Celebration Food: Reimagining “Junk” Food

I mentioned last week that I want to work on prioritising my sleep in an effort to make it easier for me to reclaim my health; the past few years have wreaked havoc on my body (highlights include two pregnancies, the second of which totally warped my body’s response to hormones, a hyperactive thyroid nodule, and a gangrenous gallbladder…) and the past fourteen months in particular have eaten my sleep. When I’m tired, I don’t *do* any less, I just eat more to compensate for my lack of energy – which in turn means I have *less* energy, because I’m usually snacking on chocolate and processed sugar, not healthy food >.<

Part of the problem is that back in 2010-2012, I had to avoid processed sugar entirely, as well as yeast. It was intense, extreme, and done for health reasons, not by choice – and it utterly destroyed any willpower I had regarding junk food. It’s taken nearly five years of being allowed to eat sugar again to get to the point where I won’t compulsively eat it when it’s in front of me, regardless of whether I want it or not. Add to this the fact that I’m a sucker for a good guilt trip and the fact that it’s at least 50/50 that work will be equally as insane this year (though I’m strongly hoping not), and the prospect of trying to clean up my food intake doesn’t exactly thrill me.

But! I have discovered from a variety of experiences that I am particularly susceptible to verbal framing. Psychologies such as Cognitive Behaviour Therapy suggest that fundamentally, everyone is, so I’m sharing this in case it might be useful to anyone else. I’ve blogged before about removing the word (and consequently the concept of) ‘should’ from my vocabulary, so it occurred to me that I might try a similar trick with ‘junk’ food. There are a billion articles out there about why we shouldn’t call it junk food, but the suggested alternatives are always lackluster: Special food. Sometimes food. Occasional food.

The problem for me is that these terms, while avoiding the guilt trip inherent in the terminology ‘junk food’, aren’t really any more specific. How often is occasional or sometimes? (Hint: I can probably trick myself into thinking it’s every day, especially during marking season.) What constitutes ‘special’? Hard to say for sure. So I came up with an alternative: Celebration food.

Straight away you can see the flip from negative to positive, which hammers that lurking guilt away hard. Great. However, is ‘celebration’ really any more specific than ‘sometimes’ or ‘special’? Well, maybe. I mean, I can see people easily making the excuse that every day is a celebration, or that there’s something to celebrate in every day, etc etc etc, but I grew up in what I affectionately call a ‘Pinterest family’, long before the days of Pinterest itself. Which is to say, 1) my family knows how to party in style, and 2) celebrations such as birthdays and Christmas are very *clearly* demarcated from more regular, ‘ordinary’ celebrations. In my head, ‘celebration’ means a very particular thing, and to cheapen the concept simply for the sake of consuming food that, really, isn’t doing any wonders for me beyond my taste buds… It introduces almost a moral angle to the whole issue, and I’m unlikely to contravene it. I’ve already caught myself a couple of times, reaching for the sugary food, and gone – Wait, is this *really* what you consider to be a celebration? – and have left the sugar where it was. I mean, of course, I’ve failed quite a few times, too, but on the whole, as a concept, it seems to be a positive thing. And it means I don’t have to forego entirely, which, when I was, led to awkward birthday party situations and such like. And I mean, come on. You’ve seen my cakes. Don’t tell me I have to utterly forego tasting them!! 😀

So. My rationale for the reimagining of ‘junk’ food into ‘celebration’ food. Leave a comment and let me know: What do you think? Does it resonate with you? Do you have any similar psychological tricks you’ve used to break yourself of bad habits?

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