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Don’t Tell Yourself You Don’t Care

Do you know the three words you never want to say to yourself when you’re faced with eating decisions? “I don’t care.” Say them and you know what food- and body-abusing road you’re heading down. The fact is, you do care. You care, you care, you care!

Not long ago, I was privy to observing a friend debate whether to eat something that wouldn’t be healthy for her due to food allergies and other metabolic problems. I listened to her struggle aloud and knew she was heading for defeat when she said, “I just don’t care.” Of course, she overate—carbs, of course—as I sat there helplessly and mutely watching her do herself in. Believe me, I remember saying those very words a gazillion times during my binge-eating and overeating days, along with “I shouldn’t eat this but…” and “But I want it.” They really are famous—or rather infamous—last words.

How often when you want to eat something that your wiser self knows isn’t in your best interest do you tell yourself, “I don’t care”? And what exactly do these words mean to you? Are you saying you don’t care if you eat the food or that you don’t care about the consequences of consuming it? You probably don’t realize it, but what you are actually saying and acting on is this thought: “I don’t care enough about myself in this moment to make a decision which is in my long-term best interest.”

A word about the emotion that underlies your statement that you don’t care. Make no mistake, the emotion is anger in the form of resentment or rebellion. I could hear this tone when my friend claimed that she didn’t care. It was as if she were responding to an inner voice saying that she shouldn’t eat the food and this command made her angry. Most disregulated eaters have a long history of hearing the voice that says “You shouldn’t eat this,” and many have had parents or family members telling them what to eat or not eat, what to do or not do their whole lives. That is where the resentment and rebellion come from; it is not actually attached to the present eating experience.

When you tell yourself you don’t care in order to eat in a way that will harm you, where is your self-nurturing, loving self that does care? Why doesn’t it pipe up and insist, “But I do care”? Why doesn’t it challenge your non-caring voice? Why does it remain silent? Moreover, why doesn’t it make certain it has the last word so that you don’t make an unwise decision? Make sure that every time you say, “I don’t care” about eating, you then loudly proclaim, clearly and firmly, “Oh, but, I do care and therefore I will not abuse food or my body.”