I remember a time when I stopped buying food that I thought was bad, knowing that I couldn’t keep it in the house without eating it – or thinking about eating it.
I would buy say a bag of potato chips, serve myself just a small amount and put the rest in the pantry. But then it felt like the pantry was calling me, the chips were saying ‘eat me’, I couldn’t leave the rest of the bag. So inevitably I’d have just another small portion, and then another, and then because there was hardly any left, I’d finish the packet – “then it’s gone, and I don’t have to worry about it” – I rationalised to myself, telling myself that I would in future just have to stop buying the big bags.
Then I tried purchasing individual portions – surely this would sort me out. I could have the sense and satisfaction of finishing a whole packet, but there would be more left for another day. But no, knowing there were more individual packets left played on my mind until they were gone. Then I would feel guilty that I’d eaten more portions than I should, and that I was wasting rubbish by opening so many individual packets. I must simply stop buying them altogether because I clearly had no self-control.
When I visited family and friends, that moment when they would open the pantry to pull out the teabags or the packet of biscuits to serve, I would peek inside, and then feel so envious that they could keep things like chocolate, open and half eaten, and not even think about it. Something must be wrong with me.
‘How do they do it – do they not think about that open chocolate block all the time?’. I longed for that kind of self-control.
When I finally allowed myself to understand that there is no good and bad about food, that it is just food, I gave myself permission to eat what I wanted when I wanted it. What I discovered, is that when you stop restricting things from your diet, you can enjoy and get pleasure from all different foods and eat just what you feel like. When I knew that I could have more potato chips anytime I wanted, that they would be there tomorrow and the day after and the day after if I wanted, the need to eat them all for fear it would be the last time I ate them stopped.
When we break free from diet rules and restrictions, a whole new world of freedom opens up. We can learn to listen to our body - what it actually wants and when. I can eat one row of chocolate without eating the whole block, knowing that it will always be there whenever I want it.
Next time you get those feelings of needing to go all or nothing with a particular food, try asking yourself what it would be like if you would allow yourself to have some anytime? Does the need to eat it all now lessen when you know that it will be there again tomorrow if you want it? Do you really want to eat it all now, or is that the need to control coming through? Take a note of what your body is really telling you, you might be surprised!