The Curse of Everything in Moderation

Yes, the curse of “everything in moderation.”  Moderation.  I tried to master that skill for years.  Literally – years.  I would sweat it out at the gym, meticulously separate my eggs and dutifully munch on dried apple chips then, BOOM a pack of Almond Crunch Cookies, or family size Lays potato chips would mysteriously end up in my shopping cart. 

With the best of intentions, I could easily justify my purchases.  I’m working out consistently (at least at the time I was)… I had a stressful week… I need to practise building my will power…  I got this.  With the best of intentions, I would have ‘only a couple’…

A couple… at a time… until the package was empty or I would find myself licking the salt off my fingers at the bottom of the bag of chips, usually within hours of the purchase.  If I put them away, my mind would always drift back to them.  Slowly the thought would pre-occupy my mind, I would resist, ignore, distract myself, drink water, munch on carrots, but eventually, I would cede.  ALWAYS.  (Proof willpower does not work – but I did not know that back then.)

At times, I would chuck the half-eaten bag of chips or cookies into the garbage (after a good self-reprimand of course!), but I always bought more.    Such a vicious, un-necessary cycle.

Think about how much of your precious time and mental energy gets wasted resisting cravings.  Cravings, that come about because of some ill-conceived notion of moderation.  I suppose everything in moderation works for some people. Otherwise it wouldn’t be so permanently entrenched in society’s psyche.  That advice – ‘everything is moderation’, should be filed right beside the ‘multiple low fat, calorie-restricted meals daily for weight loss and appetite regulation’ in the trash.

We are all different (which is a wonderful thing) so everything in moderation may work for you.  Ask yourself, “Does eating everything in moderation work for me?” If it works for you, then by all means carry on!  It certainly doesn’t work for me.  Seems I am-hopelessly-in-love-with sweet treats and salt crunch, the latter preferably in the form of potato chips.  Pretzels or corn chips come close to the potato chip salt – crunch gold standard but salted crunchy carrots or boiled, lightly salted edamame doesn’t trick my finely attuned brain.

Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines cravings as “an urgent, abnormal desire.”  URGENT and ABNORMAL DESIRE.  No wonder we succumb to the little brutes so readily. 

Constant mental gymnastics draining so much of our energy as we negotiate our lives resisting or avoiding cravings – all in the name of “everything in moderation.”  What if you redirect that energy to something you love?  How different would your day unfold?

So I stopped.  There are just some things that I cannot have – and that is okay.   Many years ago, there was a Lays potato chip commercial – “You can’t have just one.”  That certainly rings true for me.  It doesn’t mean I am weak or deficient in any way.  It means I like salt crunch, and eating salt crunch gives me a lovely burst of dopamine.  Same goes for sweet treats.  More than a year after changing the way I eat, more than 8 months after achieving and maintaining my weight loss goal, I confess – I STILL want potato chips and I STILL want Almond Crunch Cookies.  The difference now is, I am able to pass more often than not.  I have trained my brain that the lovely burst of dopamine is not in my best interest all the time.

When I want them, I choose them.  And that – intentional choice – is the key and the solution to permanent change.  Skip the mental gymnastics, eat what you want, just like your reason. 

Buff it up, my friends
Dr. Karen

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