Recent marketing research says that dieters who state, “I don’t eat that” are far more successful. I’m not surprised. “I don’t eat that infers” confidence and ownership. A person who states, “I don’t eat that” is less likely to be cajoled or nudged into eating something they would rather not–for whatever reason.
Compare “I don’t eat that” to the lame, “I can’t eat that”, “I’m on a diet” and “I really shouldn’t”. A victimized or martyred posture is far more vulnerable. In the face of persistent invitations to indulge, a victim is most likely to cave. The victim posture makes it that much more challenging to respond to typical retorts. How often have you heard, “One bite can’t hurt you” ?
I am all for cultivating effective ways to strengthen self regulation and build resilience. I’m just not so sure “I don’t eat that” is the best way to navigate our abundant food supply. What happens when you want to eat that?
LITTLE WHITE LIES: HOW TO NAVIGATE FOOD AND GUILT
“I don’t eat that” may be a very useful phrase in your arsenal, but you may want to develop a wider range of responses to allow you some range and flexibility. My family is Italian, my husband’s family is Jewish. We understood each other from the get go. Food and guilt. In order to hold onto my own sense of when, what and how much I wanted to eat, I needed a full deck of responses to relentless invitations to indulge.
I have used a range of benign white lies to reinforce my own resilience in the face of temptation:
–I’m not hungry (especially when I am not)…
–I have had just enough. Everything was delicious!
–I just had a snack or I had a late lunch…
You get the idea. There are not many people that will insist that you keep eating when you are already satisfied.
VALIDATION IS A VALUABLE ALLY
When someone is persistent–and especially when I realize that someone is mostly fishing for a compliment– I happily comply. “It looks delicious. Can I take some home?”. I am genuinely thrilled to exclaim, “I love your bread pudding, but I am already full. Can I get a doggie bag?” It is amazing how everything quiets down once the needed validation is received. Some people don’t need to know anything more.
The point is to cultivate language that honors your intention to eat well and honor your sense of what works for you. Ideally this language doesn’t paint you into a corner that prevents you from enjoying something when you do want to indulge. How do you navigate eating just enough of exactly what you want?