Probably the best example is the time I was craving a big greasy plate of diner-style French fries dripping with ketchup. I mentally “cut” the fries out of that picture and “pasted” in a similarly arranged heap of fried green pepper strips.
Ordinarily, it would never occur to me to dump ketchup on pepper strips — and there’s a good chance I wouldn’t find it very appealing. But the visualization process infused this offbeat snack with just enough of the original image’s sentimental appeal to make it palatable. Heck, I’d even go so far as to call it tasty.
Gazing at the sports-bar menu, I clicked on the tortilla chips and cut them out of my mental picture, then pasted in some crunchy greens instead. I did the same thing with the meat and cheese toppings, subbing in fruit and nuts from the raspberry vinagrette salad.
My husband and I decided to split one, and when it arrived, I ate a couple of lettuce leaves with my fingers to perpetuate the mental fiction. It was delicious and satisfying — not to mention devoid of the guilt that usually accompanies late-night munchies.
Words, images and visualizations have played a huge role in transforming my previously unrestrained eating habits. Yes, you need a diet and exercise plan if you want to lose weight. But what makes it stick, I think, is stamping it with your own personal touch.
In my weight-loss glossary, an “accelerant” is any food that speeds up my eating pace (and usually wrecks my judgment in the process). Other people might refer to peanut M&Ms and takeout pizza as “high-glycemic” foods. I don’t like messing around with the glycemic index. But I know enough to approach an accelerant with caution.
There’s just something about that label, and the goofy fire extinguisher image that pops up in my mind, that clarifies my decision-making process. Sometimes I’ll have a small taste of an accelerant, then “douse” my desire with some crunchy veggies. But if I’m hungry, I never let myself get too close to a potentially incendiary food.
Here are some other terms I’ve either borrowed or concocted to help me recognize eating patterns I was once oblivious to. These may not work for you, so call them what you like. The point is identifying scenarios that derail your good intentions. Once you see them, and they’re no longer just part of the noise of existence, they’re much easier to learn to control.
Premature inhalation: Consuming the equivalent of a meal before you sit down to eat.
Guilt goggles: When your sense of guilt about overeating causes you to magnify your perception of your transgression. Just because you ate something you shouldn’t, it doesn’t necessarily mean your day is ruined. Eat light at your next meal, get some extra exercise, and move on. Mistakes happen.
Engine run-on: Eating that occurs after you thought you turned your mouth off. For me, using up the precise amount of calories or Weight Watchers points I’ve allotted myself for the day makes a huge difference. If I go over, even by just a small amount, I’m prone to keep eating.
Scream weight: The number on the scale that you never want to see, that makes you finally take action. This term comes from Dr. Barbara Berkeley’s book, “Refuse to Regain.”
In my experience, it’s important to emit a purposeful, karate-chop yell rather than a scream of terror. In horror movies, the screamers rarely escape the neighborhood ax murderer. They either freeze in their tracks or do something counterproductive that seals their fate — like getting so freaked out about a terrifying number on the scale that they go on a binge.
Which reminds me: Never, ever step on the scale without checking first to make sure you’ve removed your guilt goggles.
Tanya Isch Caylor, a News-Sentinel copy editor, blogs on diet and fitness at www.90in9.wordpress.com. This column is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinion of The News-Sentinel.