Do you often beat yourself up after eating fattening and unhealthy foods? You have all good intentions, and you want to eat the salad, but you end up eating the french fries instead. Then after you eat an entire plate of the fried goodness, you go into a long period of feeling regret, guilt and shame chastizing yourself for your lack of self-control or will power.
Oh boy–That’s a slippery slope that will land you in Feeling Sorryville for a long time. I’ve done it myself and I don’t play that game anymore because I know from personal experience that self-shaming for any reason, especially overeating never does anything to make me want to do things differently.
Hummers Vs. Beckoners
Hummers and beckoners are foods that mean different things to you. The term, “hummers and beckoners” originally came from “The Psychologist’s Eat-Anything Diet written by Lillian and Leonard Pierson in the 70’s. Hummers are basically the foods you love to eat. They are special foods with treasured memories that live in your soul. You feel a passion for them in your heart. When you eat them, they feel good in your body and you don’t have to see, hear or taste them to be reminded of how much you love them. When you are hungry, hummers are the foods that give you the deepest satisfaction and feeling in your body.
Your taste for beckoners live in your mind. You want beckoners because you saw someone else eating them, or you smelled them or saw a photo or advertisement picturing them. They are something that you want because you think that you shouldn’t or can’t eat them. These foods call to you from the outside. You may see someone eating french fries and decide that you want them. You could have just finished a great lunch. On your way home, you walk past a bakery and catch a whiff of the freshly baked bread. Still full from lunch, you decide to stop in and make the purchase. Beckoners have an element of the forbidden that drives our urges to eat them.
My History with Food: Hummers and Beckoners
Over the years my food cravings and thoughts about hummers and beckoners have changed radically.
In the early days when I was a dieter, I used to crave anything that was fatty or sweet. I went through a long period of many years when I craved cookies, cakes, pies and chocolates., because I wasn’t allowed to eat them.
I told myself that they were just too fattening to eat on a diet. So I resisted them as much as I could by never buying them and keeping my distance from them at all costs.
I started dieting when I was 10 years old. The doctor discovered I had a heart murmur and everyone panicked. At that time I lived with my dad and step mother, Rosie. My dad was on The Atkins Low Carb Diet, so we ate steak all the time. I loved it so much, but I always felt deprived and wanted more. My portion of meat was so small and I was resentful that I had to cut off the perfectly grilled fat and shove it to the side of my plate and throw it away. One day I felt so deprived that I went into the kitchen and pulled the steak fat from the garbage and ate it. It was sad and blissful at the same time.
So I’ve craved steak fat for years. I come from a long line of really great cooks. My mother, my Nana, my grammie, my great grandpa, Rosie and my father. So comfort food has always been a big crave for me. Mmmm–meat loaf and mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, spaghetti and meatballs and lasagna. I also loved processed foods. Some people call it junk food. I remember one particular evening my brother, David and I drove 140 miles, round trip from Manhattan to Long Island and back again to go get hot dogs at a particular 7-11. (In retrospect now that I think about it, 7-11 is a chain and we could have probably gotten the same hot dogs 5 miles away.)
But I’ve decided to take meat off of my menu. I’ve been a happy vegetarian and gone meatless since March of 2018. Hot dogs and meat are not on my radar anymore. If I do crave a particular meaty taste, there are meatless substitutes and recipes that will give me a really close taste match and texture to what I want. The thing I’ve learned about cravings is that we crave food that make us feel good. Period. As your tastes change, your cravings change.
For years as a dieter, I had mad cravings for potato chips. In 2007 when I made the decision to stop dieting, the prospect of eating whatever I wanted without restriction was terrifying to me. My friend, and networking buddy, Doc Frost had a 25 year reputation of success working as an eating disorder therapist at the Center for Change in Orem, Utah.
He encouraged and taught me how to eat in tune with my body’s hunger by learning a process called intuitive eating. Really. No. More. Dieting. After I stocked my cabinets with about 10 different varieties of chips, I gave myself permission to eat them. Within a very short time, I no longer craved them.
Now I’ll only eat them on the rarest occasions. And funnily enough, I’ll crave a fresh beet or ugly tomato or ear of corn with the same passionate desire as a piece of chocolate.
Vacation in Maine with the Fam
Last summer I went on vacation with the family to Maine and had a blast. In the months preceding, I wondered how I would feel about not eating the seafood I used to love so much.
As it turns out, I did miss it a bit, but when I thought about actually eating the lobster, the craving disappeared and I didn’t want it anymore. As usual the guys brought home a couple of pounds of lobster meat and lobsters.
Again I had a fleeting craving for the memory of lobster meat, but when it came time to boil the lobster, I changed my mind. As I’ve said before–going meatless is right for me. It may not be right for you. That’s cool.
What I want you to takeaway from my discoveries is a new way of eating in a more gentle and kind way. Beating up on yourself for overeating will never sustainably motivate you to choose a healthier food like a salad over fries or whatever other food you prefer.
