There’s an interesting phenomenon happening at the moment in Auckland in case you haven’t noticed. People lining up well before midnight so that they can be one of the first to get some takeaway once the Covid lockdown levels change. Even before that, people were escaping Auckland to get boot loads of KFC, literally, and I’m sure more than a few were dreaming about that caramel latte this morning from their local café. This is following, as you know, 5+ weeks of level 4 lockdown when all these foods were suddenly not available. Foods that we loved were suddenly scarce and the longer this went on – the more we craved those foods and prayed for a level change.
We may laugh at the boot loads of KFC, at the tents pitched outside Macca's but this behaviour is something that anyone who has ever gone on a diet has gone through over and over and over again. During the dieting phase, we restrict foods that we love, possibly even ban them all together and then over time, the cravings become too intense and we think ‘ a little bit won’t hurt’. But then a little bit turns into a lot, we feel out of control the food takes over, and by that point we think to ourselves ‘I’ve already blown it so I might as well keep going’ right? I’ve been in this cycle before too.
I mean come on, Macca's isn’t all that exciting when it’s available 24-7 right? But take it away for 5 weeks and suddenly we’re ready to camp out for first dibs. The same thing happens when we restrict any food. It gets put on a pedestal, we think about it all the time, we crave it, we feel addicted, and then we (think we) blow it when we finally give in. We may overdo it, and feel sick and swear we’ll never do it again. But we always do… and each time we restrict – the cycle continues.
In this video I use a yo-yo to explain why this happens. We swing too far to one side and then the momentum of that causes us to swing too far to the other. Just like level 4 lockdown swung us to one side and level 3 seems like takeaway chaos. What we really want is to get back to a happy middle ground where all foods are available all the time – but we get to choose, with confidence, which foods we want and enjoy and which ones we don’t.
So, if you’re swinging like a yo-yo around food don’t beat yourself up about it. You're not a failure, it’s not lack of willpower – it’s a psychological and physiological behaviour that is normal when scarcity is present physically or mentally.
That’s why I’ve made it my mission to help people reach that middle ground. That nice little grey area that helps people to feel empowered around food.
As for the levels… not much I can do about that sorry – but at least we might be able to make peace with food in the meantime.