Tag Archives: cravings

How did I miss National Donut Day?!

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Did you miss your free donut?

Did you know that Friday was National Donut Day?  I did not.

This was brought to my attention – alas, too late! – by a client who updated me on this very important holiday.  While giving an update about the past week, she mentioned that she and her husband had to have a donut on Friday for this reason.  She chose it, enjoyed it, and did not feel regret later, so this was viewed as a successful choice.

This got me thinking:  How many days like this are there on the calendar?  I was surprised, but now I am so much more educated on the subject!  Yes, there is a National Pizza Day, a National Cupcake Day, a National Cheeseburger Day, and a National Jelly Bean Day.  There are also days to celebrate chocolate, chocolate chip cookies, and chocolate ice cream.  Is anyone surprised?

Hmmm.  Is there a National Carrot Day?  It turns out there is . . . AND a National Carrot Cake Day.  National App Day?  Sure, AND National Apple Pie Day.  There is no National Cauliflower Day, nor is there a National Collard Greens Day, but there is a National Brussels Sprouts Day.  Go figure!

Anyone looking for an excuse to splurge on sweets every day of the year is probably in luck.  Today is probably something like National Cinnabon Day, but don’t take this as a reason to run out and get one . . . unless you decide to consciously choose it, enjoy it, and not regret it later – and you don’t need a special day on the calendar to do that.

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“Coffee is far more than a beverage” and food is almost never simply fuel.

I had coffee with a friend recently.   Retreating from the cold Wisconsin weather, we settled in, warmed up, and savored the wonders of our steamy beverages:  the taste and warmth of the drinks, to be sure, but also the experience of connection in a cozy setting.

Later she sent this:

Yes!  We eat – and drink – for reasons that are complex and interconnected.  Do we ever eat simply for physical hunger and nourishment?   If so, it is rare, at least in developed countries.  I understand the metaphor of a human body as a car, and we want to use good quality fuel, but it’s not that simple!

We are human beings, not machines, so eating decisions are always interesting blends of physical hunger, pleasure seeking, and emotional needs.  We often weigh these factors unconsciously, so food decisions can seem to be controlled by factors beyond our control.  “I don’t know why I ate those cookies.  I couldn’t stop, and I didn’t even really like them that much.”  (In reality, the cookies may have been a mindless attempt to meet an emotional need, one that might have been more truly soothed with a non-food solution.)

I believe that one reason we tune out and don’t hear our genuine needs is that our diet-focused culture seldom encourages that kind of non-judgmental observation.  Why would we be curious about that if we believe that we should just follow a plan no matter what?!  Why question that craving?  Just resist it!

People who blindly try to follow a rigid eating plan do not always realize that ignoring real needs does not make them disappear.  In fact, the opposite is usually true; ignoring them is more likely to cause uncontrolled eating that appears to have no logic other than “I have no willpower, and I’m a total failure.”  There’s not much insight in that kind of thinking!

This is not to say that having a plan is a bad thing.  It is actually a very good thing if a plan is defined as having an intention to do something, but any plan that will work long term must be chosen, not imposed.  That means it should make sense for your body and be realistic for your life.  Maybe most importantly, any good plan for human beings needs to be flexible.

We know what we need if we pay attention.  If we listen, true needs (sometimes for physical nourishment, but sometimes for more complex things like warmth or comfort or pleasure or pain avoidance) become less mysterious and we can choose to honor them and care for them kindly, or we can decide to ignore what would be truly supportive and act outside of our best interests.

Either way, a choice is better than mindless default.  Choice always leaves the door open for a kinder approach next time, and choice is less likely to cause regret and disappointment, guilt and shame.

Don’t take my green tea latte away!

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Imagine a favorite pleasure food, one you can truly savor and enjoy without losing control.  Is it a small piece of dark chocolate?  Or does chocolate of any kind cause you to lose control too much to truly savor it?  Maybe a single ice cream sandwich is pure pleasure without the panic?  This is so individual.

For one of my weight loss clients, a green tea latte from Starbucks is the peak of pleasure.  It causes her to feel satisfied physically and emotionally; it is pleasurable without the downside of losing control.  She told me she has even “lightened” it up by having less syrup and now uses skim milk.  It has about 250-300 calories, and “oh, are they worth it!” she says.

