Tip #3: The Crap List

Sticking to a diet when out in public is difficult. If you haven’t noticed, restaurants and vendors tend to sell mostly what profits them, not you. But I’ve discovered a few tricks to hold firm. I call this one The Crap List.

The crap list is a literal list of the figurative crap I’ve eaten. Every time I cave, I add it to the list. I ate a mini-bag of potato chips at work last week that someone gave me (I’d forgotten my lunch and was especially weak). On the list it goes. Then there was that opulently catered event in New York several months ago with pastries fit for an art museum. “We’ll never get another chance to eat stuff like this again,” went the lie in my head and down the hatch it went.

It all goes on the list without dates. The dates don’t matter because the goal isn’t to allow myself crap here and there in moderation but to rid myself of wanting them entirely. I have at times achieved that gloriously impervious state where sugary, refined-flour, treats lose their appeal and begin looking merely excessive and irresponsible. That’s a place I mean to get back to and stay.

Now when I’m assailed by a sugar/carb craving I use the crap-list to buy some time. I look at the startling amount of crap I’ve eaten. I ask myself: Where is the pleasure now? Can you even remember the third slice of pizza as distinct from the first and second slice? Did the doughnut that morning yield any lasting salvation? No. It’s all an emotionless blur. Eat more crap now and this moment will join the rest on that heap of wasted life.*

The reverse works as well. Do you remember the time you forwent that bowl of cereal? Or the ice-cream that night? Are you in pain from having gone without? Are you still reeling from the deprivation? Of course not. I can’t even recall the hunger pangs of days I have fasted.

The list affords a meditation; on the transience of pleasure and the insatiability of unchecked desire. And this, as I said, buys time. But even the strongest resolve can be hoodwinked by instinct gone awry. Take evasive action as soon as you can.

*The true cost of a thing is how much life I have got to give up for it.” — Thoreau.