Did you look forward to receiving chocolate on Valentine’s Day? Great! Now ignore all the “helpful” advice you’ve heard like:
It’s ok to indulge yourself once in a while.
Exercise more so you can have a treat.
Treat yourself every now and then.
Don’t beat yourself up when you cheat; just start over.
Give in to your craving for chocolate with one small square every day.
Eat dark chocolate instead; it’s better for you.
Splurge on a special occasion then get right back on track.
This seemingly permissive advice is loaded with restrictive messages. Consider the possible implications of the words used in the phrases above:
Indulge: spoiled, too lenient
Exercise more: earning, conditional
Treat (noun): childish prize for being good
Treat (verb): scarce reward
Cheat: sneaky, dishonest, deceptive, shameful, bad
Start over: this is a game, not a lifelong process
Give in: surrender, concede defeat, weakness
Better for you: justification, rationalization
Splurge: excessive, gluttonous
Back on track: eating what you love is off track and therefore bad
As a result, even you though some expert gave you “permission” to eat a limited amount of a favorite like chocolate, these subtle messages feed unconscious feelings of judgment and deprivation that may lead to paradoxical overeating. Of course, since they gave you an inch but you took a mile, you feel out of control and guilty. This reinforces your belief (and theirs) that you need to be limited or even prohibited from “indulging” in your favorite “bad” foods.
Michelle May, M.D. is the award-winning author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat: How to Break Your Eat-Repent-Repeat Cycle (hyperlink to http://amihungry.com/eat-what-you-love-book.shtml) and the founder of the Am I Hungry?® Mindful Eating Workshops and Facilitator Training Program (hyperlink to http://amihungry.com/) that helps individuals learn to break free from mindless and emotional eating to live a more vibrant, healthy life.