For weight worriers the world over, it’s a day that’s both anticipated and dreaded. Do either of these statements describe your feelings about this day of chocolate celebration?
“It’s Valentine’s Day. That means I can have chocolate!”
“It’s Valentine’s Day. I’m going to have to be extra strong today to avoid eating chocolate.”
I asked a few Green Mountain participants whether they were going to have chocolate today (yes, we’re serving it). Here’s a smattering of the comments I got that illustrate well the journey to learning how to eat chocolate in a way that truly feels good to us. Names are changed to protect the innocent.
Will You Have the Chocolate?
“No. I will feel guilty if I do. I’ve gotten a good start at Green Mountain, and if I eat chocolate, I’ll blow everything.” ~Kathy
Kathy had been at Green Mountain for only three days when I asked her this question. She hadn’t learned yet about all-or-nothing thinking, or grasped how the diet mentality that says we should only eat certain foods can set her up for struggles. We did an impromptu counseling session in which we talked about how to change how she talks to herself, to put herself in charge of deciding what she eats instead of feeling vulnerable to what’s around her. And understanding that a piece of chocolate wouldn’t ruin her self-care efforts. In fact, it could help if she learns to give herself permission to eat what she really wants.
“I hope I can do that some day. If I eat it now, I’ll just keep eating it. I don’t feel strong enough right now to challenge myself with chocolate.” ~Joyce
Joyce was also in her first week here, and she provides a perfect example of being aware of where you are in your journey to mindful, intuitive eating. Joyce is making a conscious decision not to take on more than she can handle right now while at the same time looking towards a future where it is possible to eat chocolate without feelings of guilt or failure. Side note: We do provide chocolate and other commonly-feared foods as part of our menus at Green Mountain, to help women experience they can eat such foods without overeating them. Our structured, supportive, “safe” environment helps them discover this. Of course, it’s their choice whether they eat such foods or not when with us.
“Yes, in moderation. I learned when I first came to Green Mountain a while ago that I can eat what I want, as long as it’s in moderation.” ~Nancy
As we see often, Nancy interpreted what we say at Green Mountain to mean something that doesn’t quite grasp the big picture. And that’s okay — it’s another example of the journey. Here’s the big picture of what we do try to communicate: If we eat what we want as part of a well-balanced plan of self-care, we’ll find that we don’t want more than a moderate amount most of the time.
It’s also important to understand that what’s moderate can vary on a day-to-day basis. Telling ourselves that we can eat what we want “as long as it’s in moderation” imposes a limit that doesn’t come from how the food makes us feel. When the limit does come from that place, it’s intuitive. And that makes it easy to stop.
“I don’t deprive myself. I’ve found that if I know I can have something, I often don’t want it.” ~Clare
Exactly! Clare, by the way, said she probably won’t eat it because she’s not a big fan of chocolate.
“Yes. What I’ve learned since I’ve been at Green Mountain is that one does the trick. I used to have to have five. I eat it slowly now, savoring, and find I’m satisfied with one.” ~Allison
Allison was talking about having a chocolate bar at the movies. She’s looking forward to a chocolate treat on V-Day because she knows she can enjoy it, then move on to other pleasurable things in life.
“No, I’m not a big sugar person. I really don’t want it.” ~Sue
Another great example of being clear what you want, then making your own decisions about food. How many of us often feel impelled to eat something just because someone gives it to us?
So, will you have the chocolate today? Why or why not?