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It’s Only a Thought

It’s Only a Thought

I’m forever trying to explain to clients that they can resist their thoughts. When you get an idea to head for the fridge when you awaken at 2:30 a.m. or while watching TV, finishing a school paper or balancing your checkbook, you don’t need to respond to it. “It’s only a thought,” I remind clients. “You don’t need to act on every one you have, particularly in the food arena.”

A thought is an electrochemical reaction and “...Experts estimate that the mind thinks between 60,000-80,000 thoughts a average of 2500-3,300 thoughts per hour. Other experts estimate a smaller number, of 50,000 thoughts per day, which means about 2,100 thoughts per hour.” (How Many Thoughts Does Your Mind Think in One Hour?, accessed 10/18/19) Busy little brains we have.

Thoughts pop up continually, no matter what we’re doing. We have one thought which leads to another and another. We have a thought that counters the one before it, then a third that challenges the first two. Some thoughts are so absorbing that we forget all our other thoughts, as when I get so caught up in trying to remember someone’s name that I stop washing the dishes and, instead, get lost in running through the alphabet in my head. There are thoughts that make us smile automatically and others that we want to squash down immediately because they make us uncomfortable. 

As far as I can tell, thoughts are pretty random. They come and go. As a writer and psychotherapist, I appreciate that many thoughts are connected or associated. One thing makes us think of another. Sometimes an association is obvious, as when I think of my mother when a client is talking about hers. Sometimes the connection isn’t obvious at all and I marvel at all that goes on in our brains that we don’t understand.

But, back to my initial advice: Just because you have a thought to eat, doesn’t mean you need to act on it. You have thousands of thoughts a day that you don’t act on. We wish people good and ill, daydream of power and success, and imagine life as it could (or we feel it should) be. We recognize that thoughts are just ideas, not truth or reality.

So, stop telling yourself, “I have to eat that” and acting like a victim. Instead, use your innate power to insist, “I’m not eating that.” Say it ten or 100 times. It doesn’t matter. Just keep saying it until you’re sure you’re not going to engage in mindless eating and know that you’re practicing thought-management and self-care. Quit pretending you can’t do this because if you want to be a “normal” eater, you’ll have to learn how.



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