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We don’t even realize it most of the time, but for every holiday or special gathering, there’s a food (or at least food-like substance) we expect to eat.

 

We’re so conditioned that we don’t hope for a grilled bratwurst washed down with cold root beer and followed later by watermelon and maybe onion rings on July 4th; we expect it.  You might have a different set of expectations then me, but you have a set even if you aren’t aware of them.

 

Until gluten and corn were gone from my diet, I couldn’t have told you that Easter was associated with peanut M&M’s, New Year’s was summer sausage and cheese on crackers, Valentine’s was decorated sugar cookies, etc.  None of those are things I crave or eat on a regular basis.

Bunny Faces

But once gluten and corn were gone (I have celiac disease and am allergic to corn), it became obvious that eating those foods during “their holiday” was deeply imbedded in my emotional memory.  I’ve not eaten even one M&M since 2006, but each Easter I fiercely want them.  Every year I repeat some version of the following:

 

  • The week before—search the internet for a source of gluten-free and corn-free peanut M&M’s…no luck.
  • Easter—consider eating some that are gluten-free even though they have corn, but decide against it.
  • The day after—content with the thought that a safe substitute might be found by next year.
  • The rest of the year—M&M’s never even cross my mind without seeing them, and even then, I rarely want to eat them.

 

As strange as it may sound, if someone had set a safe version in front of me Monday, I’m not sure I would have eaten them.  But on Sunday?  Sunday I would have snarfed down the entire bag or bowl and maybe even wished for more.

 

I don’t remember looking forward to M&M’s as a kid.  I think they must have been in my Easter basket each year, but I don’t have any fond memories where they played a prominent role.  I know I had some every Halloween too, but I don’t want them on Halloween…only Easter.

 

Weird, right?

 

Egg fight

Egg fight! (With empty plastic eggs.)

There are lots of similar stories from people who have restricted their diets due to food allergies, intolerance, or even just personal choice.  Within a year of giving up a specific food or food group, it becomes unquestionable that we all assign meaning to food; meaning that goes far beyond fuel and nutrients.

 

Everyone tries to tell us that food is just food:  it is fuel; it’s just nutrients; and we should cut all emotional ties to what we eat.  That’s like saying that sex is only good for reproduction.  Technically it might be true, but realistically, that isn’t how we live.

 

So what do we do about this contrast between what is technically right and what realistically exists?

 

Let’s face it, if you’re craving a food that isn’t nutrient dense, it isn’t because you literally need it.  You just want it the way I wanted M&M’s Easter weekend.  If you don’t eat what you’re craving, you’re still going to wake up on the right side of the dirt tomorrow.  And a few days (or maybe even hours) from now, it’s likely that you’ll completely have forgotten the craving regardless of rather or not you ate what you wanted.  Since that’s true, and you know it is because of your experience with it, what do you think would happen if we learned more about hunger and stopped obsessing so much with food?

 

How do you deal with triggers for various food items when you either can’t have the food in question or don’t want to eat it?

 

Very soon I’ll post another person’s take on hunger and how he approaches food so that he maintains the body composition and level of health he wants.

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