On January 4, 2023

Willpower

By Sandra Dee Owens

We don’t have to follow the first voice

A woman passed through my line at the grocery store with a brightly colored box I knew so well.

Without hesitation, I jostled my cart and went searching for the Pop-Tart aisle.

That first voice had whispered in my ear, “oooooh, Pop-Tarts, have to have.”

When did I start following that first/unhealthy voice?

Forbidden fruit

In the early 1970s, my girlfriend Lizzie bought one of the first boxes of Pop-Tarts to arrive at our neighborhood store and called me up. I hustled over to see this brand-new thing.

We hid in the pantry like thieves. This newfangled food product was not yet Mom approved and we were also snacking without permission. Both sneakable offenses.

Neither of us had eaten food from a foil packet before it felt exciting and edgy. The era of space food was upon us, so if Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin ate Tang, Spacestix or Pop-Tarts, we should too.

Toasting as directed, we spread margarine over the solid, thick frosting with embedded sprinkles as it seemed the decent thing to do. Then we scalded our tongues on the blistering smear of jam inside.

Since there were two tarts in a pouch, it seemed we were being directed to eat two. We did—and promptly got stomach aches.

And I was hooked.

I’ve had many Pop-Tart tummy aches in the last 50 years.

Fortunately, I do not lack self-control in everything, mostly just unhealthy snacks. There is an ungodly amount of unhealthy snacks out there.

Adding something in

I have observed over the years that telling myself I ‘can’t, should, or shouldn’t’ do something is gremlin-speak (what I call those invisible buggers that whisper useless and unhealthy nothings in my ear all day long).

Listening to the gremlins has never led to positive, sustainable change.

Not once, not ever.

So instead of trying to force myself to take out or remove things from my life that no longer serve me, like Pop-Tarts, I look toward adding something (better) into my life instead.

This helps me ignore the gremlins. Which makes them go dormant. They don’t leave, they just get quiet.

With the ‘adding in’ approach, there is no void left waiting to be filled. No feelings of lack left behind when forcing myself to give something up.

I don’t bother with New Year’s resolutions. They are loaded with expectation that are destined to fail. And that would make me feel bad.

Instead, I assess the things I want out of my life. It can be a food, negative emotional mindset, or any old, worn out, behavior that no longer serves me or anyone connected to me. Then I shift my focus and attention toward something I do want in my life.

When an opportunity to add something better appears, I am ready to embrace it. And just an FYI, an opportunity always appears. Though often, it does not look like what I expected.  In fact, I ready myself for these unexpected gifts.

Popeye smoothie

Not long ago, I was given a Nutri-bullet blender. This high powered, easy to use blender eviscerates everything to a nice smooth texture.

While I had enjoyed smoothies made by others, my old, slow, yard sale blender was closer to a woodchipper. Totally unappetizing.

But this gift was an opportunity to add something healthy in (see what I mean?), so I began experimenting with a morning breakfast drink.

Without telling myself I had to stop eating the usual sugar-centric breakfasts, I added green things I would not normally eat for breakfast. Fresh kale, spinach, oats, unsweetened coconut flakes plus a few other ingredients, spices and a frozen, ripe banana to sweeten it just enough. I called it my Popeye smoothie.

Since one of my personal mantras is to be as strong as I can, for as long as I can, this drinkable breakfast paired beautifully with my lifelong, mind-body goals.

I feel strong, healthy and wise to eat these good things. And this feels good.

It has been years since I bought Pop-Tarts. The get-out-of-line craving has left me. That feels really great. Like I gained some snack food freedom. Not everything—just a bite.

Last summer I celebrated this healthy morning add-in by making a tiny garden around my patio. I call it my snacking garden where I grow fresh herbs and greens for my smoothies.

This snacking garden is too small to freeze or process anything. It’s just big enough for snacking.

While I sometimes grab a Snickers bar when I gas up my truck, I struck on an effective compromise.

Line in the sand

A mindset I adopted when wanting to eat junk food, or drink less (or no) alcohol, was to imagine the doorsills of my house as a line in the sand.

A line that unhealthy foods and substances are not allowed to cross.

They stay out there.

Rather than bring them home as a grocery item, they remain in “treat” status.

Something I have to go get.

Adding something better in, and drawing a line in the sand, help me listen to the gremlins—a lot less. And I am good with that.

For more info visit: sandradeeowens.com.

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