I cant have that

We have all said those four words at some point. To the Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake from the bakery your Dad brings to your house. To the co-worker who brings in homemade brownies every Friday, to a friend offering to share a sub, and perhaps most often to ourselves as we try to suppress any deep desire to stop by our favorite pizza place on the way home at night. Whether you’re trying to lose twenty pounds, one hundred pounds, or are just trying to focus a little more on eating for health rather than pure pleasure, I’m sure you’ve experienced a moment or two where those words came begrudgingly to mind.

Of course there are circumstances where you may indeed not be able to eat something – after surgery, most of us have had food get stuck where we were miserable or simply had it come back up – but in this discussion I’m referring to instances where you do indeed have a choice as to whether or not you eat a particular food or food group. Specifically, I’m referring to those times when your mind and body may be at odds when it comes to the appeal of cake. Let’s agree that cake is tempting at all of the many gatherings we attend, but we have goals to lose weight or reduce our sugar intake – what, then, are we to do?

Instead of saying ‘I can’t have that’, researchers are suggesting we consider something bolder, something like, ‘I don’t eat that.’ Even more specific, more defined like, ‘I don’t want to eat that right now.’ I personally prefer declarations of choice and desire, rather than the implication of restriction. It is taking responsibility instead of being a victim of circumstance.

Instead of framing decisions around food controlling your actions, it allows us to be the one in control. Take the power away from the food. Give yourself the power of choice. Keep in mind the reasons why or why not you may choose to eat.

Beyond helping psychologically, I think this kind of change in phrasing can also help when dealing with unwanted offers of food from other people. We have all been in an awkward situation where we turn down some cake and then get interrogated and shamed (but its your grandmothers birthday!). When you say ‘I can’t have cake’ the person offering will probably continue pushing a slice your way; they’ll likely attempt to reassure you it’s more than ok to eat cake. And while it is more than okay to eat cake, it’s that sometimes we might find ourselves not wanting to compromise our goals through mindless eating. Perhaps if we said something more empowered, something that implies we’re making a conscious choice, something like, ‘Thanks, but I don’t want any cake right now,’ we’d feel stronger and be met with less resistance. It is also more honest!

This is one of those tips that comes up in diet literature and magazines and is often dismissed as insignificant. I’ve found it helpful in my dealings with others and I feel it empowers the decisions I make on my own. So next time you find yourself thinking ‘I can’t have that’ try to reframe your thought process and empower yourself by saying ‘I don’t want to eat that right now.’