My husband, Mark, was eating frosted mini wheats on Saturday morning. I was taken aback. Where was his omelette? Egg sandwich? Bowl of oatmeal? “I don’t think the kids like mini wheats”, he responded to my obvious curiosity.
Somehow, he thought he was doing our kitchen pantry a favor by lightening its load. Or maybe he felt the same way about that sugary cereal that I once did.
I remember eating Frosted Mini Wheats at my grandmother’s house when I was a little girl. There wasn’t a thing I didn’t love about them. I loved them when they were crunchy, not yet drenched in milk. And I loved them at the bottom of the bowl, when they were soggy and sweet.
When I saw that bowl of cereal before Mark, I wanted one too. My mind went into overdrive.
I want them. I want them, I want them, I want them.
Here’s how the rest of my thought process proceeded:
Something cold and crunchy would taste really good right now.
I know I do best on a gluten free diet, but what’s one little, teeny-tiny, bowl?
I don’t want to be good.
I want what I want.
Why can’t I have it? Why?!
As you can tell, my inner voice had a whiny tone to it. Like a 3-year old. Feet stomping, arms crossed, pout on her face, tears on the way. A meltdown ensued because she wanted that stupid cereal, and she wasn’t getting what she wanted.
Oh, the head drama.
What do you do when your drive to eat isn’t coming from physical hunger?
What do you do when you want to feed your body food that you know won’t make it feel good?
What do you do when you’re experiencing mental chaos over something so small, like a bowl of cereal that someone else is enjoying?
After years of coaching women on how to drastically change their relationship with food, I want to share with you some Frosted Mini Wheat insights.
See food, want food, eat food. As human beings, we are highly food suggestible. We know this when we walk by a bakery window. Not only do we see baked goods, we also smell them, which makes us immediately want to rush the joint and consume a dozen croissants. It's not a problem if we eat something from the bakery. However, to get to know our true hunger and consider what food would make our body feel best, we may need to walk away from the bakery first!
Food holds memories and therefore, feelings. My grandmother helped raise me. I even lived with her for short while when I was first born. At a very deep level, being with my grandmother represented love and security. Have I associated love and security with Mini Wheats? Yes. Just like you may be comforted by homemade lasagna or Sunday morning pancakes.
Restriction leads to rebellion. Dieters work so hard to be good and to eat the right things at the right times. Dieters are also different. They don’t get to eat what everyone else eats. When everyone is enjoying their pizza and cake, dieters may be confined to their lame salad with crappy bottled dressing and fruit for dessert. Why can’t dieters eat like everyone else? Have they been bad? Do they need to be punished? When I had the thought “I don’t want to be good”, that old dieting mentality came right back up in full force. What I was really thinking was, “I don’t want to be different.” “I don’t want to be the freak.” “I don’t want to be punished.” “I want to eat what my husband eats.”
Knowing all of this may be helpful to you as you shift your relationship with food. But now, let’s put this into action. What to do when you face your own brand of Mini Wheats.
Walk away. Remove yourself from those foods that are tugging at you so you can connect with your true hunger. When you’re not enticed by seeing and smelling the food, check in with your body. Are you hungry? What are you hungry for? What does your body need? How do you want to feel after you’ve eaten?
Let the feeling pass. Emotions do come and go. Often they sneak up on us without warning. Was I feeling sad or lonely on that Saturday morning? Did I need some extra comfort? Maybe. And letting the emotion pass on by instead of reacting to it, is one of the most powerful practices you can engage in. When you are feeling something big, you may naturally want to turn to food. Especially if you have a history with emotional overeating. Instead, separate out your desire for food and the emotion you are experiencing. Let the emotion pass and then choose to eat, or not.
Stop the labels. When food is good or bad, it gives that food an undeniable power over you. What happens when you want a “bad’ food? What happens when you want a “good food”? You become good or bad. Instead, let the food be food. You can eat it if you want or not eat it. You get to choose, but don’t let it dictate how you feel about yourself.
When I was in the midst of this Frosted Mini Wheat whirlwind, I had to let all of these emotions and thoughts play out. I went to my laptop and I wrote. I sat with it. It felt like a very long time, when in reality, it was probably just 20 minutes of inner work.
That’s a critical step when you heal your relationship with food. Step back and sit with it. Practice taking care of your needs in a way that doesn’t involve food.
When I rode this all out, I was able to make a fabulous choice for myself. It wasn’t about being good or bad. I met my needs and didn’t feel like a freakish outsider. This time, Frosted Mini Wheats were not on the menu.