest Tip for Managing Cravings – And it Just Might Work

by Charlotte on November 5, 2009 · 38 comments


The things I do for you people. Seriously. Everyone around me thinks I’m one tinfoil hat short of an alien encounter. And I did it for you.

EFT
Pronounced “fffffftttt” (kidding – it’s actually pronounced “I spit a lot”), Emotional Freedom Techniques is, in brief, a series of body movements, singing, tapping and eye rolling that you perform in a specific order to achieve emotional freedom.

Lest you say, “But I did not know I was in emotional bondage, Charlotte!” I must point out that everyone has some binding emotions. Think of this as an emotional laxative. Plus it will really make those holiday dinners a lot more entertaining once the Aunts get a load of you doing this.

Gary Craig, the founder of emofree.com, and one of the most ardent supporters of EFT explains, “Based on impressive new discoveries regarding the body’s subtle energies, Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) has proven successful in thousands of clinical cases. It applies to just about every emotional, health and performance issue you can name and it often works where nothing else will.” (emphasis his, actually if you go to his site you will discover he is very fond of The Bold.)

He asserts that this technique will help with everything from pain management to addictions to eating disorders to weight loss and everything in between. For my studies though, I was particularly interested in how some people use the technique to help manage cravings.

To be completely honest, I was pushed into this experiment by my overly aggressive bag of Halloween candy (I hate you Willy Wonka and your CandyLand house of HFCS horrors). A junior mint here, a nerd there, pretty soon I was pooping green food dye and getting sugar hangovers in the mid afternoon. The neighbors were starting to talk.

Full of good intentions (and you know where those lead), I downloaded the free EFT instructional manual. First thing you should know – it’s not a manual. It’s eighty-freaking-seven pages. It’s an e-book. As if your butt isn’t already squished into the shape of your (very uncomfortable IKEA) office chair. I skimmed. A lot. Okay, so I just read the bolded stuff. But there was a lot of bolded stuff!

You get the two-minute rundown: basically there are points on your body that are supposed to be emotional release points. Using your index and middle finger you either tap or massage each point. Craig gives a very lengthy explanation and list of steps with various different formulations. Some would say I have a short attention span, I would say I’m built like a hummingbird, but however you look at it Paul McKenna is more succinct:

The Tapping Technique
1. I want you get the biggest desire for a food that you can right now. If you don’t have a big enough craving, put this technique to one side and come back to it when you’re really feeling it.

2. Focus on this craving for a moment, and when you’ve thought of that I’d like you to rate your desire for a food on a scale of 1-10, with 1 being the lowest and 10 the highest. This is important, because in a moment we want to know how much you’ve reduced it.

3. On a scale of 1- 10, how strong is your craving? Remember, if you’re not really craving a bite (i.e. your craving is not at least a 7), come back to this technique later.

4. Now take two fingers of either hand and tap about ten times under your collarbone while you continue to think about eating.

5. Now tap under your eye ten times.

6. Now tap under your collarbone again.

7. Place your other hand in front of you and tap on the back of it between your ring finger and your little finger. Continue to think about your desire for food as you do this and each of the steps which follow:
  • Close your eyes and open them.
  • Keep your head still, keep tapping and look down to the right then down to the left.
  • Keep tapping and rotate your eyes round 360 degrees clockwise, and now 360 degrees anti-clockwise.
Remember to keep thinking about the food you were craving as you do this!
  • Now hum the first few lines of ‘Happy Birthday’ out loud.
  • Count out loud from 1 to 5.
  • Once again hum the first few lines of ‘Happy Birthday’ out loud.
8. Stop and check – on a scale from 1 to 10, what number is your craving at now?
If it hasn’t completely gone yet, just repeat this sequence again until it does.

PS> There’s a video if you follow the link to Paul McKenna’s site.

That’s right, you will be systematically tapping yourself in strange places whilst chanting happy birthday and counting like an over caffeinated preschooler. But other than your pride, what could it hurt to try?

