It seems we have entered an era where eating a cupcake is either as provocative as Christian Grey or as rebellious to culture norms as Lady Gaga. When did food become so powerful that it now is assigned a moral value: bad vs good, healthy vs unhealthy, clean vs unclean?
Some have described this constraint as willpower, however, willpower is defined as control exerted to do something or restrain impulses. Impulses are a sudden strong and unreflective urge or desire to act; willpower can be disrupted by emotions and depleted over time. Does this sound like energy that should be devoted to making decisions such as whether to eat a cupcake?
I bet you're thinking, I can't get the damn cupcake out of my head now. The brain has taken over and the brain always wins! So, let’s go back to the whole Christian Grey fascination. This has been labeled the "Ironic process therapy" or, as I call it in my practice, "the bad boy effect," which is the psychological process where deliberate attempts to suppress certain thoughts make them more likely to surface. So whether you're trying to avoid thinking about a cupcake because you think it is "unhealthy" or staying away from Mr. Grey since your girlfriends tell you he is nothing but trouble, you now have ignited your brain to hyper focus on both.
This process is worsened by stress and can eventually lead one to have more immoral out-of-character thoughts. Insert a clip of Miranda on Sex & the City here – the episode where she tries to avoid eating cake she has in her apartment by pitching it into the trash, only to later be at her wit's end diving back into the trash inhaling cake in a binged manner.
Although avoiding relationships with characters such as Mr. Grey are likely in your best interests, why can't there be a healthy relationship with delights such as cupcakes? This has led me to ditch diet mentality that strives off imbalance and join the Intuitive Eating movement. Intuitive Eating believes in the power of neutralizing all foods' meaning – not assigning moral value to one food over another. Yes, this means cupcakes and quinoa should be considered equal. This does not mean they necessarily have the same nutritional value, but like many struggling with perfectionism, culture has now decided that diets are the new thing to perfect.
For those of you not familiar with Intuitive Eating, following are the key principles:
- Reject the Diet Mentality
- Honor your Hunger
- Make Peace with Food
- Challenge the Food Police
- Respect your Fullness
- Discover the Satisfaction Factor
- Honor Your Feelings without Using Food
- Respect your Body
These principles incorporate choosing foods – not only by taste – but also by prioritizing how it nourishes your body. I love a great cupcake (personal favorite is Gigi cookie dough), yet if I had it daily it would not provide the same satisfaction and likely not appease my hunger.
So, the next time you really want a cupcake, put the children to bed, take a deep breath, put Fifty Shades on the screen and ENJOY!
Rebecca McConville, MS, RD, LD, CSSD is a Master’s Level Registered Dietitian & a Board Certified Sports Specialist. She specializes in the treatment of anorexia, bulimia, compulsive overeating & exercise addiction. She also treats the female athlete triad & athlete-associated disordered eating. Becca understands that the drive for peak performance may lead to disordered eating. Her goal is to help you fuel your body, so that you can fuel your life! Visit her website.