Sunday, January 17, 2010

I See It, I Want It

When I was a little girl, I loved going to the library. I spent a lot of time there, browsing through books, picking out a huge stack to take home and read and then bugging my mom to take me back for more. I had an insatiable appetite for knowledge, exemplified by my sheepishly checking out every book about sex and puberty I could find in the children's section when I was 8, hiding the books from my parents (who never talked to me about such things), and then explaining to a little boy who was visiting that boys have a "pennis" (that is how I figured it must be pronounced: PENN-is, rhymes with Dennis the Menace). He went racing into the living room, excited, pointing to his crotch and exclaiming, "hey Mommy, it's called a PENNIS!" much to the chagrin of both of our parents...

Anyway, I used to get a lot of books about pets. I'd look through the pictures and immediately I WANTED all those pets. I had to have a horse. I wanted a German Shepherd. A Collie, too. Some cats, some birds, ferrets... on and on the list went. I saw their pictures, they were cute, I wanted them. I demanded them. I cried for a pet squirrel until my face turned blue, but was appeased with a hamster instead. My delight quickly turned to disgust, however, when my pet hamster Max curled himself into a ball is his cage and began devouring his poop as it came out of him. How revolting!! I went wild eyed out of the room, crying, begging my parents to take him back. They just couldn't win with me.

But that wasn't enough. Later, I HAD to have a parakeet. I saw them in a book, I wanted one. I was a bit older, about 12, so I bought one with my own money. He was awesome, he didn't eat his poop, but I did get tired of cleaning his cage and all the seeds he'd fling on my bedroom floor every day.

Three stray cats, a dog, a tank of fish, riding lessons (because our yard was not big enough for a horse) and another parakeet later, I was 16. I started seeing *bigger* things I wanted. A car, for instance. Oh yes, I got my car. But I'd learned early on (after the hamster incident) that my parents were NOT going to go out and buy me everything I wanted on a whim anymore. So I bought the car with my own money. I'd been working since I was 13 (on and off) and had a regular 25-hour-a-week job at 15, so a car payment was no trouble. Yes, I got my car. And I loved it.

From that point on I decided that if I really wanted something, I'd have it. I would find a way. When I saw a boy I liked, I'd find a way to get his attention and get him interested in me (and I was *not* a loose girl, either... I was waiting until I was married for intimacy.) I decided I wanted to go to college, but my parents were not going to give me a dime towards my education, so I got a job, worked for a year, took out student loans, got scholarships, and paid my own way through college.

I think I started out my early life as a bit of a brat... only child, mother who had very little in the way of parenting skills, who gave me chocolate ice cream for breakfast when I was 2 to keep me happy. If you ask my cousins and aunts, they'd say I was *not* a brat at all. A very thoughtful, quiet child. I had a father who reasoned with me and expected me to behave well, and he taught me early on the THINK, and not just expect to get anything I wanted. Earn it, or get over it. So by the time I was 5 or so, any brattiness had abated.

As an adult, I have noticed I have this "see it, want it" trigger about a lot of things. When I see someone with a baby, I want one. When I see a picture of a puppy, I want one. When the commercials used to come on TV for Big Macs, look out or you might get run over as I stampeded out the door to my car... I couldn't get to the drive through fast enough. When I'd see some glossy-paged magazine ad for some special 100-calorie pack or new drink or special kind of salad dressing, I'd obsess about getting it and look in every store for that EXACT item until I found it. If I saw someone walking by on the street eating a taco, you can bet I was heading for the nearest taco place at my earliest convenience.

This has been difficult for me. I know people want stuff all the time. I think what is different in my case (and probably for others) is the mental skipping-record that goes on after I see something I want and try to dismiss it.

If I see a certain kind of candy bar in an ad, or someone eating it, I cannot seem to get it out of my head for hours, days, even weeks if I do not eat it. It feels insane sometimes. I have gotten much better at forcing myself to STOP thinking about certain things... but what has *really* helped me is learning to use my see it, want it mode toward healthier things.

When I see a delicious looking, healthy meal, I want it. I desire it just as much as I used to desire Lays Chips after seeing them in a commercial. I see a photo of a spinach salad with pomegranates and Gorgonzola and I really, really want to eat that. Or roasted chicken, or sweet potatoes, or Brussels sprouts. But the problem is, they don't make TV commercials for asparagus. They don't put ads in magazines for fresh strawberries. And I don't usually see anyone walking down the street munching green beans. However, I have found a way to trigger myself in a positive way.