For the last 3 days, every time I have gotten a craving for one of those nefarious little bars I have, much to my children’s amusement, got down with the tapping, singing and eye rolling. In fact, it got so bad that the younger one really thought it was his birthday and the older ones were starting to imitate me. (“You can’t do that sweetie, Teacher will think you have strange tics and send you home early and then I’ll never get my workout in. Plus Teacher already thinks mommy is crazy because mommy missed your randomly assigned “birthday” – since you were a summer baby – and left you bereft of peanut-free cupcakes and/or smelly erasers.”)

The end result? I ate less candy. For reals. I don’t know why. Gary Craig would say that my negative attitude is making me skeptical. I personally think my negative attitude makes me fun at parties but I digress. Whatever the reason – whether it was just distracting myself long enough for the craving to pass or that I “set my emotions free” – it seemed to work. In fact, during one rebellious moment I consciously argued with myself about actually doing the technique:

Me: I want the Swedish fiiiiiisssshhhh!
Other Me: Do the EFT!
Me: No! Because then I won’t want to eat the Swedish fish anymore.
Other Me: Well, huh.

I didn’t do the EFT and I ate the Swedish fish, feeling marvelously defiant. Take that – ! Um, who am I rebelling against exactly? Me? Oh. Take that, me.

Like I said, I don’t know why it worked. I don’t even know if it will keep working. But there is a surprising body of research supporting this as a valid technique beyond just the power of positive thinking. Check it out. In the end, what do you have to lose? Except a little bit of credibility but who cares what those homeless people in the alley think. You shouldn’t be shooting up smack anyhow. Besides, they’re just jealous of your nifty hat.

Any of you have experience with EFT? Who’s willing to do a mini-Experiment of their own? What holiday is your food downfall? (Mine’s Easter – darn jelly beans.)

PS> Look for baby news coming soon! It is imminent!

{ 37 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous November 5, 2009 at 4:00 am

They say cravings pass in ten minutes or so. (If it's a craving and not true hunger.) If you distract yourself with ANYTHING for ten (maybe 15) minutes, the craving will pass. Tap your face and hands 100,000 times and make the routine (tap your collarbone 10 times, then your eye ten times, then your collarbone again) difficult enough that you have to actually pay attention to what you're doing for the next ten minutes… bam, craving gone.

And if you think the tapping does something regular distraction doesn't… I've seen variations of this posted on a variety of websites. They all say that tapping certain places in certain patterns will release certain emotions and kill your craving. They all give you a different routine to do, different places to tap. They're pretty popular on pro-ana sites. But all they really do is distract you till the craving passes.

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Deb (Smoothie Girl Eats Too) November 5, 2009 at 4:08 am

Funny b/c when you said to sing happy birthday and then count from 1-5, I mis-read that and thought you meant to sing happy birthday and then the theme song to 9-5. And I thought: Hey Dolly Parton alone is enough to make you lose your appetite…KIDDING of course!! Love the Dols.

Oh Charlotte, I keep getting more nervous for you- have your babe already before I lose my mind! :-)

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Crabby McSlacker November 5, 2009 at 4:22 am

Can't wait to hear baby news!

And I gotta say, I vote for Distraction on the tapping thing, but if it works, I say go for it.

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bjbella5 November 5, 2009 at 5:04 am

"..feeling marvelously defiant. Take that – ! Um, who am I rebelling against exactly? Me? Oh. Take that, me."

That is the exact thought process I need to get rid of. The defiant me, defying..um..me.

Maybe this will distract/shock me out of the defiant stage so I have less inclination to rebel against myself.

How the heck did my wires get so crossed? I would love it if something so simple could undo it. I am IN!

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KatieP November 5, 2009 at 5:40 am

I am convinced it is more than just distraction as it has worked on reducing my cravings when nothing else did.

It also works on difficult emotions (fear, anxiety, frustration) by reducing the intensity. I don't know that mere distraction would achieve the same outcome.

I do the 'express' version which doesn't involve any singing, eye rolling or counting, just the taps.

It think it has something to do with releasing the trapped energy through your meridian points. I don't understand electricity either but it still works LOL

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azusmom November 5, 2009 at 5:45 am

Can I tap someone else? That would amuse AND distract me!

I have tho book (and CD). I admit I haven't experimented with the tapping much, but the CD is very relaxing!

