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Healthy Eating Excerpt from Don't Weight


Lauren was not overweight (This is not her real name. I always change the names to preserve confidentiality.) She was an average-sized woman. We were working together in counseling to reduce her depression, increase her self-esteem, and improve her family relationships. She had trouble sleeping, felt lethargic (especially at home in the evenings), was quick to anger, and seemed to get sick all the time.

Of course we worked on many different aspects of her feelings, choices, reactions, motivations, etc. After a while, one issue surfaced that seemed as if it could have an effect on many of the other issues at hand. Resolving this one issue provided profound and immediate results. When we solved this one problem, Lauren slept better, had more energy in the evening, felt better about herself, and had more patience with her family in the evening. That is the story I want to tell you now. You may find it interesting. You may find yourself in the story. You may find new hope for coping with an old problem.

Lauren's days were very stressful. She was rushed in the morning. Getting herself and everyone else in the family out the door on time was a real challenge. There certainly was no time to sit down and have breakfast. Coffee to go, with cream and sugar, was all she needed to stave off hunger pangs. She drank lots of coffee all day long. At lunch, with everyone at work watching, she found it easy to eat a small reasonable lunch. She knew that no one approves of a glutton, so she ate a light lunch with all the other women at work. Then, she was back to coffee in the afternoon. She was busy from the moment her workday started until it ended and she was scheduled to head home and cook dinner for the family. By the time Lauren sat down in her car at 5:00 p.m. she was frazzled, starving, and exhausted.

She remembered ten years ago when it began. On the way home from work one day, she decided to stop at the convenience store to get a snack for the kids. She was REALLY hungry, but she was going home to eat right away. There was no need to buy real food now. The kids, however, would enjoy a snack with TV tonight. She went in and bought a family size bag of M&Ms ... for the kids.

As she was driving home, she decided to have a few M&Ms. She set the bag in her lap, opened it, and popped a handful in her mouth. Her drive home was forty-five minutes long. As she pulled into her neighborhood, she was astonished to realize the family size bag of candy was empty. How did that happen? Oh, well, never mind. It will never happen again. But it did happen again. It happened every night for the last ten years. No matter how much willpower Lauren mustered, no matter how much she hated herself for it, she kept doing it. She kept buying and eating a family size bag of candy after work every day. After talking to many nutritionists, hypnotists, diet counselors, and such, she could not seem to stop eating M&Ms. All she wanted was to stop this behavior. She wanted me to help her stop eating M&Ms. My suggestion appalled her. However, after ten years of feeling like a failure, she was willing to try anything. What was my suggestion? What did I tell Lauren?

"Do not try to stop. If trying to stop eating has not worked for ten years, why should I recommend that you try the same ineffective solution again? This time, try something different to cope with your irresistible cravings for M&Ms. Taste them. Don't just shovel them into your mouth mindlessly because you don't want to notice what you are doing. Eat them one at a time, slowly. Let each one melt. Don't chew. When the candy is in your mouth, close your lips and exhale through your nose. (This drives the chocolate molecules to a sensory organ in the nose and increases sensation.) Notice how delicious the candy tastes. Now (this is the important part) when the next bite does not taste as delicious as the last bite, ask yourself a question: "Why eat it?"

You may find that you simply do not need to eat any more of that particular flavor or food because it is not as delicious anymore. Then you may be able to stop eating comfortably without a struggle. You might be satisfied.

You may also find an emotional answer to the question of "Why eat it?" If this happens, pay attention to your emotions. What you are feeling is a clue to what you need. If you have an emotional need, and you are meeting that need with food, you might want to seek a better way to meet your emotional needs. You might want to find something that meets your emotional needs BETTER than food does."

I got a hysterical phone call the next night. At first I could not even tell who it was. The woman on the line just kept yelling "Ten, ten, I only ate ten." Then I realized it was Lauren. She had tried the experience of savoring her M&Ms and really tasting them. On the eighth piece she tasted less flavor, but she could not believe it. On the ninth, it was really true. On the tenth M&M she was done. She was satisfied and she felt no compulsion to eat any more. At the next stoplight she folded the bag and put it in her glove compartment. For the last several years she has been eating ten M&Ms each night after work. (Oh, I must tell you that everything did not really turn out with a storybook ending as I have described so far. Lauren tried this exercise of savoring her M&Ms for the first time in March. She stored the bag of candy in her glove compartment. That is, until the first sunny warm day of spring when the candy melted and she discovered how unpleasant chocolate-covered papers and sunglasses really are. Now she keeps her M&Ms in her briefcase.)

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