On the first day of my HCG journey, I had a guide session and my coach asked me if I was having any fears or concerns going into the experience. And I told her: “I understand how the shots help the body detox and help tamp down your hunger so you can reset your dietary habits away from all the sugar and processed stuff. But I’m a little worried because for me, eating all the fat and sugar has never really been about physical hunger.”
I’ve been having some trial and error moments throughout the week, but for the most part I’ve been successful in figuring out how to pack lunch, snacks and supplements to get me through the work day and still adhere to the dietary structure of the HCG protocol.
But yesterday felt a bit like running the culinary gauntlet.
In my experience, every office has its own food culture. Where I work now, there’s a stack of take out menus at the front desk: every day someone picks a place and folks make a group lunch order there. It’s a pretty expensive way to eat lunch, so I only ever did it once or twice a week. But we have a standing Wednesday lunchtime meeting, so, if nothing else, Wednesday was always my day to join the group order.
But yesterday — the first Wednesday in my HCG experiment — I didn’t. And as I walked to my lunchtime meeting, I saw folks at the lunch table with their french fries and onion rings, and then I sat down at the meeting table next to someone who’d ordered pizza for himself.
And then later in the afternoon, once all the lunchtime stuff was done, someone decided to fire up the company popcorn machine to make a few batches.*
Man, was I crabby by the end of the work day.
To give credit where credit is due: the HCG held so that throughout yesterday I was absolutely feeling physically satisfied with the lean protein, vegetable and fruit regimen I’m building my meals out of.
Physical satiation levels were fine.
It was the emotional hook that rocked me back on my heels. The ways I participate in office food culture to feel like part of the team when I so often feel alienated and out-of-place in my office. The ways I use salty or sweet snacks to give myself a treat in the middle or at the end of a stressful work day.
It was those patterns that were harder to hold up against.
And at one level, these are absolutely valid ways for food culture to function. Food can and should be a tool for people to bond and celebrate. My family has a whole culinary tradition of dishes for Christmas and Christmas Eve that I treasure dearly. And food can also be a source of comfort.
For me, the tricky part has been in how quickly “comfort” or “bonding” food moments can slip into the land of eating to numb out my feelings and suppress my awareness of life’s and Spirit’s energies. So the scoop of ice cream becomes the full pint, or the serving of mac & cheese becomes the whole box, and the move inevitably goes towards food instead of the myriad other self-soothing and self-caring mechanisms I could choose. Almost every time.
So being separate from the lunch order intensified my usual sense of office alienation, which only made my desire to be eating a BLT club with fries all the stronger. And it was a stressful day, so the popcorn was absolutely emotionally tempting.
When all is said and done, I gutted through it and stayed on course. I mentally concocted an HCG-approved snack I would have after choir practice if I was still craving a salty treat. And by that time of night, I was so mentally entertained by having been singing again that I got home and didn’t even feel the craving for that treat.
So we live to crave another day.
I know ultimately a key way to unwind this emotional hook around eating will be to look more closely at the feelings I’m trying to smother with the food. I’m still skirting around mustering the courage to do that.
Yesterday was shocking enough just to really see how strong my emotional hook is to fat, sugar, and salt. That’s enough world-rocking insight for one day.
* Yes, the company has a popcorn machine. No, I don’t know why.