A recent column on ďtrigger foodsĒ — gaining control over the foods that trigger binge eating for you — really knocked against the limits of my email box. I was wondering just what sort of nerve Iíd touched when I realized the connection. This column hit right at the end of Lent.
Lent is a season observed in many Christian cultures, running from the end of February until mid-April, ending on Easter Day. The time is meant for reflection, taking stock, rededication. Itís often a time when people choose some form of fasting, which has been transferred into ďgiving upĒ some thing, something perceived as an excessive pleasure, for instance, for the duration of the season.
Thatís when a lot of us give up candy. Or desserts. Or chips. Or smoking. Or alcohol. For a few weeks. That is, we give up what we like for a few weeks. Itís seen as a sacrifice. A hardship. Itís supposed to be that. Youíre trying to go into the wilderness and rough it for awhile. The more difficult your sacrifice, the better.
ďWhat I need,Ē said a reader and pal, reacting to the idea of giving up her trigger foods, ďIs more Lent.Ē
Right. Well, but wait. Not really. What we need is to change our minds about giving up foods and habits that arenít good for us. Is it really a form of sacrifice to give up eating an entire bag of bite-sized Snickers on your evening commute? Do I suffer by banning potato chips from my home? Am I wretched for my lack of white flour snacks?
Of course not. Iím better for all of these changes. I feel better. Iím healthier. Iím stronger. I sleep well. My blood pressure is back under control. My blood sugar too. I am not nearly so likely to die young as I was when I ate all of those things.
Giving up candy and non-nutritive snacks is the opposite of Lenten behavior. If I measure all the benefits to my well-being and health, giving up foods that are bad for me is practically hedonistic. Itís certainly self-serving, indulgent behavior. Itís all about me, me, me.
I want to give up these foods to look better, feel better, live longer, rest more fully, cut back on my stress. Giving up eating crap is better than a long hot bath. More durable than a botox injection. More curative than a body scrub. Itís instant gratification and long-term gratification all rolled together.
A mind game? Yes, it is. Just a game with a different set of rules than the mind game we currently buy into when we tell ourselves it is a sacrifice to not eat eating candy for a few weeks.
We donít need more Lent, babies. We need to see that cutting back on sweet and white-flour foods is no sacrifice at all.