Last night I had dinner with a good friend at a local café. They have great burgers, an occasional indulgence for me. We both ordered burgers and fresh fruit. I had secretly hoped that my friend would order French fries so I could have a few without being faced by a full plate of them. When I told her that, she suggested we order some on the side but then I said no. I’d remembered Dr. David Kessler’s admonition in his book The End of Overeating about becoming a person who just didn’t eat French fries (or whatever your trigger foods are). You don't make a big deal out of it; you just don't eat them.
You can break the craving and the habits, Kessler says, by laying down new pathways in the brain, making new choices. “Every time we act on our desire for sugar, salt, and fat [and French fries have all three] and earn a reward as a result,” he says, “it becomes harder for us to act differently the next time. [It takes new choices] to break the cue-urge-reward-habit cycle at the core of conditioned hypereating.”
I’m not abstaining from potatoes. Some people give up all “white” stuff (white sugar, white flour, white rice) as it can have a similar effect in the body. I’m just abstaining from intentional sugar—desserts. But I know that French fries are a bad idea. Most commercial French fries are dipped in a sugar/oil/salt solution before they’re frozen so they will not stick together. Add to that the oil of deep frying and the additional salt and they are a fast track to compulsive eating, which is why we go on eating them after we’re full and after they’ve gone cold and greasy, usually dipping them in ketchup, more sugar and salt.
So just like I practiced not eating birthday cake a couple of weekends ago, last night I practiced being someone who doesn’t eat French fries. In the end, the burgers were more than we needed (although we finished them anyway) and the fresh fruit was a nice ending to the meal. I didn’t need the French fries and I definitely needed the practice in making different choices.