Q: Why can’t I stop eating Cheezits (or Reese’s, or chips, or ice cream) when other people can stop?
A: Because they’re amazingly delicious… Usually what people want to know when they ask this question is “how can I transform my nature to be like all of those ‘normal’ people with self control and personal responsibility? [with maximum self-disdain].” There’s a lot to unpack in this question:
Pizza, chocolate candy, chips, ice cream, etc. are literally irresistible for 98% of people. The word for this in food research is hyperpalatable. For over 100 years scientists at food manufacturing companies have been working to make foods as enticing as possible to drive sales. They’re really, really good at their jobs.
When you combine sugar, fat, and salt + crunchiness and/or creaminess you get a jackpot for the reward centers in your brain. This is why beer companies use half naked women who’ve been surgically and digitally enhanced to sell beer. The women manufactured for these ads deliver what is known as a “supernormal sexual stimulus” which makes straight men want to buy that brand of beer.
Hyperpalatable food goes in, and your eating motivation turns on. Is this curable? Maybe if you regularly burned all the taste buds off your tongue. (Please don’t try.)
As best we can tell, less than 2% of the population feels full eating hyperpalatable foods. So, if you keep eating pizza until you are stuffed or it’s gone, that’s normal. Sorry to rain on your pity party, but you are normal. Researchers barely understand any of why these “naturally thin” people feel full, and nothing looks transferable to the rest of us.
Does personal responsibility have limits?
Yes. The limits of personal responsibility are called “reality.”
Personal responsibility without reality would say, “Well, I should be able to resist anything at all. I should have infinite willpower.” We all wish that we lived in that world. Like I tell my children when they’re being ingrates, “wish in one hand, and put apples in the other. See which one fills up first.” (It’s possible I say something other than “apples”…)
If we add reality to personal responsibility we see the reality of the situation: I’m powerless to not eat the whole damn bag of Walmart’s knock off Pirate Booty. (By the way, Walmart’s booty is the best tasting booty I’ve ever eaten…) I have tried using my willpower, and I have failed 90% of the time. My failure doesn’t absolve me of the natural consequences for my body because I am still responsible for not shoving 4-800 calories of delicious clouds of white cheddar into my mouth.
Because I am still responsible, and individualistic self-control isn’t working, it’s up to me to try something else vs. working even hard at things that I already know don’t work. These other things are a complete buzzkill, and couldn’t bait a click (like click-bait if Yoda said it) if my life depended on it. Now that I’ve sold it so hard, here’s the answer: asking for help and establishing boundaries with yourself and others.
For example, I asked my wife to not buy anymore bags of Walmart booty because I was eating 2 family sized bags a week. She had been buying more to keep up with my bad habit and to have some for school lunches… so, this also means that I am asking my kids to make a sacrifice. My wife asked me if we could not have any dessert until at least Sunday. It’s as simple as that. Simple isn’t easy. Many of us adults (especially women) have the idea that we shouldn’t need help, and we shouldn’t ever ask anyone to make any sacrifices of any kind for us. Bullshit. We’re not hermits. We’re social beings. We live together. We need help.
Yes, this whole article was a long winded way of me saying, “stop keeping tempting foods in your house… if it’s in your house it’s in your mouth.” This is simple, reasonable advice, and it’s also hard. We all want what we want, and most of us avoid confrontations of any kind… in other words we don’t want to say “no” to ourselves, so we look for some magical solution whereby we don’t need to say “no” to ourselves or anyone else. We want to people around us to be perfect about keeping their commitments so we never have to say to them, “so what about when you said you weren’t going to bring home ice cream…?” We don’t want to risk embarrassing ourselves by admitting that we’re failing at something alone, and need help.
Wish in one hand and be an adult in the other.
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