I look at healthy eating blogs online... especially those that post photos of their delicious, healthy meals, like spunkysuzi's My Daily Nosh or Kath's Kath Eats Real Food. I read magazines like Vegetarian Times and Eating Well. I buy lots of vegetables and fruits and put them where I can see them, on the counter or right in front in the fridge. I stopped reading "other" magazines that have junk food ads, and when I am watching TV, when a commercial comes on I get up and go do something else, like wash a few dishes or fold clothes or do sit ups. Hey, works for me.

I had to accept and understand that I am a visually triggered person. I guess lots of people are... otherwise why would companies spend so much on visual ads? By putting stuff in my line of sight (my exercise equipment, a weight loss chart, a "goal weight" picture, healthy foods) I can decide, for the most part, what I am going to want. And for the other stuff, I just have to keep saying no until I get the message and let it go.


Run, Heat, Run said...

I love that you chose to write about this today because I was actually thinking about it at the gym. As I was trucking away on the treadmill, I looked over at the check-in desk and saw that one of the employees was eating McDonald's french fries. I was salivating. I was looking at the treadmill like, okay, if I walk for an hour, I'll go get them. Then that want turned to anger at the fact that this girl brought FAST FOOD to the gym in front of those of there to LOSE an order of McDonald's french fries off of our thighs.

You're right about keeping the healthy things around for when you WANT something. I have to pass by my fruit bowl before I hit the fridge and a lot of times, I stop there before I even make it to the fridge.

swayerm said...

Lyn, I am exactly the same... except I don't just do it with food, I do it with other things. I have three sets of digital scales at home because I got a marketing email about each kind. I see kids toys on TV and I want to try them (I am 25 years old...) I am stuffed if I see a Hungry Jack's ad, because I reason with my partner that "the burgers are better at hungry jack's" (the company slogan). And most of the time I don't even like burgers!!

I have started reading things like Women's Health magazines etc etc, and I still buy garbage, it's just not stuff that's making me fat any more. I am more likely to buy three kinds on protein powder now, which is still uncalled for, but better than three big macs every week.

BrendaKaye said...

I am shocked at the amount of food commercials are on T.V. I am just now trying to figure out how to address this issue with my younger children. The believe almost every add they see, and want me to buy it.

Margie M. said...

I think part of our problem is that our world is obsessed with food now. Look how many cooking shows are shown on the Food Network. I love to watch those! How stupid is that? It just triggers the desire to have what they are fixing. One of my favorite shows is on the Travel Channel....Man vs Food. I'd love to be able to eat like that guy. No matter how hard we try, we cannot get away from all of the food images we see every day. Sometimes I even dream about food. I'm just trying to get through it all without gaining weight. We can't let it beat us!

Margie M. writes at:

Seren_Sighs said...

I get that wanting thing when it comes to food. Especially with the dieting too, because sometimes I restrict myself too much.

I've stopped actively dieting and just started trying to pay attention to hungry and not hungry signals. It's confusing but I'm getting better at not wanting food if I'm not hungry, even if I see it. I'm not perfect at it but I've definitely gotten better.

I'm impulsive about the things I want but often lose interest shortly. I'm definitely trying to work on it though and try to only buy things I know I'll use. I guess it's the same thing with the food, lol. Unfortunately you can't decide what food you do and don't lose once you eat it. If only.

Autumnforest said...

Really really smart transfering that "I gotta have it" attitude towards healthy things. I admit that when I go to a place like Paradise Bakery or something like that where they serve those sandwiches on grainy fresh bread and lots of sprouts, avacado, and a pretty bubbly bottled water, I feel so very very pampered. It's like the equivalent of having a manicure/pedicure. I just feel all girlie and it's stuff I never make at home. I finally learned to keep sprouts and grainy breads and tasty mustards and balsalmic vinegar dressings and things around the house. I make a sandwich and I feel super pampered and naughty and yet it's a little bit of turkey and a ton of veggies.

Erin said...

I have figured out that I do the same thing. Reading blogs, reading books, I've been focused on reinforcing the positive habits I want for myself and IT WORKS. I really don't like fast food and I'm getting a handle on our family spending (frugal blogs). I think, for me, I must surround myself with like-minded people and in an instant-gratification world, sitting back and having longer-term goals is a tougher, but still attainable thing. Thanks for an awesome post.

Derek said...

Lyn, your post is so insightful. I think it's very important to understand how your own mind works, and then find a way to work with it. That's what you've done.

