Updated: Dec 23, 2021
I love chips. I love cookies. I love candy and pretty much all snacks, and for years the only way I knew how to combat my snacking addiction was just not to have it in the house. Out of sight, out of mind. But there was always an occasion where I found myself face to face with a big bowl of sour cream and onion chips (my fav), at a birthday party or a work event, and I would tell myself, don’t eat those chips, don’t do it.
I would strategically position myself in the room where I couldn’t see the bowl, but that didn’t matter. Slowly I could hear them beckoning me. I would start to glance over at the bowl to see if there were still some left. Ohh, chips, you look so crunchy and delicious. I would try to snap out of it and refocus on the conversation I was having, oh yeah, your kid is amazing, yah look at little Johnny go.
But soon, I would have chips on the brain again, and my mouth would start to salivate. I could taste the deliciousness. My body would start to move towards the bowl, but my head said, don’t eat those chips. You’ll get fat. And then it would happen, my brain would pull a Jedi mind trick on me and say although you have been good lately, so one chip won’t hurt.
GAME OVER! At this point, I would excuse myself from the conversation and go and grab one chip from the bowl. And then a few more, and then a few more. Soon enough, I am shoving chips in my face, and I can’t stop. One, after another, after another. I am mechanically putting the chips in my mouth, and my brain has completely shut off.
Halfway through, I ask myself, why am I eating these chips? I’m not even hungry. And you’d think I would stop, but nope I’d keep going. Finally, I snap out of my chip binge to find white and green powder all over my hands, mouth and sweater. I embarrassingly dust the powder off of myself and here I am, left with a stomach ache, feeling disappointed in myself for not having the willpower to resist the chips, and wondering what the fuck just happened?
Well, let’s break down what the fuck just happened.
Over time, I have created a short circuit in my brain. Eating chips equals pleasure. It reminds me of my childhood, sleepovers, birthday parties. Whenever there were chips around growing up, it was a celebration.
As I got older, if I felt sad, bored or stressed, I would automatically and unconsciously crave chips because my brain is seeking pleasure. It wants to party like it’s 1992! Meaning, if chips were in my line of sight, it didn’t matter if I was hungry or how much willpower I have. They would end up in my mouth because I needed that sweet taste of nostalgia. Bottom line, I wanted to feel good, and I didn’t.
So right about now, you are probably thinking, wait, hold the phone. So if your love of chips is an unconscious habit and it has nothing to do with willpower, then how do you stop yourself from eating a whole bowl of chips?!
The answer is you need to unlink chips and pleasure in your brain, and here’s how I did it.
I started to notice how I felt whenever I ate chips. The first bites would taste so good because junk food releases dopamine, the feel-good chemical which makes everything rainbows and sunshine. But after an hour, I’d notice that I actually felt tired and sluggish and well, like shit. By being able to pinpoint this slowly, my brain would start to say, hold up, chips don’t make you feel good, they make you feel like crap, and I don’t want to eat something that is going to make me feel gross.
The second thing I did was ask myself, do you want a chip or do you want something else. I.e. a hug, or to call a friend. What or is there an emotion associated with wanting chips? Most of the time, I realized that what I needed was not at the bottom of that bag.
And the last thing I did, and probably the most important thing, was to let go of the guilt and shame of eating chips. When we restrict our desires, our inner rebellious child digs their heels in and says, I’ll show you! Kinda like my 5-year old! So now, if I want chips, I will eat chips with no guilt or shame, and because of this, I find that I don’t need to eat the whole bag.
Because I have disconnected chips and pleasure, I can have chips, cookies and snacks in the house and I don’t feel the need to eat all of them all the time, which is excellent news for my kids!
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