For me, it's sweet. Take some good old refined sugar, pair it with fat, and I've got me a big old problem. Take birthday cake for example. If it's in my house, it's all I can think about, but only after I've tasted it. Put a big bag of potato chips in front of me and they will sit there untouched. Salt has no power over me. God help you if you say both!
Is that a vegan birthday cake I see?
Why yes, it is! Not only that, it's tasty. But I only knew that after I had a small slice (er . . . two) last night. Before that it was just sitting in my basement refrigerator and I might have even forgotten it was there. Now that it's half eaten, all I wanna do this morning is have some more. What does that mean? It means I need to THROW IT AWAY.
So here's what I want to talk to you about right now: Your level of awareness when it comes to your problem, a.k.a. trigger, foods.
That vegan birthday cake, it was good, but no where near as satisfying as Mama Pea's Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Balls (hint-the only ingredients are dates, nuts, vanilla and chocolate chips). I ate one of those yesterday and it was enough. They are sitting in my refrigerator right now and I don't want one desperately. What does that mean? It means that for me, these are a safe food. Surely not something that I want to eat all of the time (they are very high in calories and fat), but something that is perfectly appropriate to make and serve once a week at our Friday night dinner.
Want the recipe for Mama Pea's Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Balls? Get it here.
You're probably wondering why I even brought the birthday cake into my house. I wonder that too. Here's what I was thinking: It's my son's third birthday. This compulsive overeating thing is my problem. It may end up being my children's problem too as they get older, but me being super crazy strict and not having any sugar in the house ever is not going to . . . to . . . what?
Am I scared that not having junk in my house is going to contribute to having kids that can't control themselves around junk when they are older? Being a compulsive over eater, I know that if my mom had been filling our house with sugar when I was young (which she wasn't) I would not have been able to control myself any better back then or today. My taste buds and psychology were determined before she had any shot at shaping them. No amount of intervention by her could have saved me from this disorder. I believe you either have it or you don't and there is a certain amount of genetics involved. I definitely see patterns in families.
So what should you do if you want to be healthy, lose weight and not let this compulsive overeating thing take you down? You could develop a set of tools for yourself that if used, would make the situation a lot better. The following are a list of ideas that have worked for me:
(1) Remember the motto "Plant Strong, Not Plant Perfect." Let go of the expectation that you are never going to compulsively overeat again. Just forget about it. It ain't gonna happen. The key is to be aware of it when you do, and then to make the necessary adjustments so that you don't keep repeating the same behaviors over and over again. What's the definition of insanity? Not making mistakes, but making the same mistake over and over again.
(2) Know that just because it's vegan doesn't mean it's healthy or a safe food for YOU. Again, you have to know yourself and really observe how you react around that particular food or food group. You could compulsively eat brown rice. You certainly could compulsively overeat "healthy" vegan desserts, baked or raw. If you try it and have a compulsive experience with it, make it either an "off limits altogether food" or develop rules about eating it like "I will only have that food when I am with other people" and "I will not have that food in my own kitchen/pantry/freezer/refrigerator but I can have it in a restaurant or at someone else's home because in that situation I don't overeat it." Again, you have to really be aware of your own behaviors and develop a sense of what is safe for you.
(3) Eat a whole foods, plant based diet, high in volume and low in calories. "What does that have to do with it?" you ask. I'll share with you my experience. When I was eating whatever I wanted to, attempting to control portions and choose foods that I thought were healthy, I was overweight and unhappy. Eating was a colossal battle for me. I wanted to eat enough to feel full, but I knew that if I ate enough of those foods to actually get full I was eating too much to lose weight. It was a mess!
Fast forward to now. I've been eating a whole foods, plant based diet, high in volume and low in calories for over a year. My taste buds have COMPLETELY changed. I am not making this up. A green smoothie tastes better to me now than a hamburger and french fries. An apple is so sweet it's criminal. Nuts and beans are the new foods that I have to be careful not to overeat. I'm laughing at myself as I write this. It's amazing!
The foods I used to eat taste like garbage to me now. It's not even a struggle to eat this way or to say no to processed food. It tastes like s#*!, why would I eat that?
(4) When your trigger foods make their way into your house, which they will, no matter how hard you try, get rid of them. As soon as you become aware of the situation, throw them out. You have no power over them. That's why they are YOUR trigger foods at this particular time. And they will change over time, that's why you can never rest. When foods that once would not have been a big deal to you suddenly become a big deal when you have eliminated all of your other trigger foods. Just tell yourself that it is normal for this to happen and get rid of the new trigger food.
It's either trash in your body or trash in a landfill. Where do you think it belongs?
Don't feel sorry for yourself. Get excited that you have a new level of awareness that will make you life much more manageable and happier. Never dwell on your past mistakes. Don't let a slip up become a give up. That's your old heavy person's mind doing the thinking for you. Let your new thin person's mind take over. Thin people slip up, they never give up. That's how they remain thin.
(5) The big one. The doosey. Here it is: When you are eating, do nothing else.
Oh boy, I know this is true, but I struggle with it. Have you ever tried just sitting at a table by yourself with food on a plate and a fork and knife and just eating? I thought so. If this were your regular practice, you wouldn't have read this far into this post! It's not something that I am proud of, but I love to eat and read, eat and watch TV, eat and talk, eat and do anything!!!!!
When it comes right down to it, it is almost impossible to compulsively eat if you are sitting down and doing nothing else but eating. Why? Because eating this way is BORING. It's the opposite of numbing yourself. It brings you into the moment. Whenever I do this I can barely eat what I have served myself. It really is that simple. Most of the food that I have eaten in my lifetime I never would have eaten if I wasn't distracting myself at the same time. That's the drug effect of food--the distraction from feeling and emoting.
Are you aware of your trigger foods?
What types of adjustments have you made or are you trying to make regarding these foods?
What happens to you when you sit down to eat without doing anything else?
Could you commit to just eating for one meal? One day? One week?