Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Easter Confessions: How the Old You Will Help Your New You Avoid Jelly Beans and other Temptations

I have a confession to make. If given the opportunity, I would buy every single bag of Starburst Jelly Beans available. I would carry them home, well most likely cart them home in a shopping cart, fill my bathtub with them, and eat them by the handful until I threw up. Then, I’d drink a glass of water and go back for more. I am not ashamed to say that I cannot purchase a full bag of them, or 30 seconds later I will have an empty bag. It is for this reason, that I usually go the entire Easter season without eating a single one, and then sometime at the end of April, find the last discount bag and devour it before my brain understands what is happening. I’m not a religious person, but I’d bet money that Jesus actually died so someone could invent Starburst Jelly Beans.

Every year, no matter how dedicated and fit I am, the same thing happens. Sure. I could buy a bag and eat 1 serving. But that would require me to actually control myself from eating the entire bag and then going back to the store the next day and buying another full bag and continuing that cycle until I single handedly eat NYC clean of these delicious little Jelly Bean treats. This year, on Feb 15th when the Easter candy rolled out, I started to cringe. I know I don’t typically talk about my own habits, but I also haven’t written in 4 months and I’m acting like that isn’t the case, so I’ll tell you a little bit extra as my olive branch and apology for my long absence. I eat a very clean diet, ever since I was a kid I’ve preferred plain food, and I’m not really into sweets. I’ve always been a sandwich girl over a candy girl, and, it surprises me that I love these so much. I can go ages without pizza, or chips or other carbs that I enjoy but don’t eat frequently because they don’t match up with my wellness goals. I can buy a bag of chips and eat it over a period of 2 weeks if I want. But I cannot, probably even at gun point, exhibit one shred of self-control around Starburst Jelly Beans, try as I might. I’d actually have better luck attempting to build a working watch from an old tire and some glue, then I would at attempting to only eat ¼ cup of these Jelly Beans from the bag, and not going back to my cabinet a solid 3 seconds later, dislocating my jaw and finishing off the bag without even chewing,

 To be clear, I love fruit, I love veggies, if you give me 3 minutes and a watermelon, you’ll be shocked and maybe even disgusted at what I can accomplish; I really love my clean eating. But even though I’ve always eaten balanced and fairly healthy, I wasn’t always so clean and I know what treats I like. Jelly Bean season makes me realize that one of the biggest reasons our New Year’s resolutions, and not just or health and wellness ones, tend to fail by spring, is that we don't acknowledge what has made us fail in the past. I’m not going to pretend to know anything about marketing, but December through January we are bombarded with images of sexy, naked, toned, muscular dream bodies. We can’t go a minute without hearing “New Year, New You.” Ah. How nice it would be if just because it was 2015 I stopped loving Jelly Beans and started craving kale. The reason our New Year’s resolutions fail, or taper off, has a lot to do with thinking that we can dismiss the “old us” to become the “new us,” that gyms, diet plans and various businesses have promised us.

 I know you can trust me around a full bag of Starburst Jelly beans about as much as you can trust a kidnapper in an unattended nursery. Just because Jelly Beans are not clean, and might not fit into my meal plan that day, it really won't stop me once I've found them and decided I want them. Try explaining that to me when my hand hits the bag, my eyes glaze over and I start eating. Good luck communicating to me over the sound of my chewing. But you might have another issue. You might understand what I am talking about. Maybe its not a food that you can't control yourself around, or maybe you do not like working out, you might not like tracking food, or you might get discouraged the second you stop seeing progress. By March the thrill of starting something new has worn off and now, we fall into our old habits. Some reasons our wellness plans fail are diet and fitness related, but some reasons are personal traits that may carry over in all aspects of our lives. By starting anything with a mindset of being a whole new person, you are discounting not only what makes you unique, but also your strengths and weaknesses. If in the past every April I gain 5 pounds from jelly beans step on the scale, get upset and then give up, it is pattern. If I begin this year acting like the Starburst plant will have a fire and won’t release Jelly Beans, I’m not being realistic. I need to know what is coming up. I need to have a plan that incorporates my strengths as an individual to make sure, this year really is the year I stick with my goals.

