Note: To learn more about the Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating program, visit www.AmIHungry.com, or my website.
Imagine you could push a button and see a list of your weaknesses. Would food in general – or maybe a specific food – be included?
In the movie Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, this was something the characters could literally do once they were in the video game. And I laughed out loud when “cake” popped up as a weakness for one of them.
It got me thinking about what it means in the real world when a certain food seems to be our own Kryptonite. Luckily the results are less spectacular than in the movie, but it doesn’t mean these foods don’t have control over us or our lives.
In the Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating program, we talk about these as forbidden foods, the ones we can’t have in the house because we know we’ll eat them mindlessly, in larger amounts than we need. We can’t resist their siren call, the little voices calling, “I’m here! I’m delicious! Eat me!”
Chips – especially Doritos – used to fall into this category for me, back when I started learning how to eat mindfully. It felt like the Pringles slogan applied to all chips: “One you pop, you can’t stop.”
I cut chips out of my grocery list, and I steered clear of that aisle in the store. If I went to a social event that had chips, I tried to avoid them. What if I devoured them all like a mad woman in front of everyone? How embarrassing would that be?
But they still had a hold over me. I’m not sure why. I guess the combination of the salt and crunch appealed to me on a deeper level. And I know I’m not alone in this.
Then something amazing happened. I don’t remember exactly when, but at some point, I saw a bowl of chips – and I didn’t care. It was like I had tuned my brain to a different station, and I could no longer hear the insidious voice calling me to eat the chips.
What changed? I suspect it was that since I had been eating more foods with a higher nutritional content, my body had started to want those more than foods that were nutrient-poor. And since I had also been listening to my body, those signals drowned out the earlier voices.
As a result, I could think about how tasty chips were, and eat a couple to revel in that salty crunch, without feeling like I needed more.
And that was it. They were no longer a weakness.
These days I still don’t buy chips. I don’t dislike them, and I’m not afraid to have them around. I simply don’t feel like eating them much. I honestly prefer cake, like this chocolate layer cake with raspberry jam in the middle that I made for a friend’s birthday.
But if cake – or anything else – is one of your weaknesses, I hope it helps to know it may be possible to change that, so you can enjoy it in moderation and then go about the rest of your life fearlessly, without worrying when cake will next tempt you.