A very long time ago, I used to work in a department store. My shifts would be 4 hours involving a 15 min break at which point I would be starving (lunch time) and would run down several floors via escalators and get to the food court to line up for food. That would take 3 mins, maybe up to 5 mins to order depending on the length of the queue, 2 mins to wait and so I’d then eat my food on the way back to the store just so I’d be back in time to complete my shift.
After my shift ended, depending on whether or not I was still hungry or if I’d had time to get food in my 15 min break, I would go and get even more food and chow it down. Now, I was never fat. Pudgy, solid maybe but not fat and I’ll tell you why.
On one of my starving moments after one of my shifts, when I swore to myself as I walked to the food court that I would eat a whole pig, I came across something that would imprint itself in my mind forever.
As I was getting off the escalator leading into the food court, my thoughts were only on how I was going to buy the largest meal I could find. I imagined giant burgers, huge portions of fries, maybe some fried chicken and a burrito. I was ready to go for gold except that the very first image I saw, front and centre as I got off the escalator was an obese woman sitting on a stool (that was fixed to the floor), eating. She was so big, you couldn’t see the stool or the table. All you could see was the pole that stool was fixed to and her back. So the image before me was an obese woman, sagging, overflowing on all sides, over this pole. Not a good look.
I tried to ignore her but the thought was, “THIS is what you’re going to look like if you go eat that pig you keep thinking about. THIS is going to be the consequence of your actions.” but I talked my way out of it. “Maybe it’s genetic. It’s not her fault. Maybe she just eats a tiny little sandwich and ends up like that.”
So I walked around and looked over to her table to see what she was eating just to prove to myself that “it was genetic”. All the while praying, “Please let it be a salad!” but it wasn’t. The woman was so big, there was no room between her and the table, it looked like it was extending out of her stomach and on that table was a whole roast chicken (which looked tiny in front of her), fries and God only knows what sugary drink to match. This was a food court, they served chicken in quarters with fries but they gave her a WHOLE chicken not even cut up!!! I didn’t even want to know what she’d already eaten before I looked at her table. That was enough. I actually lost my appetite and I can’t remember if I even ate after that. I don’t know if I ended up just drinking water or maybe had a sushi roll or I fasted on her behalf. All I know is that I did a quick U-turn and left that food court in a hurry.
One thing remains – I don’t know or remember her face. Just her size, the pole up her butt and the big chicken that looked like a nugget compared to her and every time I start binging on high fat, sugary foods in high quantities, that image haunts me. It’s like an automatic switch. The image appears, the words “These are the consequences of your actions.” run through my brain and I just stop eating.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I actually can and do eat a lot but I won’t do it every day and I often will spend a week after a big binge eat, hardly eating anything at all. Who needs diets to stay slim? You just need one strong image for life.
Why do I mention this? Because I got another of those images very recently and its impact reminded me of the first. I’d just done a 3 day detox to recalibrate my body. This is because Tony was away and I’m a lot more disciplined when he’s not around. I’d noticed that I talked a lot about chips, ate a lot of chips (crisps) and it was the only junk food I would let myself have. No lollies, no sweets, no cakes, no soft drinks, no coffee, no chocolate – was way too easy for me. I don’t really like any of those things nor do I crave them but I did crave chips. For 1 week prior, during and 1 week after my time of the month, which makes 2-3 weeks of every month, I would crave chips and only chips.
It got so bad, Tony and I would go and buy a 24 multi-pack and it would be finished in 2-3 days. At first I was proud of my chip eating abilities but then I realised I was addicted. When you think about it, want it, crave it and have to have it such that you can’t walk past the aisle when you’re at the grocery store, then there’s something wrong. When chips are in the house, I feel the need to eat it all. I can’t ignore its presence and I will actually seek it out and eat it.
I didn’t ever HAVE TO walk down any aisle in a grocery store. In fact I sat at home with 3 bags of M&M’s unopened for 2 weeks without even flinching but I HAD TO walk down the crisps aisle. Whether I was hungry or not, I would have to get a pack of chips. I even started eating it for breakfast and I’d have 3 packs before dinner and 3 packs after. SO… “No more!” I told myself. “Get rid of your one and final addiction!” so I went on a detox.
That’s when it occurred to me. Every time Tony and I have ever done a juice fast or any type of “healthy” eating challenge, as soon as we finish the challenge, I have a bag of chips and am eating it as my “reward” and my justification was that it was “balance”. This time, I fought the urge. I wanted chips for the entire 3 day detox and afterwards I had to force myself to walk out of the grocery store without visiting the chip aisle.
Two days after I completed my detox I thought, right, I did it. Sheer will power for not eating chips right after my detox needs a reward!!! And I was ready to go and find me a giant bag of crisps to take home so I could tell myself how good I was at my detox.
As I walked to the shops, the sun was out and many people were out running, being “healthy”. I was like, “Yup, I already did my healthy, today is time for some balance. I’m a grab me some chips!” So I started thinking about which type I was going to get. “Should I get Kettles or Ruffles or maybe that Canadian Ham one or maybe a 12 pack of assorted but if I do which type should I get? The normal one or the meaty flavoured one?” and then just as I was going through my options, it happened.
An image front and centre, right on the corner of the street I needed to turn onto, 2 mins before getting to the grocery store. A woman in the shortest of running shorts (shorter than my undies), a spaghetti strap singlet with her hair tied up in a pony tail and running shoes. Except… she wasn’t running, jogging or even walking. She was leaning with her back/bum against the brick wall, staring at her phone in one hand, and she was smoking… a fag in her other hand.
She conjured up thoughts of confusion and disbelief. I found myself yelling at her in my mind: “WTF? If you’re going to laze around staring at your phone and smoking, why the hell did you dress up in running gear? Why didn’t you just stay on your couch? or come out wearing normal clothes? Who DRESSES like they’re health conscious and goes and does the complete opposite?! If you had another hand I’m sure there’d be a donut in it!! What is the word for this? There must be a word for this? Is this what you call an oxymoron? Can you actually call someone an oxymoron? ’cause that’s what this chick is… an oxymoron!” and then the question came… “Why would you PRETEND to be healthy while you stand there killing yourself? Wearing running clothes doesn’t make you healthy!! It’s your actions!”
*lightbulb moment* Message received loud and clear. I was the oxymoron.
I stopped mentally yelling at this lady. I crossed the road and went to the store. I walked out with a bag of rocket, avocadoes and a cucumber. I wasn’t doing a detox to look healthy, I wanted to BE healthy and eating bags of crisps right after a detox was exactly like smoking a fag while wearing running gear. Nuff said.
I’ve been to the shops a few times since and I haven’t needed to go into the chip aisle at all. If I ever need to go there, I’m sure the picture of that woman in her running gear with phone in one hand and a fag in the other will be right there to greet me.
And that’s how I do it. I kick my bad eating habits and food cravings with images that trigger and remind me of the worst examples of me that I would be if I continued down that path. I see the picture and hear “This is you.” and if I don’t like what I see, I stop what I’m doing.
I don’t really need that obese lady picture anymore because I barely binge eat these days and just as easily as that happened, I know eventually I’ll stop craving the chips and won’t need this fag lady image anymore either.
Like Rev Michael Beckwith said, “Pain pushes until vision pulls.”
I tell you what though, I’m grateful I saw them. Neither of them will know what influence they’ve been on my life just by their mere existence, a few seconds of them in my life, without saying a word to me, burned lifelong and important lessons into my memory. Weird but I’m grateful and now I don’t really have any other food cravings to get rid of.
So, have you got weird ways to kick your food cravings?