I believe her.  Listening to her describe the experience, I want one too – not the green tea latte, but the experience!  You see, green tea lattes are not my thing, but I understand what she is saying.  For her, green tea lattes provide a relaxing, enjoyable experience that starts when she walks into a Starbucks store to place her order.  I feel that way when I order an ice cream cone.  Pure pleasure!

During our first meeting together, we set out to find the source of calories keeping her from losing weight.  The conclusion:  candy at the office was probably responsible for an extra 500-800 calories per day, almost every day.  Along with the candy she had an extra helping of guilt and lack of control, none of which happened when she had the green tea latte.

But . . . instead of getting the candy out of sight and and saving herself from the chaotic spiral downward, she had given up the lattes on the advice of a well-intentioned trainer.  While for many of us, giving up the latte would be easy, for her it was torture and deprivation.  Giving up the candy, she told me would be much easier.  In fact, having none would be easier than tempting herself with a little and losing control.

I asked, “So, when you didn’t have the lattes, how did you do with the candy?”  Her answer:  “Terrible, worse than ever!”  A strong (and emotional) feeling of deprivation was fueling her candy binges.

The plan was easy to figure out after that.  Get rid of the candy that added so many extra calories and did not give true pleasure.  Add back the lattes.

It turns out she had really understood all along, but didn’t trust herself:  “You know, I thought that giving up my lattes was probably not a good idea, because they satisfied me so completely, but I was told they were a waste of calories.”

It pays to listen to that little voice inside.  A waste of calories for one person may be a very intelligent use of them for another.  Are you listening to your needs and treating yourself kindly?

 

Shamrock Shakes: Are They Really THAT Special?

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Did you know that one of the most successful ways of luring you in and creating more fast food sales is the “limited time” pitch?   McDonalds’ shamrock shake is a perfect example.  Several people have confessed to me that they are CRAVING one.  And we just got over the “limited time” Girl Scout cookie challenge!

A recent article in Time Magazine talks more about how this selling technique works and why we buy it.  It is expensive to continually change a menu to keep offerings new and different.  It is much easier to add those special items “available for a limited time”, and we are so eager to jump at the idea of getting something that is so scarce!

In the case of the shamrock shake, is it really THAT special?  Any time of year, you can buy a vanilla shake from McDonalds, add a few drops of mint flavoring and a few drops of green food coloring and your shake will suddenly become seasonal.   Instant Irish, without the urgency, so calm down.  It’s not really so special after all.

Twinkies and Other Scarce Items

Ditto for alcohol – it is NOT scarce, especially not during the holidays.

You must have heard by now:  Hostess is going out of business.  Oh no!  No more Ho Ho’s, Snowballs, Ding Dongs, and worst of all – NO MORE TWINKIES.  Personally, this means nothing to me.  I have probably eaten a grand total of 2 Twinkies (at friends’ houses) over my entire lifetime, and I cannot recall a single craving or powerful memory of these chemically formulated masses of creamy filling and spongy cake.

I know there are people who feel differently though.  While leading my weight loss group this week, a participant told us that she had not thought of Twinkies in years, but . . . once she heard that they would no longer be available, and that people were scrambling to buy the few that are left, . . . well, she started to feel like she had to have one (or more).

They have taken on the luster of “scarcity appeal”.  I’m sure the reward center of the brain fires like crazy when we find something that we know is hard to get.  Remember the Cabbage Patch Kids?  Every holiday season, there is at least one toy that parents get up at the crack of dawn to wait in line for hours to buy.  If you ask me, that is brilliant marketing – make just enough to sell a bundle, while creating a feeling of scarcity.

Food can create this frenzied feeling too.  Twinkies are a great example.  They really are scarce now, but many foods only seem scarce.  The result is the same – gotta have it now, because it won’t be around long.

Holiday foods create this allure for lots of us.  One might feel that a special dessert or gooey side dish that their Grandma makes is only available now.  “I had better eat it until I can’t hold any more” is the feeling that type of thinking can create.

But is that true – REALLY?  Probably not.  Most foods can either be bought or made at any time these days.  So slow down and think about it.  Realizing that special goody is really not as scarce as it feels may take away a bit of the urgency to eat it all now.

It always feels better to feel in control of choices, so try not to let the frenzy of a scarcity feeling get the best of you.  We really don’t need excuses for what we eat, just more true understanding of the choices and our right to choose.