Taming the Lion

There was a great analogy that was posted on the MyFoodDiary forums: Addiction is like a roaring lion. Addicts who use tobacco, alcohol or drugs have to slam the door to the lion’s cage and walk away to recover. Food addicts have to open the cage and pet the lion three times a day for the rest of their lives.

I’m certainly not saying that food addictions are harder to handle than drug or alcohol addictions. But there is something uniquely difficult about an addiction where you can’t just avoid the trigger completely. You have to eat. You can’t just walk away from food. You can’t draw that clear line. There’s no monitoring needed – the solution is very clear: DO NOT DO THAT.

This is not the case with food. With food, you gotta go in there and make nice with the lion. To me, that’s why diets like MediFast (I also tried this one very briefly) and Jenny Craig are so appealing. Follow these instructions on how to pet the lion, and it won’t eat you. But the problem, of course, comes when you have to fly solo – the lion looks awfully hungry.

While I did gain some weight – maybe in comparison to others, I never let it get too bad. But I feel I was lucky in that I quickly realized how easily it could be to just keep packing on the pounds. These are all reasons why I now monitor what I eat as carefully as possible. If I have to go into that lion’s cage, I’ve got to know exactly what I’m doing, when I’m doing it, how I’m doing it because otherwise, it’s all over. If I could quit food cold turkey, I would. But (a) I love food!!! and (b) well, you can’t. Sorry. I may be thinner now, but it’s something that I’m going to always need to keep on top of. I’ll never be able to turn my back on that lion.

Beyond monitoring/calorie counting, a few other things I do to keep the lion under control:

If there’s snacks in the house, do not leave them where they are easily reached or seen.
When I go shopping, I try to buy a few healthy snacks to help with random cravings. I’ll look for the healthiest, lowest calorie things I can find. But even then, if you’re just going to town on the bag, it’s not going to be good. Also, if I see it, I’ll start craving it, even if I wasn’t craving it to begin with. So I’ll put them out of sight. (On top of the fridge or waaay in the back of the pantry) That way I have them when I really need them, but I won’t just want them because “they’re there.”

Do not bring bad things into the house!
Maybe this goes without saying, but I’ve heard people who are on diets say they suddenly lose it and eat a whole bag of Doritos. Uhm. WHY is there even a bag of Doritos in the house?? Do not buy things that will tempt you or have portions so ridiculously small that there is no way you could stay within their range. Sometimes the kids want some of these things, and I tell them point-blank – Sorry, we’re picking out healthier snacks – not just for you but for me too. Clear out the pantry and the fridge of unhealthy food. Throw it away! And do not bring more into the house.

Pay attention to what you’re doing
This does kind of fall in the monitoring category – but I think it’s worth mentioning. It’s way too easy to grab the bag of “healthy snacks” and bring them next to the computer – and eat the whole bag without realizing it. (Or maybe that’s just me) If I want to snack while I’m on the computer (which is probably not a good thing to begin with, but whatever), I’ll go measure out a portion, leave the bag in the kitchen, and then bring just the measured portion with me. That way, hopefully when the portion is gone, I’ll be done, and if I still want more, at least I’ll be aware of what I’m doing: get up, measure out a second portion, leave the bag, go back to the computer. Sure, if your computer is close to the kitchen, this is probably not going to work for you. I’d say the best bet is just not munch by the computer at all in that case.

Choose wisely
There are some days that lion is just loud. And really damn hungry. Some days you just want a massive huge plate of food. On those days, I’ll try to deal with it by getting a whole head of lettuce, which thankfully isn’t very calorie dense, and having a massive salad. (Of course watch how much dressing you put on, that stuff adds up). I’ll add in some cooked chicken to add some protein, and that usually does the job.

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