The first night we were in Maine, we had arrived late and weren’t familiar with the area. All the restaurants had closed and the only place open was a pizzeria.
French Fries and Onion Rings For Dinner?
That didn’t excite me too much. When I looked at the menu, the only meatless option that appealed to me was the Greek salad. I ordered that and made a plan with Angel to share his fries. The guys were having burgers and fries and my daughter, Cara had a BBQ Chicken sandwich with fries.
When the food arrived, my salad looked so boring, I couldn’t bring myself to eat it. I was turned off seeing all the feta cubes everywhere. Angel noticed my frustration and offered to get me something else. I told him I would think about it after I had a few fries. As I tasted the first french fry, it hit my happy spot.
Long story short, I completely ignored my Greek salad and ended up eating an entire meal of french fries and half an order of onion rings. I’ve never done that before. The fries and rings were to die for. I ate just the amount I wanted and I was so happy with my fried food meal.
In my diet days I would have been guilty of some horrible infraction for consuming insane amounts of fat and calories. But now I know that in the days following an episode of overeating, I usually tend to crave lighter, more water-based foods.
As soon as I walked into the kitchen early the next morning, I noticed my kids, PT and Cara at the table chatting. I could feel the tension in the air as I overheard PT complain to Cara about how early it was to get up to catch the ferry to bring her to the island. Ignoring their babble, I was feeling hungry and noticed I was craving something fresh, light and delicious.
The perfectly ripe plums and peaches on the counter caught my eye. Naw. Didn’t want that taste now. And besides, I prefer to enjoy them chilled. I liked the idea of having something sweet but as much as I loved plums and peaches, that wasn’t what I wanted in the moment. I opened the refrigerator and saw the takeout box with the leftovers from yesterday’s fries and rings.
After thinking for a moment about that option, and how it would feel if I ate more grease, that made my tummy feel a little icky. Next to the container, I saw a 1/2 of a mango. I thought about eating that, and liked the idea of the coldness and the sweetness and chose the mango.
After finishing the mango, I wanted something else, so I went back into the refrigerator and looked for other options. I saw the Greek salad and liked the idea of the cold crispy lettuce and vegetables with the tangy vinaigrette. I picked off most of the feta cheese and enjoyed the Greek salad for breakfast. It was fabulous.
Thanks to my mentor, Connirae Andres, My approach to overeating now is very different from my former method of beating up on myself. Here’s what I do:
When I notice that my eating habits have changed and I’m eating more than normal, I take an attitude of curiosity and kindness to get behind the source of what’s really bothering me.
Generally I live very comfortably and peacefully surrounded by foods that most dieters would deem ‘bad’ or ‘fattening.’ I keep frosty dairy-free goodies in my freezers.
Many times because my own homemade food is so delicious, the junk foods and the sweets don’t get eaten. The ice creams develops freezer fuzz, the cookies and chips go stale. Despite the fact that I’m overweight, my relationship with food is continually becoming more relaxed and peaceful. No more dieting for me. I haven’t lived under that kind of restriction for nearly 12 years.
Last night hubby brought home some dark chocolate cookies with white chocolate chips in them. I looked at them with curiosity, but I’m not much into chocolate chocolate. So I took a small corner from one of the cookies and tasted it, noticing that it was far too soft and chocolaty for me. It was more like a deep chocolate brownie batter than a cookie. No appeal for me whatsoever. They’re on the counter and I could pass them a thousand times and they would never beckon me.
When I’m in a space of nurturing myself, I pay close attention to how my body feels and that’s what determines what I eat and how much I want to serve myself. I used to read labels like crazy and pay close attention to the calorie counts and serving size, but now my body tells me everything I need to know based on how I feel after eating the food. The other day I had just about a teaspoon of chocolate ice cream and that was just the amount I wanted.
In keeping with Connirae Andreas’ Naturally Slender Eating Strategy, I eat to feel good, and too much food or the wrong types of foods, make me feel bad, so I usually don’t consume them.
Chips still remain my #1 favorite binge food. During extremely stressful times, I’ve noticed that if I have the chips on the counter, (I’ll just grab then and start munching away. Now they beckon me.
Rather than removing chips from my home or not buying them at all, I decided to add a level of challenge to make them just a little less accessible. In my pantry closet, I have a big blue bucket. In that bucket, I have several different kinds of chips and some of my favorite fruit jelly candies.
My reasoning behind placing these junk foods in my kitchen is for the purpose of giving me a moment to pause and think. “Do I really want to eat this food now?”
Back in 2016 I worked with Susan Holmberg, a nutritionist who taught me that technique. Her binge food is peanut butter. She keeps a jar of peanut butter and a spoon up in her attic. In order to get to it, she has to pull down a ladder, and walk up to the stairs to get to her attic and eat the peanut butter. For now, I’m okay with keeping the bucket in my kitchen, because it’s still a rare occurrence when I seek out those chips. I am, however thinking about the possibility of moving them to an area outside my home, where my storage freezer is located.
