This week at work a big box of brownie bites appeared in the break room. Our break room is usually pretty benign but every once in a while someone brings in something really delicious and tempting. If anything in the sweet department shows up, I’m checking it out, especially brownies.
The first day they appeared they caught my eye and I really wanted one. I love chocolate and the fact that these were bites of brownie, was also appealing. (Eating a lot of brownie would not serve my energy well for the rest of the work day.) So instead of building the brownie up in my head to be something bigger than it was, I just ate one. Then I went back to work. (More on that in a second.)
If I had taken a deprivation approach to that brownie, things would’ve gone very differently. To tell myself “you shouldn’t eat that” or “that would be bad to eat that brownie” immediately elevates that brownie to a place of unnecessary power. I would be allowing it to determine if I’ve been good or bad, pious or sinful, productive or lazy. It would also likely consume my thoughts for some time after, interfering with my ability to fully concentrate on work. All this for a brownie bite, which is a completely neutral object.
Guys, open your ears and hearts to this: Nothing you eat or don’t eat makes you good or bad. Nothing you eat or don’t eat makes you better or worse. Nothing you eat or don’t eat makes you more worthy of anything.
You are good, better, worthy and it has nothing to do with your food choices.
Please remember this: The more you avoid a food, the more you will likely desire to eat it. You give it power. (There is actually a lot of research to support this so trust me on this one.) But when you eat a food, fully enjoy it and experience it’s qualities, you no longer let food define your value. You turn it into the neutral object it is meant to be and guess what? You can experience joy!
When you allow yourself to eat foods that you truly want and treat it as a neutral object, no food becomes elusive and haunting. It gives you freedom to enjoy that food without judgement. When the judgement is quieted you then can tap into actually enjoying your eating experience. And when you are tapped into enjoyment you are also allowing your hunger/satiety cues to do their job, signally you to stop when you are satisfied. It’s the beautiful way eating is supposed to work and it builds trust with your body.
Now let’s go back to what happened when I tasted that brownie bite. First, let me say that it looked so good. It had all the brownie wrinkles on top that signify perfect texture. It smelled incredible. But when I tasted it…wa, wa, wa waaaaaa. Unfortunately, it didn’t live up to the hype I had created. It was OK, not great. I was honestly sad it wasn’t better. Do you want to see what they brownies looked like? Here they are:
Was this a wasted experience? Absolutely not! I listened to my body, approached a food as neutral, and attempted to enjoy my experience. And I learned something really helpful through it. These particular brownies are not my favorite. I’ve had much better. Therefore, when another box appeared later in the break room again, which it totally did, I recalled my last experience with the brownie. There was no “willpower battle” over to eat or not eat. I could say to myself, been there, done that, not that great.
For the sake of conversation, let’s say the opposite had happened — the brownies were amazing! I had the first brownie bite and I wanted more. This has certainly happened to me, most likely over chocolate chip cookies. There are so many options for how we could approach this situation. Let’s talk through them:
- First, is making sure I really enjoyed that first brownie bite. Instead of gulping it down while walking back to my office, I could put it on a napkin and take it to a place I could sit down and enjoy it. Instead of eating it in 2 bites, maybe I try to get 3 bites out of it to really savor it. This gives all my senses time to enjoy it and let satisfaction really register in my brain.
- Second, after eating the first brownie and desiring a 2nd, I could ask myself why I want another brownie. If I’m really hungry, then perhaps it’s time to eat a meal or snack. Before taking a 2nd brownie, I should eat my meal or snack and then decide if I still want another.
- My third option, is to assess if my desire for another brownie is emotionally driven. Am I really feeling bored, stressed, or annoyed and this brownie is promising me happiness on the other side? Maybe the brownie will help me feel better, maybe it won’t. I have the option to decide if my emotions or a situation need to be handled first before I can really enjoy this brownie. My favorite intervention in this situation is to first take a 5 minute walk, say to a farther away bathroom, then decide about the brownie. It gives me just a little time to make sure I will enjoy and truly want a second brownie.
- Lastly, I can just eat another brownie because it was awesome and I just want one. This is completely fine. Nothing is wrong with me and this one decision will certainly not bring any significant, long term, or negative consequences. It is ok to just want another brownie.
So, how do you not eat that brownie in the break room? By eating it. See what happens. Take the mystery and the power out of the situation. Learn about what you really like and trust your body. Tune in to the signals that your body is suppose to be sending you. It’s OK. Think about it like an experiment, not a test.
What do you think? Leave a comment or question or drop a comment on the Make Healthy Easy Facebook.
To eating a 2nd brownie and really enjoying it,