Sailing back to Ithaca after the Trojan War, Odysseus encountered the Sirens, whose strange but beautiful, awe-inspiring song threatened to lure him and his fellow salts onto an out-of-the way island to serve as chow for the Winged Monsters (He had much bigger dragons to slay than how to overcome overeating!). Luckily, the big O had been forewarned about these temptresses and was prepared to implement a plan of action.
You see, in spite of Odysseus’ well-earned pride and hubris, he knew himself well enough to realize that even he, with all his cunning and fortitude, would be incapable of resisting the infamous coloratura. So as his ship approached this wicked isle, he commanded his vulnerable crew to cram wax into their ears. But since he wanted to partake of the Sirens’ haunting music, he ordered himself bound to the mast, sans ear plugs!
Indeed, when he was in his right mind, Odie knew he wasn’t strong enough to resist the pull of these mesmerizing echoes. He was somehow intuitively aware of the hot-cold empathy gap—our inability, during rational moments, to grasp how much our solid commitment will depreciate under the inexorable pull of temptation.
And in fact, as the ship grew within shouting distance of the Sirens’ home, their song so enamored him that he thrashed about, at first ordering then, in desperation, importuning his seadogs to release him from the ropes—now! Luckily, none could hear his pleas due to some strategically-placed honeycomb, so the great vessel and crew sailed on by this atoll of certain death, and after about ten years of travel, Odysseus finally made it back to the motherland.
What I want you to surmise from this allegory is that Sirens are around you all the time—in the form of chocolate cake, donuts, potato chips, nachos, hamburgers, rib eye steak, pasta, and pizza. In fact, what are YOUR Sirens? What foods trigger you to want to eat even when you’re not hungry or know you “shouldn’t” eat them? What foods make it hard to overcome overeating?
Write ’em down right now, before you continue reading. Pretty please?
Now, take a look at your list and pick one of your trigger foods. Ok, got it?
Consider the food and ask yourself when you’re most likely to encounter it or have trouble resisting it. For instance, let’s say that at 3:00 every day, you inevitably saunter over casually to the office vending machine for a yellow package of peanut m & m’s. Maybe you’ve made lots of promises to yourself that THIS would be the last package, or you’ve TRIED really hard to stop this unhelpful habit.
Time to Brainstorm
Well, now I want you to make a really concrete plan, beginning with brainstorming. We’ll start right now by brainstorming ideas for ending these daily assignations with cheap chocolate. Remember, with brainstorming, anything goes. So let’s answer this question: What can I do to make sure I don’t eat m & m’s from the vending machine tomorrow afternoon?
- Choose Funyuns instead.
- Ask my boss to get rid of the vending machine.
- Go for a walk at 3:00.
- Ask my boss if I can telecommute.
- Quit my job.
- Ask Mary (who’s also trying to eat well) for support.
- Start an office competition to see who can eat the least vending machine food.
- Buy some m & m’s at the 7-11.
- Announce to the entire office that I won’t be patronizing the vending machine this afternoon.
- Take some frozen grapes to work for the afternoon urge.
Now, we can probably rule out some of these ideas quickly (e.g., quit my job). And some of them sort of defeat the purpose (e.g., choose Funyuns instead or buy the m & m’s elsewhere). But your job now is to choose at least one and implement it right now. For instance, if your plan involves Mary (who’s also trying to eat well), call her right now to discuss how you can support each other.
The temptation might be to do this same process with all your sirens, but don’t do that yet. First learn how to deal with one of them, and when you get that one mastered, move on to the next. Also, if your first plan falls through, go back to the drawing board. The only real failure is failing to try again.
Need help to overcome overeating? Check out my 4-module program where you’ll learn all about the psychology of permanent weight loss.