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I'm Not Going to Eat Chocolate

May 21, 2011

Note: Learn more about the Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating program here or at www.amihungry.com.

 

This week has been pretty crazy at work, with a lot of us frantically preparing for a conference we’re hosting next week. Especially disturbing and annoying was dealing with some last-minute problems with our software, trying to figure out why something didn’t work when it had just ten minutes before.

When I was helping a co-worker trouble-shoot one of these issues, without much success, she sent me an e-mail that read, “I love my job…. I love my job…. I’m not going to eat chocolate.”

I laughed, but it also gave me pause. Although in some ways it was a non-sequitur, I knew exactly what she meant. And that says volumes about our society.

How telling is it, after all, that someone who’s stressed would immediately turn to thoughts of chocolate (or other comfort food of choice) as a way to unwind a little, or as a reward or treat for getting through a tough day? I doubt it’s always been that way, or at least that prevalent. But now, this is so much the norm that it takes effort, sometimes, to even notice we’re doing it.

The Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating program addresses this, trying to help snap people out of making that automatic association. If we’re stressed, why don’t we consider a stretch break, or just looking at a pleasant scene and breathing deeply, or perhaps going for a short walk? After all, in those situations we do deserve a break, but it doesn’t have to the type of break suggested by Kit-Kat ads. (Remember those? “Give me a break, give me a break, break me off a piece of that Kit-Kat bar….”)

What was particularly noteworthy was realizing that I can’t quite remember the last time my reaction to stress was to reach for chocolate. These days, I try to get out for walks (weather permitting), read a book for a few minutes, write about what’s stressful, or stretch. On the other hand. I clearly remember when turning to food was what I always did.

I like it better now. For one, my new methods are often more effective ways to relax than eating. Even better, it means that when I do eat chocolate, I can focus on enjoying it, and not be distracted by whatever stressful things are going on around me.

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