Today’s Tip: Holiday gift baskets. You know those gift baskets that people send? The ones full of peppermint brownies and all sorts of other gooey things and candy canes and cookies and short breads and jams and pears? You know the ones that I’m talking about. They’re both sort of gross but also sort of delightful and tantalizing at the same time. People send those haphazardly and constantly. In fact one year I even got one sent to my office from a Residential Eating Disorder facility but I’m not naming names (ahem… I’m looking at you Sierra Tucson).
Anyway– here’s a common situation. You’re at work, it’s about 3pm, you wander into the kitchen because you’re maybe hungry, maybe not, you can’t really tell… you just need a break. The kitchen is empty except for… not one but THREE gift baskets. No one is around you and the gift baskets are mostly intact except the plastic is off – but they haven’t been dug through and all the “best” stuff is still in there — the bingey part of you wants to hurry up and grab the good stuff before the baskets get quickly picked through and the only thing left is 10 year old hard salamis and stale crackers with spreadable spray cheese. So quickly — before anyone comes in and sees you– like a flash you grab everything yummy and race off to the bathroom so nobody sees you eating it.
Let’s STOP this scenario before it starts. First thing first. You wandered into the kitchen out of habit and unsureness about what you needed. Maybe you were hungry, maybe you were bored, you were certainly in need of a break. But you automatically gravitated to the kitchen. Let’s circumvent the kitchen and just walk outside. I know – that’s unfair for me to say as someone in California, if you’re in Minnesota being outside in December might not be ideal. However, if you can get outside or down to the lobby, someplace to give your eyes, your mind and your constitution a change of scenery – and think– what do I need? Am I actually hungry? Or do I just need a break, a cup of tea and a few minutes away from my desk.
The next thing to ask yourself is, “if I had wandered into this kitchen and the gift baskets weren’t there, would I be looking for a peppermint brownie?” If not, then you are most likely eating compulsively, out of habit rather than out of either desire or need. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but in December, when food is surprisingly everywhere, it can take over and you will feel totally out of control. This is the situation where you want to feel like you can make your decision about what you really want for your body rather than having the food and the compulsion make the decision for you.
Remind yourself that just because it’s there and it’s there for a limited time doesn’t mean that you have to eat it. That’s the scarcity model. I have to have pumpkin spice lattes in October because they’re only around one month out of the whole year and I won’t be able to get another one again until next year! It’s a marketing technique to make us feel like we REALLY need something and need it now because it’s only around for a limited time. But the thing is, we really can have these things whenever we want them. Remind yourself that you can have these “special” foods any time of year to avoid the all or nothing trap.
If you have decided that you are hungry and that you do want to eat this yummy snack, that’s great– YOU have made the decision, the food has not. Look the food over, think about what you really want, and sit down in the kitchen where other people can see you (don’t sneak or hide because it adds to the secretive mentality of the disordered eating behavior) really let yourself take a break from work and spend a few moments with a cup of tea and your treat. Savor it and enjoy it, then let yourself go back to work without feeling guilty and without believing that just because you ate one snack that you ruined your day and now you have to binge. A treat is an absolutely normal part of being a balanced and intuitive eater.
“Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
I love this quote because it’s so relevant in binge eating recovery. It’s not about never falling down, it’s about how quickly you get up. Don’t let a little slip up turn into a binge or a binge turn into a multi-day binge. If you eat something mindlessly, that’s okay, just wipe the crumbs off you, smile and keep going forward.