How Do I Stop Wanting What I Want?

When it comes to food, we think that wanting what we want is inevitable, an irrevocable fait accompli. Fortunately, nothing could be further from the truth.

The idea of giving up a food we love is tantamount to giving up our right arm or our first-born child. Even the great King Solomon couldn’t come up with a solution to the conundrum of passionately loving food that doesn’t love us, loving food that makes us fat, sluggish irritable, and unhealthy.

When a food makes us feel giddy and out of control and we can’t stop eating, it’s best to either make a rule about it or give it up. Here are some examples of rules, “I won’t keep this in the house but I can eat when I’m at a restaurant” or “I can have this once a week when I go to Aunt Sallie’s for dinner” or “ I will eat a small square of this and only that much and freeze the rest.” If you can’t stick to the rule then it’s time to consider cutting that food out of your life.

So what do we lovers of naughty, non-nutritional food do when we’re forced to admit that we’re out of control around a food, eating it is impacting our weight and health, and we would be better off banishing it from our lives? Perhaps for years we’ve kept our blinders locked firmly in place, procrastinating, hoping that if we just hold out long enough, we will wake up one morning, and our desire will have evaporated along with the morning mist.

When I was in the brownie business, people often asked me if being around brownies all day made me immune to their charms. Luckily or unluckily (depending on your perspective) this never happened. Instead of getting sick of them, the more I ate brownies, the more I wanted them.

Although it seems counter-intuitive, the only way to stop wanting a food is to stop eating it. That’s right. Let me say it again. You need to stop eating a food in order to stop wanting it. Here’s why:

  1. When you stop eating the food and decide that it’s out of your life forever and ever, not just a day, a week, or a month—you stop thinking about it.
  2. And when you stop thinking about it—you stop desiring it.

You can’t desire something unless you think about it. A desire is simply a thought about wanting what you don’t have. If you decide that a particular food isn’t in your life anymore, there is no reason to think about it because you know you can’t have it. It’s as if you’ve drawn a line in the sand that says that food is dead to you, it is no longer something you eat. For example: let’s say you’re in England and you really want baked tortilla chips and you discover that English supermarkets don’t carry this food, you stop wanting it. Why? Because it’s pointless to desire a food when there’s no possibility of having that desired fulfilled. Even the ego becomes a pragmatist and decides to hang up the towel rather than pestering us about baked tortilla chips in England.

When you commit to banishing a food it becomes dead to you, and nothing could be easier than not eating it. As tenacious as the ego is about other desires, it gives up and stops tormenting you with thoughts about this particular food. Why? Because it knows that no matter how hard it tries, you just aren’t going to pay attention to those thoughts. It’s as if you’re plugging your ears, dancing around singing, “la, la, la, la.” Without thoughts about this food, without fantasies about how it tastes, the desire for it can’t sprout.

How do you stop wanting the food you want? Simple. You stop eating it. I wish all questions had such an easy answer!