Saturday, April 13, 2013


I have a secret file on my computer that no one sees. I hide it with an obscure name, and every so often I get it out and read it or edit it. Well, maybe it's not such a big deal to you, but it kind of is to me. It's a list. A list of foods I want to eat... "someday."

It started a long time ago. One day I was craving a couple of very specific and very off-plan food items. I was *really* battling it in my head. I was going back and forth:

I *have* to try that new food! I can't stand not ever having it!
No, you don't need it. So what if you never have it?
But I HAVE TO. I want it! It looks so good!


Oh I really want a bag of xyz! I remember how great they taste!
No, you will gain weight if you eat that. And it's not healthy,
But I don't care! I used to eat it all the time and it was soooo good. I really want to have it again!

And I would argue myself into a corner until I made a decision: eat the food or not.

I found a really good solution. Instead of telling myself "never," I started the list. On it, I typed each one of those foods that I wanted to eat again someday. At first, years ago, I figured since I was a binge eater and generally slipped and binged every few weeks, this would make my binges more efficient. Instead of randomly cruising the grocery store and throwing random stuff into the cart for a binge, I could go with a list! I could have all the things I really, really wanted all at once, in one day, and be done with it. Hey, if I was going to binge anyway... and I was (because I was still battling that monster)... may as well make it great! Later, when I stopped binge eating completely, it became more of a therapeutic list. I didn't actually intend to run off and eat those things in a binge someday, but I figured it was a way to delay off-plan eating. Instead of feeling deprived or obsessing about a food, I could just go type it into my list and tell myself, "later."

I did something else, too. Back when I used the list for a reference guide to off plan eating, I made adjustments to the list after I ate any of the foods on it. So if I ate one of those "omg must have it" foods, I'd move it to a new column in my list: either "what I ate that wasn't as good as I thought it would be" or "what I ate that was worth it." That way, I wouldn't "forget" which foods really were not as delicious as my memory wanted me to believe. That's the thing about an eating disorder: it is based in fantasy and not reality. So keeping things real did help me a lot along the way.

Today I was out shopping for spring clothes with my daughter. It got to be near lunch time, and she started asking about going out to eat. We were close to some of our old haunts. I had not planned on a meal out. I'd brought along a Medifast shake, and we could be home by lunchtime. But my brain started whining on and on about the yummy foods I *really* wanted to eat. So for the first time in months, I decided to employ the list. I drank my shake, drove home, gave my daughter some lunch, and sat down with the laptop. I opened the file and typed in a couple of foods that were "bothering" me. And that's when I noticed something.

The list of "what I ate that wasn't as good as I thought it would be" was LONG. Very long! In it were foods I don't even remember eating! But I know I must have, since I typed them in. Some were things I've craved recently, too, but seeing them in the "tried but not that good" list made the desire for them fade a LOT. I scrolled and scrolled down the list, amazed at how *so many* of the foods I had obsessed about were not even that great. And then I finally got to the list of "what I ate that was worth it." It is FOUR items long!! Four! Only four of the things I had fantasized about eating during that whole period when I used to binge were "worth it!" And one of them was a FRUIT! Another was Coke... which I gave up eons ago (I don't drink ANY soda at all anymore and don't crave it in the least). That leaves only two "junky" foods left that I thought were worth the indulgence... and both are grain free and gluten free.

I am still going to use this list as a way to get bothersome foods out of my head, but since I no longer binge, don't plan to eat off-plan, and hope not to go back to eating junk when I am in maintenance, it's now just an interesting list to remind me that it's all just food. It reminds me that the memory of the taste is often better than the taste itself. And it reminds me that the stuff I crave will most likely not be as good as I think it will.


Lori said...

I have a list too!! I started it for the same reasons, to have a 'go to' place when I decided to go off plan. But then I learned that somehow writing it down so that I could remember to eat it later, the craving went away. I need to find my list and create a 'not worth it' column too. That is a good idea.

Anonymous said...

This is a great idea!


Laura (とまどう) said...

This is such a good idea -- I might just start making a list too. I tend to eat "off plan" because I feel like this will be the only chance to try something. And I LOVE to try new somethings. I'm glad to hear how the list worked for you. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I do something similar! I take it a step farther and write what I did not like about the food. "Mav's bakery cake: frosting too greasy and flavorless. Cake dry." Then I remember how bad it was and never have to bother with it again.

Karen said...

I see.... red flags, at least for myself. To me, it looks like another form of white knuckling it. Which can still happen to me. I get it.

I will go out of my way to stay away from trigger foods- looking at photos, looking at even a list. I picture what goals I'm going toward rather than what I choose not to have to remain food sober. What I picture in my mind, I will gravitate to- healthy or less healthy.

