The other day I was in my kitchen staring at the delicious gingerbread cookies I made with my daughter. I knew wanted one, but then my head started to fill with questions. Was I hungry? Was this what I should be eating right then? On and on… and then I thought, “Well, maybe I can just have the ugliest cookie.”
It was at that moment that I woke up, and became aware of my thoughts. The ugliest cookie?! I was both amused and bummed out. Why could I not just have whatever cookie I wanted and really enjoy it? Where did this weird thought come from?
Well I, like many of my clients, grew up with role models who were totally incapable of enjoying a high fat or high carb food without any guilt, excuses, or bizarre reasoning. Whenever we had ice cream, there had to be an excuse. Whenever we ate cake, we’d talk about how it was a guilty pleasure. If we ate cookies, we’d go over everyone’s weight status and how many they should be able to enjoy without judging themselves.
It all seemed very normal at the time, probably because this kind of dysfunction is a part of mainstream American culture. It’s well known that you can’t just let people enjoy delicious foods. You have to remind them about why they can’t just have them whenever they want, or they’ll get out of control, right? (Sigh.)
Nobody realized how damaging it was. Nobody realized that all this focus on restriction, on being “good” and being “bad” was actually making us out of touch with our bodies, and out of control with food. It was just the normal way to be. So I internalized the constant need to make excuses for eating certain kinds of foods.
As you might assume, I’ve done a lot of intuitive eating work to make peace with all types of food, and let go of ideas about “good” vs. “bad” foods, “healthy” vs. “unhealthy,” and other false dichotomies. But I still catch myself having these “ugly cookie” types of thoughts sometimes.
I know now that bringing unhelpful thoughts to consciousness is the first step in overcoming them. Then, I can think about them critically, and think about whether they match my observations about reality, or if they’re just part of an old, broken story I keep telling myself. If a thought doesn’t match my truth, I can choose to let it go, and make room for more helpful thoughts.
So as I looked at the container of cookies and noticed my thoughts, I had a chance to challenge my inner food police. I laughed and let the “ugliest cookie” thought go. I told myself, “I can have whatever cookie I want, and enjoy it. I don’t need a reason or excuse.” And I did. Delicious!
Need help conquering your inner food police? Check out my online intuitive eating course.