But I Will Feel So Deprived!

“But I will feel so deprived that I’ll go crazy and eat everything in sight,” we lament at the prospect of giving up a food that makes us feel out of control. The bulk of current diet wisdom tells us that we should never let ourselves feel deprived because if we limit ourselves, we’ll overeat it later. We have tons of evidence to support this idea, just in our own diet repertoires. We go on a diet, give up our favorite pleasure foods for a time, and then, when the diet ends, we go wild and chain eat them until our stomach hurts.

The truth is that you can’t continue to eat whatever you want, particularly the addictive foods, if you want to be free from your dysfunctional relationship with food. You’re already doing that, and you know it doesn’t work. Allowing yourself to eat foods that you have an addictive relationship with doesn’t lead to freedom. Not depriving yourself of these foods is a way of trying to manage and appease the Pleasure-Seeking Child so that she doesn’t cajole you into eating everything that’s not nailed down. The real problem with this is that you are listening to and following the dictates of this Child rather than aligning yourself with the Wise Witness, who is more like a wise parent to this Child. The Child is still running the show. On the other hand, when you align yourself with the Wise Witness, you see the whole truth about pleasure foods and the body and recognize the idea of deprivation as a ploy from the Child and throw it out. In this way, you are breaking free from your conditioning rather than trying to manage it.

Another point that so often gets lost is that when we continue to eat whatever we want, we are ignoring the negative health ramifications of eating junk. Some thin people eat a lot of junk. They may stay thin, but their bodies pay a terrible price. It’s not enough to maintain a thin body. To heal your relationship with food, you need to begin to prioritize health.

Back to deprivation: let’s question the idea of being deprived. Ask yourself, “What is it that will feel deprived if I give up an addictive food—my body or me?” Is it true that my body will feel deprived? Or is it more true that I’m fantasizing about having a certain taste experience? The truth is that bodies don’t feel deprived, egos do—the Child does. Deprivation is a conditioned idea that the Pleasure-Seeking Child has talked us into time after time—so many times, in fact, that we’ve actually come to believe it. The Child tells us that we’re feeling deprived and that we deserve two slices of chocolate mousse cake and a hot fudge sundae. It uses the idea of deprivation as an excuse for overeating, and we comply. The body, on the other hand, could care less. It eats whatever is in front of it. It’s the Child that says, “Hey, you’re depriving me.” Deprivation is a conditioned idea that tells us we should be able to expect certain taste experiences because we’ve had them in the past and we’re accustomed to them. Because we’re used to having dessert, we come to expect it, and when we don’t have it, we tell ourselves the story of “being deprived” and get in a tizzy about it.

Is the body really deprived without dessert? The body needs a certain number of calories, certain vitamins and minerals, and a healthy balance of protein, carbohydrates, and fat. If we’re giving it these things, it’s not deprived. Deprivation is a lie that comes from the Child. It’s how we characterize the Child’s tantrum when it’s not getting its desire for pleasure food met. Once you see this, you’re onto the ego’s game, and you can’t be tricked into believing in or following the lie. You’re no longer attached to getting pleasure from pleasure food. When you’re free from the attachment to this desire, you still enjoy food, probably as much, if not more than before, but the difference is that you don’t need to get pleasure from a particular food at a particular time.

You Can Still Have Treats

In making this transition to eating healthier foods, it’s helpful to identify a few foods that you don’t have an addictive relationship to that you consider treats. If you can find a food that doesn’t cause you to want to continue to eat it, then you can include it as a treat food. But if the treat is one of those foods you can’t stop eating, it’s wise to eliminate it if you want to be free of the addictive relationship. The foods that I choose when I want something a bit more interesting than protein, grains, and fruits and vegetables are: low fat baked blue corn chips, small amounts of cheese, whole-grain bagels, ice-cream (that I make using carob and bananas instead of chocolate and sugar), brownies (that I make using bananas and carob instead of chocolate and sugar), popcorn, toasted whole wheat pita pockets, peanut butter, raw almonds, frozen fruit (grapes, dark sweet cherries, oranges, bananas), dried unsweetened apples or pears, and unsweetened muesli. The key is that I can eat them in moderation because they don’t make me feel out of control.

How do you know whether you can have just a little bit of a treat food? If you can set a rule for yourself about it and stick to it, then this is a food you can moderate. If you can’t follow your rule, eliminate the food. The bottom line is either 1) eliminate addictive foods or 2) set a rule and stick to it.