I've talked about this recently. I was interviewed at Quit Binge Eating .com podcast by Alen Standish. Podcast 20. I highly recommend that podcast. My interview was about an hour long. Link at

Lyn said...


for sure, I had about 2 minutes of white knuckling in the parking lot! I really did want to go out to lunch. The awesome thing is, I led with my thinking brain and not my emotions. Progress. Of course, we don't want to white knuckle through life, but a few minutes a couple times a month, I think, is pretty normal.

I will check out your interview. What you've done is inspiring so no doubt the podcast will be, too.

Karen said...

The words "confession" and "secret list" are what popped out for me.

Thanks for giving the podcast a listen. I really enjoy all of Alen's Podcasts a lot. Great way to learn more from both experts and those of us at different stages.

Elaine said...

that sounds like a really smart idea!

timothy said...

well shuck my corn, it never occured to me to make that list and i'm a list maker. what a great idea and a creative way to use it. i may just "borrow" this idea! glad it worked for you and bravo for skipping that meal today!

Vickie said...

Alarm bells went off in my head as I read this post.

Louder alarm bells when I read others thought it was a good idea. . .

Vickie said...

This activity is reinforcing old neuropathways instead of creating new ones. And my guess is that the items on the list aren't food but actually non-food. It helps a lot to clarify the difference.

Lyn said...


to me, it seems the new neuropathway is to change the way I actually feel, emotionally, about those foods. Instead of looking at them as foods to "look forward to" for when I go off plan, I am learning to see them for what they are: stuff that won't taste as good as I think it would. Although, I do agree that it would be ridiculous for me to make massive lists of junk food and sit poring over it daily, imagining eating them. That would probably be quite triggering.

Low Carb Daily said...

The way you call it "confession" makes it seem like "naughty" behavior. You are only as dark as your secrets, so congrats for sharing.

Keep on keeping on!

Vickie said...

I understand you think that.

But what I am saying and what (I think) Karen is saying is it is always better to have a WHAT TO DO THAT IS GOOD FOR ME LONG TERM LIST than a self sabotage list. On any topic, pick a topic.

You do not hand a person a what NOT to eat list. You hand them a TO EAT list.

Lyn said...


I understand, I think my blog is *full* of what-to-eat lists. I was just sharing about a list I used to use for binge eating that has turned into something more positive.

Lyn said...

Low Carb Daily~

The whole binge eating cycle, even when I was working hard to phase it out, *did* feel like a dirty little secret! It felt even more like that... something I was terribly ashamed of... before I started blogging about it. I am sure if I had not started to open it up to the light and share it here, I never would have worked through it and stopped binge eating. Blogging is such a gift for people who feel like they have to hide their eating; you can bring it all to the light and really examine the behaviors, rather than keep living with and hiding behaviors that make you feel ashamed. I think by posting about this it continues to eradicate any last bits of food-obsessive thinking and habits. I feel pretty good that I hadn't even needed to open that list in months :)

Anonymous said...

I usually post with my name and blog but this time I want to be anonymous. I am still binging. I do not blog about it. I feel so ashamed like I am lying to my readers every time I omit posting about my binges. You have inspired me to try and get the courage to post about it. LCD's words are so right. I do not want to keep secrets anymore. Thank you for being so honest even when people do not understand. I understand. You give me hope I can heal also.

dlamb said...

Lyn, ultimately you will do what you think is best for you but I am adding my unsolicited opinion to the "worried" minority.
If and when you will go to therapy (with an effective therapist), you may hear that you are engaging in behaviors that are similar to sitting in the parking lot looking at and thinking about the bakery case or cruising the isles looking at items you know are not going to be good for you, namely, you are obsessing about food.
You once indicated that you don't do drugs, you don't engage in dangerous sex, gamble, etc. If you follow your logic (which please forgive me but sounds like justifying old, dysfunctional behavior), you would not suggest going to the red light district and placing on a list the person one WOULD have sex with, go to a casino and make a list of games one WOULD play or visiting the old haunts and make a list of which dealers one would call.
Again, my opinion only, but please consider that you may be making this much more difficult for yourself than it needs to be.
A good therapist who specializes in behavior modification would probably be better for you, at this point, than someone who hmmmm does not.

As always, wishing you the best.

Karen said...

food addiction, and any addition stinks.

Use last week's Chinese food to get bumped up for immediate counseling.If you were willing to take a life threatening action (bite of food)- then you can use that example to get help. Ask a friend or family member for help if you cannot or will not get the help for yourself.

Severe life-threatening allergy reactions based on choice, secret lists. All symptoms.

Safe travels. Never easy. You are worth it. A good counselor will be a strong ally on your side.

Lyn said...


to be clear, I would *never* knowingly take a bite of a food I am allergic to. I did not know it contained an allergen when I tasted it. I don't have a death wish and I'm not insane!

Karen said...

