Monday, July 10, 2017

Easily entertained

I'm pretty easily entertained. It doesn't take much to catch my attention. And it doesn't take much to distract me.

This is on my mind because of advice I received when I told a friend that I was having a hard time not obsessing over a food I had bought but did not want to eat all at once.

This little story starts on July 4th, although the stage was set during visits to Braum's stores in recent weeks. After a leisurely Independence Day that included the neighborhood parade in the morning and watching patriotic programs on television in the evening, my husband said he was ready for ice cream.

A lot of years we have gone to Braum's for ice cream before going to watch the city fireworks display in Norman. Although we had decided not to go to the park this year to watch, I couldn't deny that ice cream sounded good.

Unfortunately, I knew that Braum's in my recent visits had not had my preferred no-sugar-added treat (Diet Peanut Cluster Fudge Frozen Yogurt) available for hand-packed cups or cones. Still, I agreed to go, hoping maybe they had stocked up. When we got there, they had not. I asked if they could open a package from the freezer case and give me a scoop, but of course they said they could not. The no- sugar-added vanilla bean flavor, even with nuts added, just doesn't satisfy me.

So, I decided to do something I had not done in a long time. I asked for a serving cup, and then I bought a full-size container of my fudgy, nutty favorite. Quite aware of my past tendency to not leave such a product alone in the home freezer until it was all gone, I knew this was risky. But through 12-step work and other disciplines, some things that used to be problems no longer are. I hoped that might be the case with this.

I drove as my husband ate his strawberry shortcake sundae while I looked for a place to park with a view of the city fireworks. We found a place to park, but it was soon apparent the display had already ended. While we were parked, I scooped some of my frozen yogurt into my  cup, and I quickly knew it was going to be hard for me to stop with just a small serving. But I put the lid on the container, switched places with Gene so he could drive while I ate, and we went to watch the plethora of fireworks visible on the horizon on the northwest edge of town.

When we got home, it was time for me to put away the ice cream. But first, I ate a little more. Then I went to bed.

The next morning, among my first thoughts was the ice cream. Uh-oh. This may have been a mistake. I knew I could measure some out, but I also knew a little might make me want more. Fortunately, I was able to get through breakfast and to my noon 12-step meeting without indulging. There, I mentioned my little experiment to a trusted friend. She reminded me that thinking about eating wasn't the same thing as eating. And she offered this suggestion: Don't entertain those thoughts. When the thought comes, it's OK to note it, then just wave it on by. The way I pictured it was like this: The thought can come to the door, but I'm not going to invite it in and throw it a party.

I wish I could say that was the end of the obsession. Instead, I confess I ate some ice cream as an afternoon snack, and then I ate some with supper. Even though I decided at that point to put it in the bottom  and back of the freezer, I was pretty sure the next step would be to discard what was left.

However, an interesting thing happened. I didn't eat any when I got home from choir practice, and while I thought about it the next  morning, I shifted the context to another little experiment. And I haven't eaten any since.

Besides choosing not to "entertain" thoughts of eating what I didn't need, another factor that has helped me to abstain is realizing that eating more than an occasional treat makes me feel physically uncomfortable. Realizing that and having that realization guide my behavior is nothing short of a miracle, and I am grateful.

Later in the week, I used the "entertaining" principle to keep my focus in a situation where I feared my curiosity would outweigh my desire to be compassionate. And it worked again.

There's still a possibility I'll discard what's left of the ice cream. I'm such an all-or-nothing person, I know that if I reopen the container, I might not want to stop again. But I'm not even going to entertain  that thought right now!

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