Observing Impulses: Why do you really want to eat that cookie?

I’ve been really trying to focus more on my nutrition lately and supplement it with enough exercise to eat what I want in a given day. Loseit.com has been a great resource for me. I can’t say that I will be using it forever or even every day for that matter but it has made me a lot more aware of what it takes to sustain my body.

I’ll be honest, a few weeks ago our Wellness Team that I’m a part of at work had a local medical center come in and do biometric screenings that included height, weight, blood sugar levels, and a crazy device that measured body composition. I was excited on my way down to the first floor but shocked into a reality that sent me on a journey back up the stairs instead of using the elevator. It also was a little upsetting realizing that even though I’ve lost nearly 50lbs so far, I’m still at a decently high body fat %. Standing on a scale and holding onto a metal rod, this machine sends shock waves through your body to measure the percentages of your fat, muscle, and visceral fat (which is the fat that clings on to your internal organs). I tend to think I’m the shit, so when my reading came back and I was technically in the “overweight” category I was floored. What!?! I’ve been running damn near every day and eating healthy….and drinking beer….and…well crap, so maybe I eat a lot of nachos. The point was, I was upset. I spent the ENTIRE day texting people and posting Facebook status updates about how fat I was just to get attention, I know, VERY 14 of me. But I think we can all relate to this feeling at one point or another. Sometimes we just want to feel excellent about our bodies and we want confirmation from other people.

After a few days of self-pity and eating chocolate I decided to really step up my game. I really don’t have THAT far to go and if I want to truly meet my goal then I got this. Back on track and now a few weeks later, I’m feeling great and more motivated than ever.

Then today, after a vigorous run in preparation for the Zombie 5k this Summer, I was feeling super hungry. I always pack a healthy lunch and was on my way back up to the 3rd floor to consume the shit out of it when it hit me. The giant wave of hot, cheesy pizza from the 2nd floor. Who REALLY loves pizza parties anyway? What are we, in 2nd grade?! But oh how I relished in the thought of going down there and wreaking havoc on all the pizza boxes. Tearing through the dough with my teeth like a just-turned vampire. People looking at me in horror as globs of marinara stained my face. Oh right, back to not doing that. But I continued on up to the 3rd floor and stopped by the break room to grab my lunch out of the fridge. That’s when I saw them, freshly presented Safeway double chocolate chip cookies, from the BAKERY kind. *drool* I felt a wave of panic course through my hands as if they might force them all into my mouth without first checking with my stomach. My mouth began to salivate and my pulse was seriously racing. Then I said to myself “seriously, Sarah? it’s JUST cookies, get a hold of yourself.”

But be honest here for a second, it’s not JUST cookies, or pizza, or ice cream, or an entire can of Pringles that gets your body acting like a lion about to pounce on his prey. So I took a step back and looked at the cookies, all 8 of them in that neat little plastic container and I began to envision it. I thought about the “bad” Sarah reaching forward without thought and pushing a soft cookie over her lips, tasting the smooth chocolate and the chewy texture of the baked dough. Then I began to realize that I really didn’t want the cookie, I wanted the feeling it would give me. Mind blowing, I know. But think about it. The next time you do eat something heavenly, think about the way it makes you feel, and why. When I thought about how the chocolate would taste and what that does to my brain I realized that it calms me down, it reaches the pleasure center of my brain, it makes me want to smile, it’s comforting, enjoyable, loving almost. Then I began to make a list in my head of other things that make me feel the same way: curling up into my warm bed with a good book as I stretch out my legs from a long day, streaming Netflix with a warm cup of Chamomile tea, getting a massage, that relaxed and proud feeling after a long run. Suddenly, it began to dawn on me that by not eating bad things I wasn’t really giving up much. I was just giving up an avenue to pleasure, but not pleasure itself.

If a road is closed on your way home, I doubt you pull over, put your car in park and say “guess I’m not getting home tonight.” NO! You figure out another way to get there, you explore your options, you get creative. That’s exactly the same thing with healthy eating, fitness, and nutrition. I’m not saying don’t ever eat anything unhealthy because it’s important to enjoy good food. But realize that the beauty of being a conscious human being is that we are able to observe our impulses before we act on them. That cookie would have been very enjoyable, pleasurable, and freakin’ delicious, let’s not lie, but so will a bunch of other things that I do today.

The next time you feel yourself caught up in a pleasure-panic (ooo can I coin that term?) when you see food you want, think about other ways in which you can reach the same amount of happiness.

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