Eating in the car: it still counts

Michael is a delightful restaurant owner – he is the epitome of what you might imagine – jolly, jovial, larger than life. And you might be forgiven for assuming that the larger than life part is due to the abundance of food in his restaurants…. Think again. Because every night, on his way home from the restaurant, he buys a 1kg bar of Dairy Milk, and consumes the lot.

Perhaps you’ve done it? You’ve just filled up with petrol, and somehow a bar of chocolate is in your lap, bought in a rush, an impulse at the checkout. You fumble at it, fingers slipping on the wrapper as you try to keep your hands on the steering wheel, heart pounding. You glance at the other drivers. They aren’t looking at you, their focus is on the road. Unlike yours. Your focus is on the wrapper that isn’t tearing.

You put both hands in your lap and rip, and the paper tears. Saliva rushes into your mouth like a dam breaking. The chocolate is already melting with the heat of your lap and the urgency of your desire. You break a piece off, the brown staining your fingertips as you cram it into your mouth. The traffic ahead stops sharply and you slam your foot down, pulse racing as you swallow down the sticky sweetness.

A long drive, you might think? Maybe a two hour commute where he’s hungry and needs sustenance? That’s not the case – his drive is approximately ten minutes. Maybe fifteen if the traffic is bad (which, by the time he leaves the restaurant, it never is). And in that time, during that brief drive, he ate (although I’m not sure this is the best word – perhaps inhaled?) a kilogram of chocolate.

Did he really taste it? Did he enjoy it? Did he focus on it? Or did he shove it down as fast as he could so that no-one would know?

When Michael came to see me, he told me this, with a bit of a giggle: laughter to cover his shame. He knew what the problem was, he just couldn’t stop it.

The bites that ‘don’t count’

Perhaps you turned down a slice of cake, but now you find yourself at the plate, knife in hand, just making sure that the edge is even. You cut a sliver and shove it into your mouth. The cake tastes delicious. You return to the platter and ease off another morsel. Now the edge is a mess. You take the knife again and cut to smooth the ends. A short while later, the cake is considerably smaller…

It’s very easy to say that one mouthful won’t make a difference. The question is then, which mouthful makes us fat? Is it the first? Or the hundredth?

Maybe your friends are saying, come on, you’ve done really well! One dessert won’t kill you! They are right, it won’t, but it’s very easy for that one dessert to become many.

There are many times we can tell ourselves ‘This doesn’t count’. I didn’t order a dessert – I ate it from my husband’s plate, so that doesn’t count. Or I was just clearing dishes, and it was a shame to let the rest go to waste. So I scoffed it rather than put it in the garbage.

It’s much easier to let ourselves off the hook than stick to a diet because diets require us to make a huge effort. They ask for such a large change. Everything we know, everything we do is thrown out of the window. Your normal eating habits are utterly disrupted to make way for a new miracle fix that promises amazing results.

This is mainly because most of us believe that losing weight is so hard, so painful and so mysterious, that only the truly radical solutions will work.

But what if that wasn’t the case at all? What if one tiny change was all that was needed?

Excerpt from ‘Why we Cheat when we Eat and how to stop’.

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