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What Is Your Food Deprivation Really About?

Saying no to food when you’re not hungry may stem from feeling deprived—wanting what you believe you can’t have. Most of the time, such deprivation is perception, not reality. Alter the perception and the deprivation disappears.

The first step in this process is to recognize that you feel deprived. Take a minute to consider how this emotion hits you. It’s usually an intense longing, sense of unfairness, feeling of being victimized, or desperation that you must have a food or you will not be okay. Can you see how nonsensical this notion is? No one is victimizing you, maybe it’s unfair that you “can’t” have the food and maybe it’s not, and whoever said life is fair anyway (it isn’t). You may have a deep longing for a food, but we have lots of longings that we don’t act on for excellent reasons. Not having another cookie or seconds on pasta is hardly cause for hand-wringing. There’s no life or limb at stake here.

The second step in dealing with your mistaken perception of deprivation is to reflect on what you truly feel deprived of—love, self-love, sweetness in life, pleasure, attention, nourishment, passion, getting what you want. I guarantee that the intensity of your deprivation is not about a food per se. Ask yourself, “If I could have this food all the time, would all my deprived feelings go away?” and “How can a food take care of my emotional needs?” Don’t stop reflecting until you understand what you really feel deprived about. Assume it’s not food and go from there to discover what it is.

Step three is to remind yourself that as an adult you have choices. Not only that, a benefit of being a mature adult is the ability to consider and make positive choices. When you’re focusing on deprivation, you’re looking at what you will not have. Switch gears and focus on what not having that slice of pie or the rest of your sandwich offers you: being in charge of your self-care, pride, better health, self-trust, etc. Viewing the situation this way, you’re receiving, not losing, something.

Stick with the process until the feeling of deprivation goes away. You may experience unease and wish to listen to the voice in your head urging you to go on and have whatever food you’re longing for. Laugh at how thoughts can fool you if you let them, mentally thumb through all the benefits you’ll get by not acting on impulse, remind yourself that you’re not truly deprived and that everyone has to make choices, tell yourself how great you’ll feel when you’ve outsmarted believing you’re deprived when you’re not. Refuse to feel deprived and find another way to look at the situation.