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Jinxiie November 5, 2009 at 6:08 am

I've tried EFT a couple of times… for different things, like sinus problems. I think it helped, but who's to say?

Incidentally, another blogger I read – Gala Darling – has a lot of positive stuff to say about EFT and the wonders it works on your life!

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anonymous November 5, 2009 at 9:21 am

i've tried it quite succesfully for anxiety. i found the videos on you tube that guide you through it. i felt like a moron doing it though.

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Hanlie November 5, 2009 at 12:34 pm

I have a book about EFT, but haven't delved into it much yet… I think it's time!

Can't wait to hear the baby news!

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Sagan November 5, 2009 at 1:19 pm

"Me: No! Because then I won't want to eat the Swedish fish anymore.
Other Me: Well, huh."

Hm, I have the same kinds of conversations with myself…

That is one of the funniest techniques I've ever heard of. The things we do in the name of health experiments!

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Erika November 5, 2009 at 1:34 pm

I can see myself not wanting to control my cravings because what is the fun of that? Of course, after giving in, I will be mad at myself so it is a lose-lose! :)

Can't wait for the baby news!

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JavaChick November 5, 2009 at 1:38 pm

My thought reading the instructions was that you get yourself all distracted and confused trying to keep track of what the steps are and you forget your craving…But I guess that's not a bad thing if it keeps your hand out of the candy (or the candy out of your mouth).

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Dr. J November 5, 2009 at 1:38 pm

Use a hammer for the taping technique, and I'm sure you will be distracted! Then the only problem will be to convince the EMT's not to hang a Dextrose 5% Water IV drip and spoil all your efforts :-)

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Tracey @ I'm Not Superhuman November 5, 2009 at 2:18 pm

I think it's just a distraction that lets your cravings pass. But try it out… run an experiment where you do something else for the same amount of time next time a craving strikes. See if you're able to resist the call of the candy bowl then. Cutting out the whole Happy Birthday tap tap tap could make life a little less crazy.

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Geosomin November 5, 2009 at 3:13 pm

I'm cynical, but I'm guessing if I did anything for 10 minutes a craving would fade…
To me the continuously going back to the thinking about the craving bit seems a bit odd, as I think it would just make me crave it more.
Hmmm…I'll have to just suck it up and try it in the name of science!

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Joshua November 5, 2009 at 6:57 pm

It has to be a holiday for food to be a downfall? I guess I'm screwed. Usually it's Thanksgiving. Less so when it's at my house because I have to be more coherent to make and bake. When it's at my in-laws…I'm stuffed to the gills. I love food too much.

-Joshua

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AmyLou November 5, 2009 at 9:09 pm

I vote distraction.

And I watched Paul McKenna's show that was on a cable channel for a while–he is pretty good at giving advice to emotional eaters. I will have to check out his book.

Can't wait to hear the baby news! Post a few cutie-pie pics, too! :)

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Quix November 5, 2009 at 10:23 pm

I'm going to go with the distraction as well. If I get focused on something else, and I'm not truly hungry but just crave-y, it usually passes. If I'm still thinking about it after 10 minutes, I'll either have it and be done with it (if it's something small and can work into my day) or put it on the LIST.

For example, I have a mad craving for some delicious supreme pizza for about a month. Healthified veggie pizza with light cheese on a tortilla is NOT going to cut it. So on Sunday, we plan on ordering a medium pie and noshing on it all day as food along with lots of veggies and salad to fortify us. I find once I give myself permission to eat it LATER, it loses power. I've had a craving for a milkshake for 2 years, but I just CANNOT justify 700-1000 calories for a drink. I keep saying that I'll have one after a race, but I usually want something much more substantial after.

However, I haven't been very successful with weight loss this year. Maybe I should start tapping away and stick to my rabbit food instead. :)

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Jody - Fit at 51 November 5, 2009 at 10:28 pm

Looking for baby news!!!!!!!!!!

I have heard of that tapping thing.. I just am too lazy. I just ask myself if I really want it, what would I have to do to work it off, will it get in the way of my really fav treat, my cookie & so on…. by the time I get thru that, I usually know it is not worth it. If it still is, I eat it! :-)

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Quix November 5, 2009 at 10:28 pm

Oh geez, and most importantly, excited for baby news! :) Hope everything goes as smoothly as possible!

