What is it about saying, “I’m starting to clean up my diet” that sends the message to the brain, “Eat all the junk food now!”? Much has been written on this and we’ve all experienced it. I don’t have an elegant answer to present, and I’m not going to spend too much time going on about it. But the phenomenon itself is a whopper (not the Burger King variety, unless that’s your go-to splurge food) and worth some serious discussion.
So join me as I explore this a little deeper…
The Fallacy of the Best Self
In When I Gain 25 Pounds and Start Allowing Myself to Heal, I established that my weight will keep going up, up, and up if I don’t more effectively deal with the underlying issues that are driving my hurtful thinking (and resulting food behaviors). My plan of attack is to courageously find and honor myself while surrendering my life and will over to my higher power, the Universe, to the greater good…so that I’m not obsessed with food anymore.
I seek to learn how to not white-knuckle my way to a healthier state only to pick up where I left off. So what do I do? I do what I’ve always done: I get back on the carousel. I decide it’s time, once again, to clean up my eating and do all the things I need to do to feel better about myself–embrace a lifestyle that brings out my best self. I leave the rest of the bullsh*t on the ground.
And that’s where the “whopper” phenomenon comes in.
Deciding to align with my “best self” makes my “not-best self ” cry out. You see, when I jump on the carousel, I leave her on the ground. She yells, “Protect me from scarcity!!!” She feels scared, unsafe, and threatened–the part of me who has, with the best of intentions, been holding me back. She convinces me to overeat, consume junk food, and basically fall out of alignment with my best self. (Foiled again!)
She wants to be heard–she NEEDS to be heard! Why? Because she’s part of me–and I keep thinking I can just leave her behind. But I can’t, because she’s always there. Her needs have to be addressed. I’ve got to jump off the ride and spend some time with her…and then, maybe, finally, realize that there’s really no ride to jump onto because there’s nothing to abandon in the first place. I have everything I need.
The Reality of the Whole (Imperfect) Self
I think I’m borrowing a concept from parts therapy here, and I’ve never worked with a parts therapy therapist. But bear with me. This image will help illustrate my point:
Picture these guys nested within Batman. I keep looking at Batman and wanting to call him my “best self” while failing to recognize that there are all sorts of savory and unsavory characters underneath. See the Joker? He’s in there taunting Batman pretty much all the time. Robin’s on hand to help talk him down, but he’s always there…
I’m gonna stop the metaphor right here. I am willing to recognize that every time I say “I’m starting over again,” I’m using willpower to push that screaming part of me down. Until now, I think I thought that was how it was supposed to work. I am beginning to understand that right now, my WHOLE self contains this screaming part–and she’s getting louder. I believe that if I listen to her, acknowledge her fears, and lovingly help her understand that I’m going to be ok…I’m going to experience the next level of recovery.
And yes, I realize that Batman and the Joker “need” each other, and maybe there’s some cool yin-yang thing at play here. But didn’t I drop the metaphor?
Acknowledging My Fears
It’s no wonder that the minute I announced my plan to “eat clean for the next 8 weeks” was the minute I dove head-first into a pepperoni pizza and a package of Ritz crackers (and more). I’ve been given the clarity to see that there’s a big part of me who believes that I’m literally not going to be safe, fulfilled, and “ok” without excess food. That’s the God-honest truth.
For some reason, my mind tells me that eating a healthy diet–nourishing foods in healthy quantities–is somehow going to hurt me. (Whoa!) This signals issues that have nothing to do with sugar, flour, or fried corn chips. I do believe that the next evolution of myself (she might emerge by the end of the summer?) will make less of a connection between safety and junk food and will learn what works better than food. It’s tapping into the divine within myself, I know that, but how?
Until I start effectively tapping, food is still an issue. It’s a really, really unsettling reality. I am uncomfortable admitting it, but, as it stands today…
Junk food: I can’t live with it, but I can’t live without it.
Hence the ongoing battle. I don’t have a strategy quite yet, aside from my aforementioned 8 Weeks in the Woods: Let’s Do This, but I’m closer than I was yesterday. I’m going to do my best to eat clean. I’m not going to play mind games with myself and I’m going to listen. I’m going to pray. I’m going to meditate. I’m going to trust that someday, making healthy choices for my body will be a more consistent, intuitive practice–that I won’t feel the need to introduce junk food in order to keep going.
Most people can eat junk food in moderation. I don’t think I’m one of them. I don’t know if there is a place for junk food in my life, ever. I just don’t know. If I’m a true addict, which I think I am, the answer may be “no.” But I’m willing to be ok with that…God help me!
Thanks for reading!