As I was reading, I was reminded of something I read from Anthony Robbins. He encouraged a woman to picture in her mind both bad and good foods. The bad foods were imagined as dark and dreary and unappealing, while the good foods were bright and fresh and delicious.

NewMe said...


My question is: what do you REALLY want? Something huge must be missing in your life for you to run after every food, thing, etc. that you see.

soontobe...skinnygirl said...

I LOVE Vegetarian Times! I'm also in love with Clean Eating, Cooking Light...any magazine that promotes healthy eating. I've spent years trying to eat healthy and let me just say that it's taken me almost 3 years now to make it a habit. I'm very careful now about what I buy when grocery shopping and we've been vegetarian for some time. Sadly that alone isn't the answer to weight loss. Oh, it helps my general heath for sure...I'm 100 pounds overweight and yet my blood pressure, cholesterol, etc. are all "perfect". This year...good habits in place...I'm going to learn how to eat in moderation. Eat only what my body needs...and work off what it doesn't.

Sounds easy right? I'm ready!
Much success to you too! I think you're on the right track!


KatDoesDiets said...

What an awesome idea! Thanks.

Ria said...

I love this post, Lyn - it is so insightful. I've never thought it through that clearly, but I'm visually triggered too . . . I'm going to try putting things like a goal picture and weight loss chart where I'll see them frequently and be reminded of what I REALLY want.

Ms. Magnetism said...

Lyn, I'm so glad that you realized how visuals effect what you want and all the positive steps you are taking to make sure you see healthy visuals. Reading healthy food blogs and having healthy food magazines is a wonderful idea and getting away from the TV during commercial breakfast is wonderful as well.

I notice there are more and more food commercials on TV now. But I also notice they play a lot of commercials for places I don't even have around my house. There is no Sonic, Pizza Hut and Arby's here. There is a Dairy Queen but not on that serves the food they show on TV, my Dairy Queen is ice cream only.

Domino's has now changed their pizza and I don't like the new one so everytime I see the commercial I think "Ew gross" instead of "Yum I want some". I guess a benefit of working at McDonalds in the past is that most of the time I have no desire to eat there. Funny how different things effect you different ways.

Lyn said...


I think I've been *very* transparent in answering that question on this blog. Of course I know people don't go back and read through every post, but for those who are interested, it is there, and I am working on it.

The Chubby Girl Diaries said...

I am the same way. If I think it up, I need it to happen right then. It's instant gratification. I don't mind working hard toward something, but the end result has got to be that I get whatever it is I worked hard toward.

I think a lot of people in our society see things and want them. The difference is, often times people want things to be handed to them.

I think it's important and admirable that you worked hard to achieve so many of your goals! :o)


courageforpeace said...

I was just thinking of something like this last night. I'm a bit of a see it, want it kind of person too.

It's not visual for me as much as it is the idea of the thing. I always imbue things with this near tangible sense of possibility.

The context I was thinking about it in was about ordering food from restaurants. Last week was the last dregs of the terrible cold I had over the holidays. I'd done well for a few weeks of it, but then less food got made, more got ordered. Better choices, less food for the most part than I used to, but still: ordering death.

The problem for me comes when ordering from a new restaurant. I'm the kind of person that will get used to a menu and always, without fail (and much teasing from my husband) order the same, favorite thing.

When I order, I generally pick a healthier delivery choice, like greek, lebanese or afghani food which consist mostly of grilled meats and salads and pitas or brown rice. In them, I have a standard, healthier choice which I don't think about. I don't dream about the other possibilities.

But when I have a menu for a new restaurant in my hands opening up with all the possibility in the world? Oh man, I'm doomed.

Last week, there was a new Indian place we ordered from. I meant to do something like a tikka masala and a naan, but my brain saw the new menu and short circuited. A platter of appetizers, papadams, three dishes, rice, naan, and for desert gulab jamun and it's lovely sugary rose syrup all to split with my husband.

The only good thing these days is when I fail like that, I'm getting better and better at listening to the voice inside my head that tells me I'm getting full, and better at ignoring the inevitable urge to continue shovelling it in.

Little by little, I guess!

spunkysuzi said...

You have definitely figured out the why, and chosen to look at healthy things instead of "junk"!!
I'm a very visual person and food has to look good for me to want it.
Yes, sometimes it takes extra time but it is definitely worth it. What i have a problem with is thinking that i "deserve" whatever it is i'm craving, and that's what i'm working on. It sure isn't easy but it is definitely worth it!

Deniz said...

You wrote:
"If you already eat lots of veggies, try new ones or improve the quality of what you eat"

That's GREAT advice and I'm going to start doing just that.