From your "how one bite can kill" post

Your own words "The allergy doctor had told me, "I'd stay away from Chinese restaurants. There's a lot of cross contamination. The majority of my patients who have severe allergic reactions to a food have them from eating at Chinese restaurants. It's too big a risk."

No you are not crazy, you do not have a death wish. I did not say that.

But I do think that you can get the help that you need, sooner rather than later.

What doesn't kill us makes us stronger. Get help sooner.

Stay safe. Your kids and pup will be grateful.

Lyn said...


I think it is pretty clear from my post that I learned my lesson about Chinese food. I was mistaken that just being careful about my food choices in Chinese places would keep me safe. I will let my doctors and counselor decide what kind of "help" I need.

Marie said...

Wow, harsh commentators on an honest post. Lyn, I applaud your honesty and I don't see it as a scream for therapy. Wow. Just Wow. I don't keep a list, but wish I could remember certain things weren't as good as I remembered them to be. It would at least save money! BTW, I've lost 140 lbs in the last 13 months with diet and exercise and definitely crave healthy fruits and veggies over junk food, but that does not in any way mean that I wouldn't ever have a craving from now til the end of my life and it'd be nice to know if I remembered if it was worth it or not. Thanks for this posting, Lyn!

Anonymous said...

Wow is right. I have a list too. I guess I must need an intervention. Not!!! People need to chill.

dlamb said...

Marie, with the utmost respect for the interpretation of comments, to which we are all entitled, I am not certain which ones fall under the category of "harsh".

If you have read Lyn's blog from the beginning, you have seen that she indicated that she has received therapy from which she has not necessarily gained all the tools necessary to achieve the success she has been seeking.

In addition, she has done much work re. her family history on her own, from which she has benefitted. She has said on many occasions that she wishes she could access a therapist that could help with her current issues but has been unable to locate one that she can either afford or reach (geographically).

Since I am assume that you consider mine among the "rough" comments, I will clarify my own. Lyn, not unlike many of us who have struggled with food and eating addictions/disorders, often engages in behaviors that are not conducive to change. Addicts are quite adept at avoiding a direct look at some of the actions that lead to relapse. I am assuming that if Lyn wished to keep her trials to herself, as opposed to looking for feedback, she would keep a private journal.
The comments, though challenging, have been respectful of her rules and to my knowledge, proffered by those of us who care about her success. . People's assessment of bloggers' choices differ based their perception but also on their experience with past behavior and the likelihood that it will help or hinder their efforts. As long as the comments are intended to help, not hinder, I do not think that Lyn will miss the fact that they are intended to support her in her ultimate goal, not to criticize her honesty.

Lyn said...


Good news you may have missed (it was some time back): I have a counselor lined up who I have seen once, but who is booked up for another approx 1 month. So that's been in the works.

I do appreciate the time people take to leave respectful feedback, and even if I don't agree with them I always give each comment thought and consideration. I do think everyone's journey is unique, and the "list" has turned out to be a helpful thing to me. I get the feeling that some folks may think I am looking over this list of foods I wanted to eat, over and over, triggering myself, when in fact I hadn't looked at it in months. I think it is helpful now in the sense that it reminds me of how not-worth-it so many craved things are. Writing down a food I craved on that list the other day felt more like writing down some bothersome thought on paper and then throwing it in the fireplace. Gets it out of my head.

Thanks for the input, all.

CatherineMarie said...

Lyn, I have a question about the foods on the list. Is there some commonality to them? Are they foods that you saw (or heard) advertised? That you saw mentioned in a blog post? Is there some unifying factor other than "that looked good"? Cheese-flavored? Processed? something similar with the packaging? It can still be healthy later on with identifying your triggers in terms of "why did I think that would be good?".

Maybe what you could do is get some healthy cookbooks/etc and go through them and write down some healthy foods you'd like to try. Have another list, non-binge, of things like maybe bok choi, or jerusalem artichokes, or lychee fruit.

Lyn said...


Most of it is stuff I saw in grocery stores while shopping. Lots of bakery items and bags of chips/cookies etc. I'd go in the snack aisle to buy nuts, and be accosted by all kinds of stuff that looked good... or I'd go to get some cauliflower which is, sadly, right by the bakery, and see all the baked stuff and want it. The other items were mostly things that used to be my favorite binge foods... hot dogs, super processed salty stuff, etc. I wrote those things on the list *years* ago, and now looking at them, most of them have zero appeal to me anymore. My tastes have really changed and I think "salami?? I wouldn't even want salami if it was on plan!" lol...

I have lots of healthy lists going also! Those are the active lists nowadays... I have lists of veggies I want to try or that I crave, lists of Lean & Green dinner recipes to try, and lots of folders with links to healthy food blogs. And my latest list is stuff I want to get at the Farmer's Market when it re-opens next month! Can't wait.