I'm not exactly sure when or why this started, but just over a month ago I decided to take yet another crack at changing the way I behave around sugary junk food. It might have something to do with picking up one of my old Geneen Roth books one night; she's very "pro-legalization" and recommends things like carrying chocolate that you love in your purse at all times.
I decided that I would buy things that have always given me problems, and as soon as something was gone, I'd restock it. No matter what. Even if I binged on it, I would go out and replace it. I wanted to see if my desire for any particular thing was actually as huge and endless and overwhelming as it had always seemed. And I decided two other things: I'd try to keep it to one treat a day, and I'd try to eat it mindfully. But I didn't make these things into rigid rules to get upset over.
I am thrilled with how this experiment has unfolded. My house has never had so much junk food in it--and I've never been less obsessed with it than I am right now. It doesn't "call" to me like it would have mere months ago. I currently have hot cocoa mix, marshmallows, white fudge-covered Oreos, Lucky Charms, a canister of whipped cream, a bottle of chocolate sauce, peppermint bark ice cream bars, and mint chocolate chip ice cream in the house. Oh, and a Three Musketeers bar in my purse.
THIS IS UNPRECEDENTED.
Most of those things would not have lasted more than a day or two in my house before. Certainly not the candy bar, the Lucky Charms, the Oreos, or the ice cream products. A bottle of Hershey's usually would not make it a week in my fridge. Now? The mint chip ice cream is getting freezer burnt and will probably be thrown out. I ate one of the peppermint bark bars and didn't like them, so if no one eats the remaining two over the next month or so, those will be thrown away. I've thrown away egg nog twice this season--and I think egg nog is the nectar of the gods--because the brands I took a chance on were not up to snuff. The chocolate sauce is over a month old.
I've tried intuitive eating and legalization before and it never "worked". Perhaps that's because I was trying to lose weight at the time, whereas right now, I'm only trying to minimize weight gain. There's a big difference between those two mindsets! And I can't remember the way I approached it before--did I restock junk food items right away, or did I binge and then take the binge as confirmation that I couldn't be trusted with the food in the house, setting myself up to repeat the cycle endless times? I suspect the latter.
One thing I'm sure of is that I had little knowledge of or experience with mindful eating during my previous attempts. I think eating junk food mindfully this time around has made a huge difference. I can be satisfied with less if I really pay attention to what I'm eating, and sometimes I discover that a formerly enticing treat is not so great after all. The peppermint bark ice cream bars are a good example: in front of the TV, I likely would have eaten 2 or even all 3 in the box. They would have been a cold, sweet, vague background experience to my TV viewing. But since I sat at the table and paid attention to the flavor and texture and everything else while eating, I discovered I really didn't like them. And I haven't touched them since.
It hasn't been all smooth sailing. There have been a few episodes of overeating and emotional eating (and probably even binge eating; it can be a gray area) that have scared me and caused doubt as to whether I should continue with this experiment. But each time I've restocked an item after overdoing it on a given day, I have found I am less interested in it than before and it goes untouched for a long time. When I do open up the next box or carton, it ends up lasting longer than the time before. My appetite for it ISN'T insatiable after all. And seeing that, again and again, builds trust in myself.
It's amazing to find myself reaching for regular meal food when all this stuff is available to me. Only real meals satisfy hunger, so that's what I prefer when I'm hungry! So simple. Is this what normal eaters feel like every day? No big willpower battle to turn down Oreos in favor of a bowl of stew? Sugary cereal in the house doesn't torture them until it's all eaten? There's nothing dazzling about seeing a candy bar in your purse?
I feel less eating disordered. I don't think my eating disorder is gone and I'm not going to declare "I'll never binge again! I've found the answer to everything!" The novelty of allowing myself all this stuff has not totally worn off and sometimes I eat more than is wise; I don't always stick to one treat a day, for example. I overate on and around Thanksgiving for sure. But I'm getting somewhere with this, and months from now, the availability of junk on a daily basis will be even less novel than it is now. And that, I think, is key to recasting my relationship to these foods that have been problematic for so long.