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Pretzel Logic

Posted Sep 14 2008 3:11pm

Sometimes as a disordered eater you just have to have a good laugh at what goes on in your mind. Maybe listening closely also will give you a new perspective on your irrational thinking. Here’s some stinkin’ thinkin’ I hear from clients and students—and friends and family—which seems logical on first hearing, but should give you a chuckle when you realize how truly illogical it is.

I hear binge-eaters insist that they had to eat the whole whatever (fill in the food item) because they didn’t want to keep it in the house. What you’re really saying is that you felt compelled to eat the food at that moment so that you wouldn’t eat it later. Now, sad to say, any disordered eater would totally understand that logic, right? But I doubt it would make much sense to a “normal” eater who might innocently ask, “What’s the difference if you eat it now or later? Are there fewer calories if you eat it in one fell swoop than if you put it in the refrigerator and eat one piece/slice/chunk at a time?” She might even misconstrue your motives and think you’re downing it all now because you like to eat your food fresh. Little does she know.

What actually is going on when you feel driven to finish up food because you don’t want it lingering in a cabinet or taking up space in the refrigerator is fear and anxiety, with maybe a dash of hopelessness and despair. What you’re thinking is that you’re for sure going to eat that food sometime soon—you can’t imagine keeping it in the house and not eating it—and this thought gives you unbearable agita. You just know that if this stuff sticks around, it’ll hold your attention hostage and you won’t be able to rest until it’s gone, as if it emits an annoying buzz at a frequency only you can hear and you have to stop the noise or you’ll go crazy.

But, really, think about it. Let’s say the outcome is that you will, indeed, eat all of the feared food. Okay. Maybe it’s delicious and you love it, in which case, why not enjoy it? Here are your consumption choices: 1) eat it all at once with guilt and shame and practically zero enjoyment or 2) eat it in small portions with pleasure and pride and extend your enjoyment of it.

If you know you’re going to eat a scary food, signal yourself to relax rather than get anxious. First, acknowledge that it’s perfectly okay to eat this food. Second, remind yourself that if you don’t eat it all in one fell swoop, you’ll be able to enjoy it many times over. Really, now, doesn’t that make more sense than your pretzel logic?



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