Thursday, October 23, 2008

Don't Think About Cheesecake

When people are trying to lose weight, they look at what their major areas of weaknesses are and try like crazy to avoid them at all costs. 
If someone is particularly ‘weak’ when it comes to cheesecake, they might tell themselves:  “I must not think about cheesecake…I must not think about cheesecake…  Above all else, whatever I think about eating, it must not include anything even remotely related to anything having to do with cheesecake.”  As a result, all they think about is cheesecake. 
They think about the ideal temperature of their favorite cheesecake; its texture; its flavor. They might think about settings when they have had the best cheesecake ever, and dream about ways that they could someday, replicate that experience.  Soon, they are obsessed with cheesecake; and either irritable that they can’t have this thing that they have become obsessed with, or they sneak around, hiding and eating cheesecake every chance they get.
I have been learning in my schooling about cravings and why we want the things we think we shouldn’t have.  One of the things I have learned is that cravings are our body’s way of trying to tell us something (for more information on this, hire me in about 9 months, and I will be happy to work with you, as your health counselor!).  Instead of focusing on what we can’t have, and labeling our cravings as ‘bad’, we need to look at what messages our bodies are trying to send us through these cravings; and rather than spending tons of energy avoiding things, we need to figure out what it is we really NEED, in its healthiest form, and go from there.  Usually those cravings resolve themselves.  Our brains and bodies respond better when we focus on filling ourselves with what we CAN have.
I think that there is a similar parallel in our emotional ‘bodies’ as well.  
For a long time after my brother died I could not bring myself to look at the spot where he actually died (this was not hard to miss, as it was right beside the major thoroughfare in our city…nearly everywhere I went involved passing this site).  I would drive past that site thinking, “I can not look there…I can not look there…I can not look there…”  I would get knots in my stomach, my hands would sweat, my mouth would be dry, and I would keep repeating my mantra.  All the while I would steal quick glances at that spot out of the corner of my eye, while still trying to drive.
I can’t remember how long it took before I realized that I was giving that thing, that location, way more power over me than it deserved (kind of like the person who is obsessed with cheesecake).  I forced myself to look at the exact spot where my brother died without looking away, for as long as it was in eye-site (this would be when I was not at the wheel), for several weeks. 
When I looked ‘that spot’ fully, ‘face to face’, I realized that all the things I had built it up to be, based on what it represented, no longer had power over me.   It wasn't scary.  It wasn't evil.  It was just dirt and rock and earth.  I didn’t get knots in my stomach, my hands did not sweat, my mouth was no longer dry; and instead of repeating my mantra, I could actually continue a conversation I may be having, or remember whatever it was I may be listening to on the radio. Sometimes, I would be several hundred yards past THAT spot before I even realized I had gotten near it.  I realized that I spent more energy avoiding this thing, than the energy it took to confront it, look at it rationally, and then continue to move forward through my healing process.
OK, kind of a ‘deep’ way to make a comparison, but I am just trying to make a point (probably with myself, as well). 
I think we all have these “cheesecake” things:  things we ARE trying to NOT do, to NOT think about, patterns to NOT continue.
Sometimes, instead of spending all of our energies trying to avoid them, maybe we need to make a decision to take a look at them and ‘dispel’ them before they grow and grow into something we truly regret (the 50 extra pounds we put on in the last couple of years; the freedom to cross a bridge we might be afraid of; a fear of flying that has kept us from enjoying trips to see loved ones or interesting places; issues with relationships; etc.).
We need to take a look at that thing that we are trying like crazy to avoid and confront it.  If your issue happens to be cheesecake (if only it were that easy for most of us…), look up the fat grams of just one slice; get a calorie count; read the ingredients; and then tell yourself that you REALLY want to “treat” yourself.  Treat yourself by filling yourself with the things that truly ARE good for you:  healthy foods, great relationships, worthwhile activities; and before you know it, the cheesecake will not be THE thing you think about 24/7.  You might find you go a day or 10, and the ‘cheesecake’ thing will not have even crossed your mind.
Does this mean that ‘cheesecake’ is EVIL?  No, it just means that it no longer holds the power over you that it once did, and you will find you can move on; you are no longer obsessed with your love-affair with cheesecake.

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