[guest post] Why You Should Just Eat the Damn Cookie

by Amy on June 29, 2016

cropped the Peeps made me do it.
[Note from Amy: Hope you enjoy this is a guest post by Barb Spanjers. I love her take on why bonafide grown-ups STILL don’t know how to feed themselves!]

Are you as tired of these kinds of headlines as I am?

  • Eat This! Not That!
  • 5 Foods Never to Eat!
  • If You Eat That Oreo, You Are a Bad Mom!

Okay, I made that last one up, but it’s definitely the subtext of a gazillion blog posts, articles, and social media posts.

It’s enough to make your head spin. How do you make sense of all those warnings? All that advice? All that judginess?

You remember that you are brazen.

Brazen women know that there is nothing they need to fix about themselves. They are unapologetic about being themselves. They let themselves be happy, no strings attached. They trust their instincts. Brazen women consider “expert advice” but listen to themselves first. (For the full rundown, see Amy’s The Live Brazen Manifesto.)

How could you possibly follow all the experts? If you listen to all the nutrition and weight loss advice out there:

  • You must avoid all animal products – oh wait, no – you should put butter in your coffee.
  • You must forego solid food for only juice – oh wait, no – it’s full of sugar, so no juice is allowed.
  • You should eat soy products – oh wait, no – soy mimics estrogen, so just no.

Again, it’s time for Exorcist-type-head-spinning.

It’s always very curious to me how we got to this point. How did we come to depend on the approval of others to determine what we eat? How did we come to believe that bona fide grown-ups don’t know how to feed themselves? That could be a whole book, but the bottom line is most of us believe we aren’t competent to feed ourselves. It is part of our culture’s underlying assumptions, so pervasive that it is invisible.

Even in the world of enlightenment, this belief is pervasive. There’s a wonderful wave of personal development healers and coaches ready to help us return to our true selves. Encouraging us to listen to our internal voices. Our inner wisdom. Our inner goddess.

Except when it comes to eating. Then you are supposed to ignore all your inner desires.

We are supposed to connect with our internal wisdom – except when it comes to eating. We are supposed to seek self-acceptance – except for our body. Why do we hitch happiness, peace, and self-esteem to the size of our body, or the way that we eat?

The message boils down to “Trust yourself – unless you want a cookie.” Or, “Honor your soul – unless your soul is hungry after 7:00 pm.” Or, “Accept yourself – except for your thighs and the little poochy spot under your belly button.”

I’m here to tell you to eat the damn cookie. If that’s truly what you are hungry for, no amount of kale or quinoa is a good substitute. Resisting your own inner wisdom about what to eat makes you cabinet-surf after dinner, even when your belly is full. As the 1990s low-fat craze taught us, swapping a fat free Snackwell’s cookie for the real thing just makes you eat the whole package of Snackwell’s.

If you want to be more in control of your eating, the key is to stop trying to be in control. In fact, calling on your willpower is a really great way to set yourself up for overeating. At the very least, it tends to make you obsess about food.

So if it’s not about willpower and control, then what?

The key is self-trust. Trust your body to know how to feed you. Trusting yourself reduces overeating and bingeing. Trusting yourself allows you to tune in to when you are really hungry or full.

Trusting yourself can be scary, though. I get it. It’s hard enough to trust yourself in other areas of your life as you step away from approval addiction. Plus, when it comes to eating, we’re inundated with media and cultural messages telling us we are incompetent.

But you are not incompetent.

You are just out of practice. Babies and toddlers know how to feed themselves until adults get in their way. You know that “open up the hangar, here comes the airplane” stuff? It teaches children to ignore what their tummy is telling them.

That is how the indoctrination begins.

You can undo that programming. It’s a process that won’t happen overnight, but it surely can happen. Bit by bit, you can return responsibility and trust to yourself. “Expert” advice and weight loss or eating plans can never know about you in the moment.

Only you can know when you are hungry or full, no matter what the clock says. Only you can know when you feel satisfied, which is different from having a full belly. (You could fill your stomach with grass clippings, but that’s only satisfying for cows.) Only you can know if you are eating for emotional reasons. While all eating has some emotional component, it becomes a problem when it displaces a real solution. As you probably already know, no amount of potato chips in the world can fix the rift between you and your partner.

