Beware of “I Don’t Care” (especially when it comes to food choices)

If one single thought pattern can undermine your efforts to eat healthfully more than any other, it’s probably these three little words: I don’t care.

who caresIn fact, those three words kept me mired in compulsive eating for decades. After years of digging for the roots of my eating drive, I finally boiled down my entire compulsive eating problem to one issue—I don’t care. I was repeatedly bitten by the I-don’t-care bug. I don’t care threatened to undo me once and for all! All the efforts I’d made to free myself from compulsive eating—from psychotherapy to hypnosis, neuro linguistic programming, emotional freedom technique, high protein, low fat (and those are just the tip of the iceberg)—fell flat vis à vis I don’t care. I learned a lot about myself during those effortful years, but I didn’t learn how to handle I don’t care effectively.

Eventually, I found out that it wasn’t my thinking that was the problem, but the fact that I was buying into it hook, line, and sinker.

Practice and Preparedness
The I-don’t-care bug is like the cockroach—it’ll always be around no matter what. But even with their reputed immunity to nuclear calamity, cockroaches can still be kept at bay. Let’s take a look at two strategies for dealing with an I don’t care infestation.

Planning
Because we live in a culture subsisting primarily on refined and animal foods, consistently following a nutritarian diet style requires planning. Also, deciding ahead of time what you’re going to eat eliminates any last-minute decision making. For instance, I know that when something unpleasant happens—say an overdraft fee from the bank—I don’t care. I get overwhelmed and upset. I can’t stand that thirty-five of my precious few dollars have just been wasted on a minor error on my part, and then I don’t care. I just want to feel better, and my go-to method for feeling good fast usually involves something unhealthy and toothsome. If I haven’t planned—and even prepared, in some cases—my meal, there’s nothing to keep me from racing off to the nearest patisserie or chocolatier.

Responding
Since I know that about myself, I can prepare for the inevitable vicissitudes of life. Of course, just because I’ve preplanned my meal doesn’t mean I don’t care won’t still try to have its way with me, so here’s where the second strategy comes into play. Instead of fusing with the thought, I don’t care, I’m gonna respond to it. Here are some of my favorite comebacks:

I might not care in this moment, but if I wait just a little while, my angst will subside, and I’ll be really glad I stuck to my veggies.

I have to learn other ways of dealing with frustration! If I eat every time I get upset, I’ll never be able to lose weight and keep it off.

I might not care right now, but I will definitely care in the morning when I step on the scale.

It’s true that I don’t care right now, but I know from past experience that this is a temporary state of affairs. I most certainly will care later, and I’ll be much happier at that time if I don’t eat.

Remember, this I don’t care is just another ploy by my antediluvian brain to get me to feed it. I can get through this without using food.

It’s very tempting to use food in times of upset and stress because eating actually does serve to reduce negative feelings by temporarily breaking a stress feedback loop in the brain. Add that to the usual kudos you get from your brain just for eating, and you have a very tempting, hard-to-resist threat to your food plan (and ultimately your health and happiness). But there are other quick and healthy ways to reduce stress, like going for a quick walk around the block. I know, it’s not nearly as appealing, but you’ll be happy you did it afterwards!

Getting Around I don’t care
1. Plan, plan, plan!
2. Make up some responses to I don’t care and practice them every day for two weeks so they’ll come to mind when you need them.

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