Carbs, fat, gluten, soy, sugar – at some point one (or all) of these things have been blamed for our weight and eating habits. And it’s understandable that we want to believe they are at the root of our struggles. The weight loss seesaw (up-down-up-down) can overwhelm a person and leave her searching for answers: what’s the secret diet? Why do I always fail? How do I make it stick this time?
It seems perfectly natural that the first instinct is to blame a specific food or food group – don’t they say “you are what you eat”? But if it were so universally simple we would have permanently cracked the weight loss case long ago. So when someone wants to eliminate a specific food, in particular if it’s related to an overeating experience, then I recommend we pause and take a look at the chain of events. To best explain this exercise, let’s take an example scenario…
Mary came home from work on Thursday evening and found herself instantly nibbling on cheese and crackers. Before she knew it she had finished the entire block of cheese and felt awful – both physically and emotionally. When she weighed herself the next morning and she was up 2 lbs, Mary was convinced the cheese was the root of all evil and she just couldn’t be trusted with it, so it had to go. No more cheese in HER house.
Mary’s decision to eliminate cheese from her life is similar to the experiences of so many others (just replace cheese with chocolate, peanut butter, bread, etc.) If we consider this experience as an event, then limiting it’s occurrence in the future requires looking at the entire chain of events leading up to it: find a link and break it if you want to see change. A more in-depth discussion with Mary revealed these details:
-Traffic was particularly brutal that day and coming home took twice as long as normal.
-She skipped lunch because of a work meeting and just had a small snack in the afternoon.
-She thought she was really “good” at breakfast by only having a 200 calorie protein bar.
The Chain of Events
In Mary’s mind, the cheese was the cause of her “problem”.
In reality, it’s a lot more involved. In Mary’s story, the cheese has the starring role. But if we look at the chain of events, it’s really just a supporting actor. Mary had taken in so few calories during the day that she had set herself up to be starving at night. She thought she was being good by having so little, but it backfired. And when the stress of commuting was piled on top of it, she was done.
So while Mary thought getting rid of the cheese was the only answer, she should really consider these other options to address the situation.
Food is usually blamed first. Maybe because it’s simple. It’s something tangible that can be removed, eliminated – if only for a short time. But if we look closely, there are usually other opportunities for change in our eating patterns – change that is more lasting then just eliminating an entire food group.
Perhaps we are WHY or HOW we eat, instead of just WHAT.