Tuesday, September 30, 2008

#18 - Donuts Are Not Mood Enhancers!

Last week a friend of mine told me the story of how she was so frustrated with her printer that when she gave up on it she went right to her pantry and started searching for Oreos. Then, today in the car ride home from the dentist, my daughter shared that it was not a good day in school and when we passed a Dunkin Donuts, she asked if we could stop and get a donut. I knew what she was doing. I told her that eating a donut was not going to make her bad day at school get better. I told her I'd rather go buy her a pair of shoes than a donut. By the way, we did neither.

When I got home I thought about our short conversation. What I had told my daughter made a lot of sense. What's amazing though, is that I never thought of it so clearly when it involved me wolfing down some food item to make me feel better. I'll repeat for all our benefits: A donut is not going to make your bad day at school get better. Wow, so simple.

How in the world did we ever get to this place where a cookie can make the frustration from a broken printer go away or where a donut can make a bad day better? Was I taught as a child that food would make the physical hurt go away and did I transition this thought process to emotional hurt? No. I know with certainty that I wasn't taught this - this using food for mood improvement. It was not my mother's, father's nor grandparent's style, nor was it their parenting style. As a matter of fact, when my kids hurt themselves, I didn't give them food to make them feel better. I used to "beat up" the floor or chair or door jam or whatever inanimate object had led to them getting hurt. And if they were feeling sad, I told them not to be sad, that I would take the sad and make it mine.

Most everything I've read says that eating to improve mood is conditioned, ie. learned. Somewhere along the line we felt bad, ate something sweet and felt better. I know it's not that simple, but that's the essence. So, if learning something, like eating to make you feel better, is learned by being reinforced over and over, then can't we un-learn it the same way?


My challenge for the next 30 days will be the following: Every time I go to food for mood enhancement [or any other emotional mood moment] I will stop and tell myself : "a donut will not make this day better". Concurrently, I will then substitute a healthy activity [or thought or action] which serves the same purpose that going to food did. Perhaps, if I repeat the donut quote enough times I can un-condition myself. Alternatively, I will do something positive.... not give into something negative. May the force be with me!!!
*photo of lady is called "death by oreos"

1 comment:

Meg said...

I liked your most recent Babble. It's amazing how even though I know that
food won't solve anything, I will reach for chocolate or another glass of
wine when I feel down. I think that food as a sensual experience is
different. I don't eat anything that I won't enjoy simply for the sake of
eating. And food does have the ability to alter our mood. But it won't
make an underlying problem go away.