I usually eat for the purpose of fueling myself with high quality energy. I have a keen awareness of how the many different foods I love affect me and now I know that when I eat to the point of dragging myself down rather than picking myself up, it’s wise for me to explore what’s really going on.
As a former dieter, I take tremendous pride in knowing that I can be surrounded by those foods that used to have me tied up in knots without feeling the urge to eat them in excess. It’s deeply healing to me to know that I’m in charge of what I eat and I’m no longer a slave to my cravings. But lately since I’ve broken into the bucket twice in the past month, the chips have been getting to me. They’ve been beckoning. I learned that old binge foods beckon when I’m under stress. But as long as I take a proactive stance and maintain my level of self-care by meditating, enjoying long soaks in my bathtub, getting plenty of rest, and listening to great music, and reading, I’m consistently nourishing myself without food.
My Hummers: My favorite foods
Typically the foods that hum and feel good in my body are my homemade favorites. I love eating my homemade wraps and pizzas with roasted garlic & tomatoes. Paninis and sandwiches. Spinach pie. Oh my! Toast or crackers spread with hummus or avocado with tomatoes. Rice cakes and peanut butter or my homemade combination of nut butters. Give me a grilled cheese with tomato and some chips and I’m so good. I love fresh beets, mushrooms, corn, sauteed garlic string beans, broccoli, cauliflower, mashed potatoes, baked potatoes, home made soups like lentil, split pea, spinach and bean, and minnestrone. I’m wild about my husband, Angel’s rice and beans and fried tostones. I love all salads, cole slaw, lentil, potato, pasta salad, spinach salad with homemade vegan feta cheese, dried cranberries with balsamic vinaigrette and glazed pecans. I adore red pepper, chick peas and artichoke hearts and often add them to my leafy green salads. Cold crispy salads tickle my senses. In addition to my old standby of iceberg lettuce, lately I’ve been enjoying arugula, pea shoots, mesclun lettuce. Every few days I cut up red onion, a variety of lettuces, add cherry tomatoes, and some broccoli, cauliflower and that’s always ready for me anytime. I make a mean sausage and peppers using vegan sausage and seasoning it with fresh roasted garlic, fennel seeds, oregano, crushed red pepper, and other fabulous spices. I love stir fries with rice, ramen noodles and I always have some type of pasta in my fridge. I enjoy eating it cold or hot. I love homemade stuffed mushrooms, peppers and artichokes. Rice Chex, oatmeal and rice pudding are some of my favorite things. I adore fruits of all kinds. Canned peaches and pears, frozen strawberries and cherries, and fresh ripe, juicy melons. I keep cut up oranges, grapes, cherries and cherry tomatoes in glass jars with water in my fridge as first reaches. I love apple, grapefruit and grape juice and V8. I enjoy having homemade iced teas like peppermint, lemon ginger or some other type of fruit tea on hand. I rarely eat typical breakfast foods and instead love to eat leftovers. I know I’m missing a lot, but the point is, I don’t go hungry.
Paying Attention to How I Feel
On days when I observe that I’m overeating, I notice that I don’t feel good after I eat. I’m not light and buoyant and filled with energy, instead I feel uncomfortable and sluggish, maybe even desirous of taking a nap. Not very productive.
What I Learned About My Emotional Eating
For me, I’ve learned that in order to keep my emotional eating to a bare minimum, I need to have good quality foods available that I love to eat. For me, that means doing my own cooking instead of having convenience foods on hand. When my fridge is packed with boxes of take out Chinese, leftovers and foods in big pots, that I don’t enjoy, I tend to reach for whatever is closest. Can you say chips?
I do myself a special kindness when I take time each week to do my own cooking. It’s almost a guarantee for me that I’m going to eat the foods I prepare because I really love them. I prep my foods and have them in the fridge for easy access. I notice that when my fridge gets cluttered, my eating goes wonky. It’s become important to me to keep my fridge clear and to have foods I love easily accessible.
Here’s The Takeaway for You
Have you been finding yourself caught up in overeating? Emotional eating is your body’s way of crying out and saying that you need to pay attention to what’s going on in your life. You don’t serve yourself in any way by beating up on yourself for eating, rather you can nurture yourself and break free of your compulsive desire to eat by paying attention to what’s really bugging you and feeding yourself from within.
When you start getting hung up on your weight, how you look, and what you’re eating, it’s a sign to you that you need to go deeper. Pay attention to what’s really bugging you.
What do you notice about what foods are calling your name this weekend? Be aware that if your fridge is packed to the rafters and you can’t gain easy access to what you really want, the beckoners will get you. Have fun this weekend noticing the difference between the two types of foods.