Cupcake
Photo: Thinkstock/liquidlibrary
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Wanting vs. Having

I realize that's a radical statement—if you let yourself feel the depth of your food cravings, you will set yourself free—but after 27 years of working with compulsive eaters, I've gotten the hang of what works and what doesn't.

Recently, I had an encounter with one of my students, who said, "I love cupcakes. I love, love, love them. Every time I see them, I have to eat every single one. I am helpless in the presence of a cupcake."

The story we usually tell ourselves about our lack of control—especially if it concerns high-fat or high-sugar foods—is that we need to discipline ourselves and stay away from them. Keep them out of the house. Lock the cabinet doors and throw away the keys.

Okay, maybe you haven't locked your food in a cabinet, but how about those times when you're certain that the potato chips have suddenly developed vocal cords and are calling you from across the room?

If you find yourself binging and dieting, making proclamations about which foods you absolutely can't have in the house...only to find yourself, in a moment of madness, running to the store and loading up on those exact foods (and telling the clerk that they're for your daughter or that you're having a party), here's the million-dollar question: What are you wanting when you want those potato chips, the cupcakes, that Chocolate Decadence Cake?

I can hear you saying: The potato chips, of course! The chocolate, without a doubt! But remember what Pooh said: The moment before he put his hand in the honey jar was actually better than tasting the honey itself. Then ask yourself: If honey were truly what he wanted, why was it better to want it than to have it? Why are the race-to-the-food cravings or the moment before you eat it equally if not more delicious than actually having it?

How to find out what you really want

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