Here’s a challenge to you. Start being brazen in all areas of life, including at mealtime. Make friends with your body. Make friends with your appetite. Remove guilt and moral judgment from eating. Once you do this, you might just realize that the forbidden chocolate hidden in the bottom of your lingerie drawer doesn’t even taste very good.

Funny how that works.


Barb SpanjersBarbara Spanjers is a mythslayer, wellness coach, and therapist. She fears no food (except beets) and loves to help others do the same. As a licensed marriage and family therapist, Barb has experience working with disordered eating/eating disorders, body image, domestic violence, and child welfare. She is the founder of Cake Is Magical Wellness, a coaching practice devoted to stopping the diet madness and improving body image. She wishes more people could eat cake without feeling guilty. You can visit her at http://barbaraspanjers.com

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Jennifer Kranc June 30, 2016 at 1:02 pm

Amy I think you are fantastic but I do not agree with this blog. I am a holistic nutritionist who deals with food addiction. I was addicted to food myself and have lost my weight and kept it off.
The problem with “trusting” yourself is that it is a biochemical reaction in your brain that often can’t be controlled. The pull to eat and the high is just like a drug addiction. You are not in control anymore and that has to be addressed. It’s not your willpower that is to blame and it’s often not an emotional problem for many. It’s a real addiction.


Barb Spanjers July 1, 2016 at 4:25 am

I’m so glad to hear that you are doing much better yourself when it comes to food. The concept of trusting oneself is a process that is very individual, and doesn’t happen overnight for most people. I recognize and empathize that food can feel like the enemy (or more accurately, “frenemy”), and it you can feel like it’s a downward spiral. This often shows up as ricocheting back and forth between being “good” and eating a certain way, then bouncing over to overeating – even bingeing.

Here’s where I stand on the concept of food addiction right now: the research is in the baby stages, mostly based on brain scans. It’s a big leap to go from brain scans of rats or people on sugar or cocaine to proving that sugar (or any other food) is addictive in the same way that cocaine, heroin, etc. are addictive. Food does, indeed, activate the pleasure pathways in our brains. But so do many other things, including listening to music and seeing smiling faces. It’s a fantastic thing that food is rewarding, or our ancestors wouldn’t have bothered to seek out food during tough times. Instead of framing sugar as being like cocaine, we could equally have the point of view that cocaine is the intruder hijacking our natural pleasure pathways.

On the other side, there are findings that stand in contrast to an addiction model. Both intuitive eating and mindful eating teach how to remove judgment about good/bad foods. In doing so, the psychological power of those “naughty” foods is stripped down. The outcome is typically reduced overeating and bingeing; decreased shame and stress; and increased self-trust. Ironically, “legalizing” all foods – even sugar – makes them less appealing. We would never dream of offering a cocaine addict free access to as much cocaine as she wanted. But with food, free access/nonjudgment has the opposite effect. It can take a bit of work and time to really work through to the point of nonjudgment.

Of course, none of this is advocating eating unlimited amounts of Doritos and soda. A big part of learning to trust and tune in to yourself is noticing what effects different foods have on you. So instead of snarfing down a dozen cookies because it’s a “cheat day,” or you just never can control yourself around sweets, you may start to notice that you have a mental fog or low energy when you eat cookies. Noticing that connection may make the cookies less enticing next time. But if you decide to still eat the cookie, you can savor it and be satisfied with one.


Barbara Martin June 30, 2016 at 1:10 pm

THANK YOU!!! For writing what so many don’t have the (pardon the expression) balls to say out loud. We are all so conditioned to “clean your plate, there are starving kids in China” that we don’t listen & step away when our bodies say we’re full. I plan on passing this article on to my family & friends.
Thank you again! Live Brazen!


Barb Spanjers July 1, 2016 at 3:27 am

It’s amazing how deep-seated our “training” around food is, isn’t it? We’re taught to clean our plates regardless of how hungry we are, but then we turn around and are told that we have to NOT eat when we’re hungry because of the latest popular eating rules. It’s crazy-making.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: