For the last week I have been conducting an experiment, The Experiment. During The Experiment, I’ve been avoiding comfort foods, in an attempt to give myself a clearer understanding of how much I use food to sooth myself and what I would do if I had all those foods I consider comfort foods removed from my diet. I know that my comfort foods are not the same as those others might identify, but I thought for the purpose of this post it would be good for me to list the kinds of foods I decided to avoid this week.
Defining The Experiment
During The Experiment I avoided the following comfort foods, and monitored my reaction to not having them as a part of my diet:
Dairy Creamer, usually half and half
Dark Chocolate, I don’t eat milk chocolate
Popcorn after dinner
Fast foods, including, but not limited to salads
You might look at this list and say, “Well, there you go, that’s her problem,” and it might be you’re right. If there wasn’t anything that needed changing in my food plan, I probably wouldn’t have embarked upon The Experiment in the first place. I assure you, though, that I do not eat fast food on a regular basis. I eat almost no fast food, but included this category because I do eat out, probably more than I should, and some of the choices I make in restaurants could be classified as fast food, ie: grilled chicken salads at Wendy’s.
But I digress.
About The Experiment:
I had an epiphany when I was driving alone last week. It had to do with my eating. It also had to do with my choice of foods. It had to do with how much I rely on food to sooth my ruffled feathers. Yes, ladies and gents, it had to do with emotional eating. It had to do with why I’m at a plateau with my weight AGAIN, and what I might do to figure out a different way to get to my goal weight. My thought during this epiphany was that I use food in the wrong ways and to the wrong effect many times. I’ve known this piece of the puzzle was true of me for a while, but it became more apparent during my time in the car. If I could just identify why I crave certain foods at certain times, I conjectured, I could make a plan and change a habit, and finally get the weight moving down again.
I also wanted to quit bowing down to my appetite.
As of today I have been doing this conscious comfort food monitoring for one week–seven days–and I have discovered a few things about myself in the process.
What I’ve discovered
1. Foods that sooth remain a powerful presence in my life.
2. I want to get to my goal weight and quit relying on foods to sooth me, but not enough to eliminate them from my diet completely.
3. I cannot find a gentler, easier way to let go of foods that sooth other than the hard disciplines of self-sacrifice.
4. I can quit eating foods that sooth for a time, but it takes real determination and focus to do it.
5. My greatest struggle in resisting foods that sooth happens between the hours of 5:00 and 7:00pm, while I’m fixing dinner.
How it all shook out
I was able to abstain from coffee, half and half, artificial sugars, and chewing gum for 7 days. That’s huge for me.
I ate noticably less foods that sooth, even when I did not completely abstain from eating them.
I was not able to abstain from eating dark chocolate, popcorn, or fast food salads during this time. I ate grilled chicken salads at Wendy’s several times this week.
What I’ve discovered
Monitoring the foods in my diet that have a soothing affect on me has been profitable. Just identifying them was a real lesson in self-awareness. When I craved something, I would ask myself why, then make note of the answer. I slept better the first few days I was off the coffee, but after that no discernible difference was observed in my sleep patterns. I had one day when I didn’t ache as much, but I’m not sure if that was due to the food change, or to temperature and bariatric pressure changes in NEPA. I ate less chocolate (dark chocolate is my go-to snack in the late afternoon, and holds me over until supper; one square does the trick), mostly because I was being mindful of cravings and noting them when they occurred.
I asked myself this question a number of times during the week: Why do I feel I need to have that right now?
I only had popcorn after dinner once.
All in all, I think The Experiment was a success. I ate less, was more conscious of the things I did eat and why I ate them, and made it through a week I knew would be challenging before I began. I feel stronger for having done that, and when tempted to chew a piece of gum yesterday (I’m a big gum chewer and definitely use it to sooth my appetite during the day), I passed on the offer.
I did not lose weight during The Experiment.
I think that if I were to employ The Experiment several times each month, I might, just through habit, begin to feel like I could exclude some of the foods in my life that sooth on a more permanent basis, and that would be a good, good thing. For now, I’m happy to have experimented with food and cravings for one week, and I would be willing to do it again in the future. I have journaled about it during the week, and feel that recording my thoughts here will help me, and might help someone else to give their own experiment a try. That is my hope, anyway.
Have you ever experimented with removing certain foods from your diet for a period of time? What was your reaction to not eating those foods? Did you go back to them, or did you leave them out of your diet forever?