From binge eating to the bin

I went into the supermarket knowing exactly what I wanted: lolly cake. That classic Kiwi treat. There was nothing I wanted more in the world than a thick slice of malty fudge interspersed with chewy nougat-y candy.

I had wanted the same thing the day before, too.

And the day before that.

I just couldn’t move past this craving. No matter how many other things I put in my mouth or how I distracted myself, I still really, really, really wanted lolly cake. I dreamed about it! In fact, the more I tried not to eat lolly cake, the more I wanted it.

And now here I was, about to give in. I turned the packet over in my hands and bit my lip. Should I really get it? Surely just a little bit would satisfy my craving and then I could move on. I bought a packet.

I ate it all and I still wanted more. And so I entered another round of trying to eat other things or do other things to distract myself, but of course it didn’t work. There was only one thing that would make this craving go away, and that was to eat more lolly cake.

So I bought some more. And I ate it all, again. And I still wanted more. I was entering my clients’ worst nightmare. The “If I start eating it, I won’t be able to stop” nightmare. But, unlike my future clients, I wasn’t going to restrain myself any longer. It was crystal clear to me that trying not to eat lolly cake was like trying not to think about elephants. It just made it worse.

Well, no more. I was going to conduct a little experiment instead. I went into the supermarket for the third day in a row and this time I was completely determined. I bought three packets of lolly cake and even before I took one bite, I already felt much more relaxed knowing I wouldn’t run out. Over the next couple of days I ate lolly cake whenever I felt like it and I ate as much as I felt like.

And then, just like clicking my fingers, I was over it. I ended up throwing a lot of leftover lolly cake in the bin. Now that I was no longer restricting my intake, now that I had switched my scarcity mindset to an abundance mindset, I didn’t actually want it. Did I even like lolly cake? Or did I only want it when I told myself I couldn’t have it?

Scarcity sells. That’s why marketers say “Limited time offer! Only while stocks last!” And we buy because of it. Well, the same is true of food. When we tell ourselves we can’t have something, it only makes us want it more. And this concept is completely at odds with a culture in which we are encouraged to have ‘everything in moderation’ and restrict our intake of unhealthy foods.

This clash creates the perfect storm for a lot of people. They begin to restrict foods, thinking they are being responsible and healthy, but then they begin to obsess about those foods and they crave them so much that eventually they give in and binge on them. So they guiltily try to restrict again. And the cycle continues.

I broke this cycle for myself when I made the conscious decision to eat as much lolly cake as I wanted, whenever I wanted. I let go of all restriction and found the lolly cake lost its power over me. This food challenge is one that I have repeated with my clients countless times over the years, with fantastic results.

The more they completely let go of their food rules, the more they allow themselves to just go crazy eating forbidden foods, the quicker this phase passes. And then they quite suddenly find themselves naturally craving nourishing foods. Just as I found myself craving salad and sardines when the lolly cake urge stopped.

It’s a scary thing to let go of your food rules, but I promise you it’s worth it. You will go crazy, you’ll eat a lot of junk food, and yes, you might even put on a bit of weight. You’ll definitely second guess this advice. But if you can push past that, the phase will pass, things will settle down, and forbidden foods will no longer hold power over you.

Go on. Try it.

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