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Marste November 6, 2009 at 12:04 am

Charlotte, I don't know how this came to your attention, but my mom SWEARS by this. It works on stuff other than cravings, too (at least according to her; I haven't tried it, so I couldn't tell you). She's used it on emotional issues, physical issues, all kinds of stuff. It is, like KatieP surmised, supposed to work on the meridians. (Mom also does the "express" version, with just the tapping.)

As for whether or not it "really" works, beats me. It seems weird, but then again, it was only a few years ago that acupuncture was being dismissed by allopathic medicine as "all in your head," and a placebo effect. And now a lot of mainstream insurers COVER it! I don't think it's a far reach to think that EFT could work, too.

Also . . . fingers crossed for baby news!!!

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Julia November 6, 2009 at 5:34 am

"Me: No! Because then I won't want to eat the Swedish fish anymore.
Other Me: Well, huh."

So I'm not alone!! I happen to know that if I eat lots of garlic then I will feel mildly nauseous and not want to eat, so sometimes the side of me that is wistful for the good ol' ED days will say "you want that chocolate? go lick some garlic powder and see if you want chocolate" Then the other side of me says, "whoa, think about if you heard someone else say that, wouldn't you think that person is totally crazy?"
So theeeeen, you get to feel bad about the chocolate AND acknowledging yourself to be crazy

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Watching and Weighting November 6, 2009 at 11:44 am

i ADORE those swedish fish thingies!!!!!!

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VaMomof2 November 6, 2009 at 2:38 pm

Friday morning and no new post? Maybe that imminent was really, really imminent?

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Anonymous November 6, 2009 at 2:44 pm
Joshua November 6, 2009 at 2:49 pm

Awesome…I was wondering where I could score some more cheap Viagra.

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Marste November 6, 2009 at 5:03 pm

VaMomof2, I know, right? Here's hoping! Wishing you luck and sending you love, Charlotte! Just in case there really IS a baby imminent! :)

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Colleen November 6, 2009 at 5:12 pm

Ooooooh – hoping that no post today means that there's a baby on the way! Thinking of you!!

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bjbella5 November 6, 2009 at 5:34 pm

Wishing you the best Charlotte (along with everyone else who is thinking no new post means big baby news) Good luck & God bless!

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azusmom November 6, 2009 at 5:45 pm

Adding my wishes!!!

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Quix November 6, 2009 at 9:05 pm

Oooh, no new post. Baby time? Adding my wishes to the wishes… :)

…and being that a lot of us are thinking this, kudos for being so consistent with your blogging!!!

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Anonymous November 7, 2009 at 12:23 am

LOL at the photo… that poor cat looks so pissed off! Hahaha.

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Becky November 8, 2009 at 3:29 am

Good luck- I want to hear a baby story. And I would also have the same inner conflict and probably let my naughty self win.

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Michelle November 8, 2009 at 6:11 am

My counselor recommended EFT last year to help deal with stress. It was definitely the version without singing… it was just the statement, then the tapping with reaffirming words at the same time (you can say to yourself!) I have to say it really did help.

For what I was using it for distraction wasn't an issue. I can't distract myself from being super stressed. Well, I can, briefly, but as soon as I'm done distracting it's back– it doesn't dissipate. Works a little differently than cravings, I think (in fact never even knew it would be used for that!)

I do believe in meridians and chi and all of that as well, so maybe that's why it didn't seem so odd to me.

Keeping my fingers crossed for a squirmy bundle soon!

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M November 8, 2009 at 10:39 pm

I'm so excited for baby news….Here's hoping that it's a healthy baby, and that your delivery was speedy!!

There's no need to hope for cuteness, since I've seen pictures of your other kids, this one is guaranteed to be adorable too:)

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Amy November 8, 2009 at 11:15 pm

Sigh…you're going to have/have had your baby before me.

I'm too pregnant and competetive to be properly congratulatory right now. Sorry. Maybe by the time you've updated us, I'll be in labor or delivered, and can make up for my current lack of enthusiasm.

Amy
Due yesterday.

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Sophie Giraffe March 20, 2013 at 2:02 am

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