(We decided to continue this series in light of the lockdown. Binge eating is how a lot of us cope with uncertainty and how a lot of us might decide to cope with the current circumstances. May be The Toxin will make it easier or you’ll just feel less alone, less alien “on a day like today”. Find the prequel to this piece – the beginning of this day – here.)
The shrink was happy to see me. I was not happy to see her. For obvious reasons. I knew she’d destroy my dietary fantasies – the only good thing on a bad day. “Neither grease nor glucose could make their way into me…blah blah”, I expected her to say.
Can I not eat my way through bad days?
Do nutritionists account for cravings?!
Food makes you feel good on bad days. Junk, especially. If I want a burger, I want a burger. If I want a soda, I want a soda. I want a litre of soda. No! Juice won’t work. Even if it’s freshly squeezed from my favourite fruit (I’m not sure I even have one).
She put a glass of mixed fruit juice before me (I guess that solved the problem. I didn’t have to pick and choose ONE fruit).
“So, you’re having a bad day?”, she began, “So what?”
“So, I want to eat to feel better!”, I found myself yelling like a kid kept from cake on his birthday.
“Okay, makes sense. Bad days can be better when you eat; better still when you binge eat. But may I ask you a couple of questions before you decide to dig into every dietary fantasy?”
There we go.
I managed this: “I suppose, more than the assurance that it will get better (there’s no telling that it will), it gives me something to look forward to when there isn’t much to. I’ll take your questions anyway. I know I’m wide off the mark with my lifestyle choices currently.”
“On no. Eating isn’t something any of us can run away from. Quality and quantity are pretty much the only things in our control. Tell me, what would you do instead of eat? Could you find an inferior pleasure in anything else?”
I took a minute to think. “I like to write”, I muttered rather matter-of-factly. “But the eating could go hand in hand you know…”, I added with a shrug equally matter-of-fact.
“How about an activity that keeps both your hands and your mind occupied?”, she asked with a raised eyebrow but friendly smile. In that moment, I realized just why she played two roles in one – shrink and nutritionist. And how she’s built up her defenses with ample experience from plenty of kids-kept-from-cake like me.
“I did play the banjo once upon a time. It made me really happy. I still have it stored in the closet; a relic I haven’t revisited in a while. I’m not sure I can even play anymore.”
“Well, if you aren’t, get sure! How about an online course? You only need to refresh your memory and then you can take it from there…”
“This, for all the times I’m craving inordinate amounts of food?”
“It’s worth trying. We’ve all tried overeating haven’t we? Let’s try having a hobby? Rekindling an old flame, instead?”
“’Hmm…”, I found myself considering it.
“If you spend the time you have junky cravings to play good music, they might disappear altogether, since you’re satiated differently, possibly diminish, or remain even. Anyhow, you’d definitely discover if you were genuinely hungry or simply bored!”
“It’s just hard to know how much is enough or too much or too little sometimes…” I sighed.
“I hear you. It’s hard to eat appropriately when we aren’t quite up to doing so. Food is comforting. But you’ve said it yourself: one hand writes, the other eats. For that very reason, you aren’t concentrating on what you’re putting inside and just how much. Mindful eating doesn’t happen in front of the television or a computer screen or any other screen. It happens when you’re looking at your plate and relishing (or at the very least, recognizing) every morsel you put into your mouth.”
“I think that’s a fair suggestion. I’m not sure how much the banjo will streamline immoderate food cravings but it sure will shore up some very happy memories to take my mind off food.”
“Well, you could always play a movie when you’ve played too much of the banjo…”
“No, no, no, don’t even go there! Movies call for tubs of popcorn and ice-cream. I still haven’t built up a resistance to them.”
“You don’t have to. If a tub trims to a bowl, you don’t have to resist anything.”
(This piece was inspired by The Nutrition Project’s initiative to encourage mindful eating through tough times or otherwise. SHOUT! is indebted.)
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