The Junk Food Monologues

When temptation strikes, why do we always obey that self-destructive inner voice that commands us to do a face-plant in the nearest dessert? Why we obey the inner voice that orders us to grab the nearest dessert.
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I've never met a carbohydrate I didn't love. Wheat Thins? I can eat the whole box in one sitting. If someone brings cupcakes to a party, my eyes immediately zoom in on them as a familiar voice starts to chatter in my brain. Seriously, Arianne, you have got to have one of those, it says. There must be an inch of frosting on that baby! And that cake -- it looks so moist and fudgy. You know you're going to love it. Go get one. Now. Those cupcakes won't be sitting on the coffee table forever.

By this point, most of us are well aware of what constitutes healthy eating. I can't blame my splurges on lack of nutrition know-how, and chances are you can't use that excuse either. Nope, the real problem is that we feel powerless to challenge that inner monologue that gives us permission to eat the (many) enticing treats we encounter every day. Who can argue with a voice that is so utterly persuasive?

Well, you can. The next time you're faced with temptation, you're not going to fight it -- you're going to reason with it instead. How? By asking yourself these five very simple questions.

Do I really have to have this?
Consider this: The voice that's telling me those cupcakes are a must-have is a relic of the Cenozoic era. Back then, when food was in short supply, that voice was a lifesaver. It told our cave-dwelling ancestors to eat whenever they had the opportunity because famine could strike at any time. That's obviously not an issue now but the voice is still there, urging us to eat up.

Beyond reminding yourself that there will never be a Great Cupcake Depression, what can you do to quiet your inner cavewoman? Eat the occasional treat. "If you think of certain foods as bad and consider them off-limits, they're going to be compelling," says author and psychotherapist Susie Orbach, PhD. "There's no getting around that." In fact, new research conducted at Israel's Tel Aviv University revealed that dieters who ate a 600-calorie breakfast that included dessert had fewer cravings and lost more weight than those who ate a treat-free, 300-calorie a.m. meal -- even though both groups ate the same number of calories per day. What's more, the dessert eaters kept the pounds off longer. While no one is advocating eating cake for breakfast, study author Daniela Jakubowicz, MD, says it's smarter to include some treats in your diet than to give them up entirely -- which, as many of us have learned the hard way, is unrealistic and just makes your cravings worse.

Continued on page 2:  Am I even hungry right now?


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