While I was working in the daily grind (of what now seems like a former life), some pretty interesting people surrounded me. I remember at one of those firms in particular, I was lucky to have a super nice woman that was one desk over. If felt like we had our own little oasis of sanity in an office full of crazy.
I loved sitting next to her and chatting with her each day. Laughing, supporting each other, venting – lots of venting. But there was one thing I didn’t love about her at all.

The candy dish.

She had a pretty crystal bowl on her desk that was always full of something good. I hated that damn candy dish. I would secretly smile when she would forget to bring refills. But most of the time, it was packed with some quality stuff.
The days after Halloween were the worst; filled with a variety of awesome.
I would watch people all day come by and snag something. Some were doing it regretfully. Bitching while unwrapping the one piece they rationed themselves, like they had no choice other than to eat it. Some would be little skinny things that I was sure could down the whole bowl and not gain a pound.

And there was me. I would eye that dish all day. Swear to be good. Be proud when I resisted it. And ashamed of myself when I would take a few pieces. Then there were the oh-my-god-I-ate-12-pieces kind of days where I would continue to eat junk all night because I thought the day was already ruined.

You could say my way of dealing with the candy dish was not productive.

I now have a new approach to the candy dish. One I wish I had known about in the days when I waged the imaginary war between my sweet tooth and my willpower.

Don’t just stand there.

Instead of eyeballing the candy dish, I now use it to my advantage. When I find myself wanting a piece, I pause for a few seconds and ask 2 questions:

1. ‘Why do I want this?’
Why am I reaching for that piece of candy? I don’t let myself get away with “I don’t know” or some version of “It tastes good”. I dig deep and give myself a real answer. And I give myself undivided attention when I do.
Really listen.

2. ‘What am I feeling right now?”
What emotions am I feeling? I will be feeling something if I’m going for the candy dish. Anger? Sadness? Fear? Joy? I try to name it and notice how it feels in my body. Even if it’s just a few seconds, I really try to feel that emotion and locate it in my body. Is it butterflies in my stomach? An ache in my chest? Lump in my throat? Do I feel antsy or giddy? I try to describe as much about it as possible.

Then, if I still want the candy, I have it.

And I’m nice to myself if I do. I don’t chastise or belittle myself. Or scold myself out loud by commenting about it to whomever I’m standing next to.
I just let myself have it and enjoy it.
And then I move on.

Pause and repeat.

The next time you want a piece, pause a few seconds and ask yourself these 2 questions. And the time after that, pause and repeat the questions again. Whether it’s 2 minutes later or 2 days later. Keep asking why. Keep noticing how you feel. Is it a craving? Was it an impulse to just reach in? Is it only when someone else is there or do you snag 5 pieces when no one is looking? Is it all the time, regardless of what is going on around you?

You will start to see patterns.
You will also start to notice a deeper understanding about yourself and what you’re feeling. And as you gain this knowledge, you will need the candy less and less.

Use each time you go for the candy dish as an opportunity to be aware and kind to yourself.

I never did this with the candy dish. I didn’t make this connection until a few years after that. But I do it now all the time. Each time I have a craving or an impulse to eat, it’s my cue to ask. And it’s pretty crazy how knowing the answer to these 2 questions can make your craving disappear.

Do yourself a favor and stop looking at the candy dish as a test of willpower, like I did.
Or as something to curse and blame for your weight gain, (again, as I did).

The candy dish is not a trap.

It’s a door. It’s an opportunity to make the most important connection you will ever make. The connection with yourself and why you eat.

When I look back on that secret war I waged with her candy dish, I think about all the things I missed. Not the times I could have dug into some sugar. The times I could have understood more about myself. The times I could have realized I only wanted it because I was feeling nervous about a trade, or anxious about some drama in the office. The times I could have spent letting myself feel the emotions and connect with myself.

Everyone has a candy dish somewhere.
If it’s not a pretty crystal dish next to your desk, it’s cookies in the break room, or in your kitchen at home. Or it’s an impulse buy your significant other brought home without you knowing. Or a junk food spread at a BBQ.
Somewhere, somehow, there will be food that we try to resist.

Stop wasting your energy by resisting it.
Instead put that energy into listening to yourself and finding out why you want it to begin with. Divert that energy into practicing awareness and kindness.
That is where the struggle with yourself ends and the connection begins.

I’d love to hear from you!

What foods are you resisting?
Have you learned anything interesting from the 2 questions?
Let me know in the comments below.

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