Each of us has a vice, most of us have several, some have many. These vices vary in their strength from annoying habits to full-blown addictions. I have no experience with full-blown addictions, so I’m not even going to venture there. However, like many others, I have some minor, unhealthy food addictions. And, like most of those many others, those addictions surround anything chocolate.
You Know What I’m Talking About
This will likely sound familiar to you: You’ve had a really rough week, it’s Friday night, and you drop into your couch, turn on the TV, and declare, “Lord, it’s been a shitty week. I deserve some chocolate.”
Then you drag yourself off the couch, get something to drink (could be water, could be tea, could be something stronger), and dump a horde of chocolate in whatever form suits your fancy onto your plate or into your bowl. As you’re watching your show, you’re delighting in the fact that you’ve “earned” this forbidden feast of fanciful sweetness that tickles your taste buds into serotonal submission.
And, when it’s all over, you realize you’ve just ingested 25% of your daily caloric intake right before bed. And after you’d ingested your entire caloric intake for the day. (I did that back in February. I started with a tiny handful of cashews and within minutes had added four Lindor chocolates. Oops.)
Deserving a Vice
About a month ago, something dawned on me about this bizarre ritual. Why do we tell ourselves we deserve something bad when we’re particularly stressed and could, to be honest, really use something good?
Think about that for a moment: You’ve had a difficult week, you can hardly move, maybe you’re even livid at someone or some event, your cortisol is up, your heart is pounding, you can feel that shroud of exhaustion all around your body…and you’re rewarding yourself with something that doesn’t help any of that, and at worst, exacerbates it all.
(For me, it’s the blood sugar ups and downs I get from too much sugar – which displays itself in a range of issues.)
So, that sentence up above actually says, “Lord, it’s been a shitty week. I deserve to eat something harmful.”
Does that make any sense? It didn’t to me, so I’m trying something different. I don’t only find beautiful, decadent chocolate desserts inspiring and enticing; I feel the same about a bowl of muesli and fresh fruit.
Fresh fruit, especially berries, does more for my tongue than most desserts, and the bright colours against a backdrop of beiges and creams (the muesli and your choice of milk or substitute) is my favourite colour combination. I like how the calming, neutral colours support the distinctive, vibrant ones. The image reminds me of people who are at peace with themselves and therefore have a clear, distinct, unwavering voice.
What else makes me feel good? A good workout, an hour at my novel during “awake” hours (i.e., when my brain isn’t trying to shut down), a beautiful salad, and a smoothie with a scoop of protein powder in it. (Okay, depends on the taste of the protein powder. Some are just brutal.)
So, why on earth would I not say, “Lord, it’s been a shitty week. I deserve something healthy”?
Flipping the Vice
I’ve tried this new way of thinking for a few weeks now, which isn’t enough to write a book on, but it’s enough to plant the idea on your mind, too.
Here’s what seems to be happening: Not only am I turning around this idea of “deserving,” i.e., that I deserve something good for me as opposed to deserving something harmful, but I’m also removing the special status sweets have for me. I actually rarely touch chocolate now. However, I do eat a small dessert once or twice each day after a meal or a healthy snack, when it does less harm to my blood sugar. I also use an herbal supplement* my naturopath prescribed me to help with cravings.
The result? My sweet tooth is just a part of my everyday life. I do have to exercise a little self-discipline, but generally speaking, changing how I view my chocolate vice as made a huge difference.
What About Eating Out?
I’ve also done the same for ordering at a restaurant. Previously, my main criterion was to look for something I wouldn’t normally eat at home. That makes sense, given the senselessness of paying for food you can easily cook yourself.
However, because fries are included on the list of things I don’t usually eat at home, I almost always went for something with fries. Recently, new legislation came into effect that requires chain restaurants to display the caloric value of all the meals on their menus. When I saw the value for my usual order at one chain restaurant, I learned I was ingesting my entire day’s worth of calories in just one meal! I’ll do that for a beautiful, hand-crafted dessert but certainly not for chicken and fries.
If you’re struggling with a minor vice, consider turning your thinking around on it. Raise what’s good for you to the status of “special” and reduce what’s bad for you to “normal” by incorporating a healthy dose of it into your day. Sometimes, we only need to change how we feel about something to change how we deal with it.
*I won’t say what the supplement is. All medicines, whether herbal, over-the-counter, or prescribed, only work in the right circumstances, and at their worst can be very, very harmful. I don’t want to encourage anyone to take anything medicinal without a professional’s help.