This year, I have been lucky enough to find single serving bags. Duane Reade sells them at the friendly price of 2 for a dollar. My diet works by me having a certain amount of protein, carbs and fat at various times of day based on my activities. It provides for a lot of flexibility, and basically, I can eat whatever I’d like, in moderation, as long as the numbers match up. My preference is usually unprocessed, whole foods. But, when I want to have these, I will. I have learned that depriving myself of them only makes it worse. I have tried to replace the urge, and am successful 98% of the time. In the case of Jelly Beans, I look at the composition, they are sugar and carbs, so when I see them and I want them, but I am not allowing them that day, I try to recreate them, maybe some fruit and a yogurt, which are also sugars and carbs, just better ones than Jelly beans to help satisfy that craving. Sometimes, I will get the jelly beans, but know that after one serving I will not want to stop. I will try to pair them with fruit and a yogurt, instead of replacing them, so that way I get them, but also balance them with protein and actual nutrients. I tend to eat the Jelly beans first, and then erase the taste of them from my mind with the healthy option. This plan does not always work.
I know the warning signs of caving to craving. Late night and tired equals low ability to say no. Lucky for me I usually find myself in Duane Reade around 11pm. For a while I couldn’t be trusted with the 2 for 1 deal. The first time I saw it I said to myself, "Just get the two bags, and save one for later in the week." Well what happened is I ate one bag on my way home, and the second when I got home. I managed to convince myself the first bag didn’t count because I was eating as I was walking, burn it while ya earn it… ya know? No. That’s actually not the case and maybe doing that once was okay, because as I’ve said we all have off days. But, now I had a problem. I had gotten the taste of hem, and I knew where I could buy them, in portions that aren't actually going to ruin my meal plan. I took a harm reduction approach; I’m not eating 1 whole bag, I’m eating 2 small bags to justify this choice about 2 more times. At the same time, I realized this was becoming an unhealthy habit. I really don't like to eat any sugars, even fruit, in the evening. Additionally, if I was becoming the relaxed with my meal plan, it was only a matter of time before I bought a whole bag. Also, by the time id finish the 2nd bag, I was not that happy. I felt disappointed in myself, physically since I don't eat sugar, the effect was that I'd feel sick. I know I could just avoid them altogether, but really, I want to be able to enjoy things in moderation and not act like a starved mountain lion every time I am around a treat I like.  

My allowance of Jelly beans does not always look as pretty as me nibbling a jelly bean with a full bowl of yogurt and berries at noon. It’s usually pretty ugly. Usually, I realize I want them at 10:00pm, when I wouldn’t usually have sugars or carbs, but I’m in the store, I see them, and I cannot stop. 2 for 1 dollar! Single Serve! What a bargain! What a Find! I basically become a used car sales man in the candy aisle of the 24 hour Duane Reade.  My goal, is to be able to enjoy them in moderation, and actually employ the technique of replacing the craving or, having the Jelly beans with a yogurt and moving on. I took a good hard look at myself and realized, 1 bag is fine. If every couple of weeks I want 1 serving of jelly beans, I can allow that. I challenged myself. I bought the 2 bags, made it home, and left the second bag on my counter. It was there if I needed it, but I also know one of my strengths is endurance, and I was going to endure temptation. I had met all of my requirements for the day, and I had a choice to make, I could be accountable and let myself have 1 serving, staying within my calories and carbs, or I could eat the second bag. I know that when that happens, I feel guilty, I feel discouraged, I feel sick. So I ate something else, some sugar snap peas, also a carb, also a little sweet as far as veggies go, but a much better option, and I was fine. Had I not acknowledged that having these around was tempting, or negative for me, I would have eaten them… as I had the last 3 times I bought them. Luckily this is not an everyday occurrence,   but it happens none the less, and now, after a month of avoiding Duane Reade, I am prepared. I knew that my usual actions were: buy two bags, eat one and pretend I didn’t, then eat the second one, feel guilty, feel discouraged, and feel sick, even though the actual eating is pleasurable. So my change had to be to cut out one bag, and then replace the second bag with something else. I kept in mind my weakness, but also my strengths. These are not new, they are a part of who I am, and who I’ve always been, and for that reason, I can utilize my old me as I work towards a better me, not a new me.

Steps you may take for overcoming your own personal barriers could look like this:

1.       Identify your weakness and how it has gotten in the way of your success in the past.

2.       Identify how you feel after you’re weakness has been made apparent

3.       Identify your strengths you can use to overcome it.

4.       Create a plan.

5.       Enact that plan as many times as necessary until you are successful. Accomplishing goal is not about having a 100% success rate, it’s about understanding defeat, learning from it, and moving forward until you’ve reached your goal.


While I might strive to always have balance and clean eating habits that is not always the case. We have to acknowledge not only our goals, but what our barriers to reaching them are in order to successfully overcome them. We need to appreciate who we are and what we bring to the table. Even if what we are bringing to the table is 20 pounds of Jelly Beans. Finding progress and success is not about becoming whole new people, it is about becoming better versions of ourselves and you can’t become a better version of yourself without acknowledging what needs some work and what needs some nourishment.

 *I do not recommend replacing any actual nutrients with Jelly Beans, but if you’re going to I highly suggest Starburst brand, and you can feel free to share with me.

** Also, Jelly Beans are capitalized here to imply Starburst Jelly Beans. I don't care about any other jelly bean.