There’s something about Trader Joe’s Roasted Plantain Chips that make me feel as though I can’t eat just one. But, I know from experience that if I eat as many I feel compelled to, I will feel sick.
I remember an old ad campaign for Lay’s potato chips that challenged us to control ourselves with a bag of chips by saying “Betcha can’t eat just one”. Well, they had a point. It’s pretty, darn hard. I discovered that the more processed the food, the more likely it is to trigger the “I can’t have just one” response.
It’s not because we’re hopelessly out of control. It’s because processed foods are designed to stimulate the reward center of the brain in a way that natural foods don’t, making it difficult to stop. I suppose we could vow to never buy processed foods again. And, it does help to cut down on them. The less you eat them, the less you want them. But given the nature of our busy lives and the food culture, I imagine that even a modern-day Buddha would sometimes settle for the convenience and pleasure of a bag of chips at the end of a hard day.
I teach my clients that mindfulness is a tool that can restore a sense of control, even over those tricky processed foods. When you feel the “can’t have just one” feeling, slow down and focus on the experience of eating. If the TV is on (why is it always on in times like these?), turn it off. Give yourself permission to have the food and to thoroughly enjoy it. But commit to being present with it. Taste the flavors in your mouth. Get quiet and sense the rush or relaxation in your body. And, then watch the magic happen. You will feel satisfied sooner and eat fewer than if you had spaced out. You’ll probably find that the unapologetic act of throughly enjoying an eating experience puts on the reigns before the food takes control of you.
Want help making the shift into a healthier mindset and body? Join us at Center for Eating Recovery for an 8-Week Eating Psychotherapy Group, Heal the Hungry Brain, or for Repair Your Reflection, our monthly, body image workshop where you will update the lens through which your see your body and start to build body esteem.
Alison Ross is the founder of Center for Eating Recovery in Agoura Hills, California. She is a licensed marriage and family therapist specializing in eating and body image. Alison was inspired to start the Center after healing her relationship with food and her body. Her mission is to help others rise above the obsessive and self-hating diet mentality in our culture to find true health through empowerment, awareness, love and self-care. The Center offers treatment for eating and body image problems across the spectrum including food addiction, binge-eating, emotional overeating, yo-yo dieting, bulimia and anorexia.