For this first of my new heart-to-heart blog series about how so many of us relate to food and our body in ways that feel a bit crazy (or crazier than we’d like), we’ll explore why the concept of moderation is so difficult to integrate in our lives (and especially in our stomach).
I don’t know what to do. I’m trying to get away from black-and-white thinking around food but it doesn’t seem to be working for me.
I know that restricting the “bad” foods doesn’t work because it only makes me want to eat them more… but as much as I’d like to be able to enjoy treats with moderation, it just seems impossible for me.
If I try allowing myself one cookie, I can never stop after one. I go back for a second one, then a third… and before I know it they’re all gone and I feel like a failure (again).
Is there any hope?
Thank you Cookie Monster for your question!
I can totally relate to this because I’ve found myself in the same situations countless times. Sometimes with cookies or muffins and very often with a chocolate bar. How many times did I buy a bar planning on eating one or two squares a day only to have it all gone within less than an hour of putting my plan into action?! :/ I can totally understand this black-and-white thinking and also felt that my brain could simply not do gray.
💜 Here’s my reply back to you:
Dear Cookie Monster,
First of all, please know that you’re not alone. I’ve done it too and have heard so many of my clients struggling with the exact same thing, over and over again, and feeling like the biggest failure every single time.
I also want you to know that there is absolutely nothing wrong with you for feeling stuck in this black-or-white thinking because this is simply the result of a diet mentality.
Maybe you don’t “diet”, but I would argue that you probably have a diet mentality. Be honest here. Do you see cookies as being a “bad” food? You don’t have to be on the cabbage soup diet to diet. Eating “clean” or watching your portions are also ways to diet. It all registers the same way for your brain, especially if you have the desire to lose weight or change the way your body looks.
Here’s a quote I recently read from Geneen Roth: “As long as there is that voice “not allowed”, as long as there are foods you feel you shouldn’t eat, you create struggle and conflict. As long as there is struggle, there is bingeing. As long as there is bingeing, there is fear about eating what you want.”
How do you feel when you read this? Does that ring true?
When you eat that cookie, consider if you are:
- hoping that if you could just learn this “moderation” thing, then you could probably finally lose the extra weight (and live happily ever after…)?
- feeling guilty for wanting to eat a cookie in the first place?
- eating that cookie standing up in the kitchen or while watching TV and not fully tasting and savoring it?
- thinking about how this is the only cookie you’re allowed for today?
- feeling guilty for even thinking about eating a second one?
- finding yourself go back to get another cookie almost like on auto-pilot?
- telling yourself that you have no willpower and are completely out of control?
- feeling like you’ve completely blown it and might as well have a third one?
- feeling even more guilty and going back for more cookies to help you feel better?
And no, I’m not a mind reader. I just know because that was me too.
The problem is not the cookie (or chocolate or ice cream or whatever might be calling your name).
The problem are the thoughts you have floating around in your mind.
Thoughts you mistakenly take as truth.
Here’s what I suggest for you to try. If you really feel like eating a cookie, put a few on your plate (at least 3), sit down and really eat these cookies. One bite at a time. You can try noticing how your difference senses are perceiving the cookie (how they look like, how they feel between your hands and in your mouth, how they smell, how they sound when you take a bite, how they taste…) if you like to be more present if you want but you don’t necessarily have to.
The only thing I would ask you is to watch your thoughts.
What are you thinking about when eating your cookies?
Notice how any thoughts about restriction or weight affect your desire to eat more.
Give yourself permission to not have to change anything. Just watch. Be like a reporter interested in accurately documenting the story you tell yourself in your mind and how it affects your behaviors.
Then the solution will be simple (although not necessarily easy).
Let me know how that goes! I’m really curious to hear what the reporter in you finds out!
Your non-diet dietitian and heart & soul nutritionist, 💜
P.S. If you like this, please join my private online sisterhood (on Facebook).
p.s.s. if you feel like you could have written this letter, you should check out my free online training “The Whole Batch Syndrome.” Click on the link to find out if you have the symptoms and how you can start healing your relationship with food and your body. ♥♡♥