I had a friend in college who had a unique quality. He looked at food as just that – food.
I remember so clearly being in his room, sharing a KitKat with some friends and offering some to him.
“No thank you” he answered without hesitation. “I’m not hungry.”
Everyone in the room turned to look at him.
It was utterly confusing that he would refuse candy because he wasn’t hungry.
“This is chocolate.” His girlfriend explained, as if he had never seen it before. “You don’t have to be hungry to eat chocolate. “
We all adamantly agreed.
But he just shrugged it off, already bored with the discussion.
He didn’t see it as a treat, he didn’t obsess about the calorie count or what someone would think about him if he ate it (or didn’t eat it as was the case).
He looked at food as fuel for his body. That’s it. If his fuel tank wasn’t low, there was no reason for him to ‘top it off’. Regardless of what was offered to him.
My friend was very clear about not wanting to eat when he wasn’t hungry.
But for most of us, there is always room for cake.
Why is that?
Why is there always room for dessert?
The answer is not in what cake actually is, it’s in what we think it is.
Literally, cake is a combination of flour, sugar, eggs and…other stuff.
Cake is food.
Just like chicken and spinach is food. They are all the same. They are all types of food that we eat to fuel our body. Yes, one fuels our body better than the other.
But ultimately, cake is the same thing as chicken.
Cake = Chicken
Do you disagree?
Notice your reaction to that. Notice what thoughts, questions and protests run through your mind.
Cake = Chicken.
Why do you think that equation is wrong?
What is so different (besides the taste) between cake and chicken? Or a handful of Jelly Beans and a handful of raw almonds? Or even something breaded and fried vs. grilled?
Your answers to those questions are huge.
Why is there always room for one type of food but not the other?
Think about cake or jelly beans or whatever your vice food is.
What does that food represent to you?
What does it ‘do’ for you?
These answers are so important because they allow you to see how you’re looking at food as so much more than just fuel.
These answers allow you to unfold why you always have room for cake.
Things like taste and flavor combinations and the depth of a sauce are one thing. I’m not denying any foodie that. Sometimes we eat something for no other reason than it tastes good. Totally fine.
But notice when words like craving, comforting, rewarding, and relaxing come into the picture.
Because those are things that food cannot give you.
On the surface, we all know that.
Of course cake will not make it better. Not in the long run.
But we think it will help in the short term.
We’re willing to use food to dull the pain, just for a bit, while we catch our breath.
When you think about food as a break or a de-stressor, those are clues that you’re looking to food to do more than just taste good or fuel your body.
And if you’re looking for cake to dull the pain from the ‘big’ problems, chances are you’re looking to food to fix the ‘little’ problems, too.
Use the right tool for the job
When you understand why there’s always room for cake, you can start to understand how you’re using food for things other than hunger.
You understand how you’re using the wrong tool for the job.
You may know on the surface that cake will not solve your problems, or that you’re an emotional eater.
But use these questions to go deeper.
Take a long, hard look at your reasons why one food is better than the other.
Because seeing it clearly and consciously is your first step to finding the right tool.
Another fun way to find your thoughts is to play word associations.
List the first 3 words that come to your mind when you think of the following:
What are the differences in the words? Is one more interesting than the other? Is one more boring or sterile? Do you feel different when you think about one food versus another?
These are all good things to notice.
The more you understand about what you think of certain foods, the less you can fool yourself by thinking there’s always room because it just tastes good.
There’s more to it than taste or fuel if you’re consistently eating when you’re not hungry.
The more you can identify “I want that cake because I’m feeling lonely, or angry or left out right now”, the more you can forgo the cake and find out how to really fix the problem.
The more reasons you identify, the sooner you will not need more room for cake.
I’d love to hear from you!
What words came up on the word association?
What did it show you about your food thoughts?
Let me know in the comments below.
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