For years I was in pursuit of a crown that was held by an athlete who was renowned for his dietary discipline. His name was Dave Scott, and his extremism in eating lead him to among other things rinse his cottage cheese before he ate it, to rid it of any excess fat held in the cream. Me? Well, my claim to dietary fame was less exemplary. I was known as a patron of the sacred chocolate chip cookie. “Self-restraint” was never mentioned in the same breath with “chocolate chip cookie” when I was speaking.
Dave’s methods did seem to have merit. By 1989, Scott had amassed an arsenal of six Ironman victories and I was at zero. Perhaps I should have taken a clue earlier and ditched the cookies for some squeaky-clean cottage cheese. But eventually I held up the white flag. I wasn’t going to follow his blueprint to the letter, but I thought I should at least go cold turkey with the cookies.
I made a pact with myself. I would not eat, touch, make or otherwise come in contact with a chocolate chip cookie for six weeks. Someone once told me it takes six weeks to change a pattern, so I thought why not! Six weeks without a cookie would not be easy for me, but if it meant victory in Kona, then so be it. After all, it wasn’t rinsing my cottage cheese!
Immediately the most amazing transformation took place. Everywhere I went I saw chocolate chip cookies for sale. At the gas station, in a display at the checkout in the market, in the airports, everywhere!
But gradually over my six-week cookie-free diet, my cravings for them slipped into the unknown and they were replaced by something I never knew I had. It was a whole spectrum of cravings that were fine tuned messages for what my body really needed. What had once been one huge overall urge for a cookie had now become about twenty similar but very distinct cravings for all things healthy. One day it might be a need for more protein, another for extra healthy carbs and the next a simple need for more water. The blare of a cookie craving was gone and I could finally hear the underlying whispers for all things good.
So I put the challenge to you. If there is a nemesis in your cupboard, drop it in the recycling and go on a six-week journey that will lead to understanding the language of your body’s food needs. We are hardwired for wisdom with an inner voice that knows how much food is healthy for our bodies, and what kind of food is going to bring us into our personal body balance each and every meal.
If you do give this a whirl, here are a few tips. First, giving up one indulgence doesn’t give you free range to replace it with another. When the craving first yells out, and it will indeed try its best to break down your resolve, replace it with something totally unrelated to food. Go for a short walk or a workout. Visit a garden or a forest or a park, river, stream, mountain, grassy patch at the end of the block, or anywhere else that has a vivid reminder that nature is happening all around us and use that to put the mute button on the craving.
Second, listen to your body every single day when it sounds like it is calling out for your temptation, then ask: what is it really calling for? What healthy, wholesome, and yes it can be delicious food or fluid is your body really in need of.
Then finally, be looking for the real reward at the end of the road. No, it isn’t going to be license to go out immediately at the end of your six-week quest and stock up on that one thing you have eliminated from your diet. The true reward will be the ability to interpret all the wavelengths of your body’s food cravings. You will understand the messages that lead to positive eating habits. The task will then be to honor them. Bon Appetite!