By Jan Holden
My local store has an actual WALL of chocolate as I discovered when I walked in today. As if that’s not enough, stacked up by the checkout are every sort of hot cross bun. They are living up to their name as I feel hot and cross facing my old friend, Compulsive Eater, who asks me politely but urgently to buy a packet and, once home, toast them IMMEDIATELY, without even unpacking the shopping or putting the kettle on (slathered with butter, obvs). And whilst I’m getting some buns, what about the special offer on Lindt bunnies? Go on, you know you want to….
So how do we negotiate the tricky path between total abstinence, which may well feel like misery and deprivation, and a full on trip to Bingetown? How do we love our bodies through this challenge?
For some of us, clean eating means no wheat or sugar. For me, that’s not really negotiable even though it’s Easter, because once the crack hits the bloodstream and the dopamine reward receptors start firing, I have reinforced the deep tramlines that are my addictive neural pathways again and I lay myself open to trotting off to Crave City like I’ve never left it.
“But it’s Easter!” I hear you cry. Surely that’s a time to relax a bit and enjoy some mini eggs, some Simnel cake and don’t forget my OWN egg which hopefully might also have some little eggs inside it or surrounding it? In our house we used to build an Easter nest out of melted chocolate and Shredded Wheat (wheat and sugar anyone?) and put lots of eggs inside it. We even built a giant chick with lumps of Toblerone for its beak! Such was my addiction then…..
But now, what to do? These days I remind myself of those past times; of trying to hold off eating the children’s eggs, but once they were in bed, not being able to resist and feeling so sick and ashamed of myself; walking down the Easter supermarket aisle and physically feeling a mixture of excitement and anxiety; being given an Easter treat by a patient and demolishing it without pausing for breath in the car on the way home after a particularly hard day at work; watching other people simply pick up one mini egg, eat it and then leaving the rest of the packet. Wondering “how do they do that?” Always promising myself that this year will be different.
But, truly, this year (and for a few years), it is different. Knowing that I always have a choice about my actions means that it’s more difficult to eat unconsciously. I say “I am choosing to….” and it can be anything I want, chocolate included, nothing is off limits if you genuinely have a choice. But if I breathe, stay with the discomfort and excruciating awkwardness of my addictive desire, look at the chocolate, even smell it and truly consider all the options of eating and not eating it, I can put it to one side. It’s nothing to do with willpower or self control and everything to do with facing the feelings provoked by the combination of processed fat and sugar that draws me in. I know that if I choose these substances, I will be wreaking havoc with my metabolism and my mental health.
I love my body. It matters to me what I put in it.
So today I left the chocolate and the hot cross buns and, now, once home, kettle is on and Natural Eater comes through. With her help I have popped a sweet potato into the oven, made a big salad with a dollop of guacamole to go on top. Yummy.
When did I ever need to eat a bunny? Especially a chocolate one.
I eat what I need.