Why cookie binging is NEVER about the cookies
When Girl Scout Cookie season arrives, I know it.
Not because I buy a box. And not because I notice a squad of tweens sporting green sashes outside the local grocery. (Here in Canada, Girl Guides wear blue.)
Nope. I know GSC Season is upon us because, without fail, several of my clients relapse with an entire box.
Sometimes it’s Thin Mints. Sometimes Samoas. Once in great while it’s one I don’t get at all, like Shortbread Trefoils.
All do it (eat the entire box) for different reasons.
For some, it’s stress. For some, physical pain.
For some, it's grief and loss. For some, celebration.
For some, it’s simply the occasion of Girl Scout Cookies.
For some, it's guilt over saying No to Girl Scouts – as if doing so makes them "bad"!
For most, they enjoy the heck out of that box...but in the aftermath feel miserable – all the more so if they’d “been doing so well.” Kind of takes the logic out of “I deserve this.”
So what’s Girl Scout Cookie relapse all about?
And as their eating coach, how do I respond?
The answer to the first question and reason for relapse varies. So does the answer to the second.
But I’ll tell you how I never respond: with judgement.
And I’ll tell you what a Girl Scout Cookie relapse is never about: the cookies.
Same goes if, instead of Samoas, you’re reaching for a bottle of tequila or line of blow. Put differently, it’s not about the drug, or cookie, of choice.
The key thing, whether getting your hit from a cookie or something wholly different, is the addictive moment.
That “moment” – and your addiction – might not be what you think.
Whether you’re about to go to town on a box of Thin Mints...a bottle of wine...or an 8 ball of cocaine, the addictive moment (or relapse) is never about the drug.
Same goes if your drug is a behaviour rather than a substance (online shopping, for instance, or excessive exercise).
You know what the addictive moment is about? The promise.
The promise that comes in the Magic Moment – the moment just before indulging.
The promise that everything, very soon, will feel better. Will be okay.
And, know what? In that moment – the Magic Moment before devouring the cookies – it works.
In that moment, everything does feel better. With the world. With self. With wounds or places of lack.
That’s what we’re addicted to. And why we relapse. Not because it’s cookie season.
Problem is, the Magic Moment doesn’t last.
As soon as we start partaking in whatever substance or behaviour is our drug of choice, the Magic Moment and all its promise are already over.
We’re heading AWAY from the place where things feel better.
No matter how fantastic that box of cookies, the aftermath is bound to be miserable. The promise of the Magic Moment will never, ever be kept.
Why the pull toward something that always, without fail, falls through?
Well, for the Magic Moment – the moment before digging in – the addiction works.
We soothe whatever place of hurt is at the root. We get our needs met. We feel better!
Seeing this is really important.
Because once we see what, exactly, we’re addicted to (and that it’s not about the cookies), we have somewhere to work.
Somewhere to explore ways to support ourselves in stepping out of the addictive cycle.
Somewhere to pay very close attention, with an abundance of compassion and curiosity, as we seek to prevent relapse.
What’s getting to know your addiction look like?
Well, on the one hand, it’s really big, long-game work. Indeed, for many of my clients, it’s a lifelong process.
On the other hand, the success of this big work hinges on ten thousand small steps. One after the next, unfolding over time.
Part of this involves getting curious. And asking questions.
Then doing it again. And again.
For instance, you might start this way...
When do you reach for the entire box of cookies (or whatever your drug of choice)? A time of celebration? Stress? Sadness? Something else?
- See yourself in that moment. In the moment just before indulging.
- Picture the scene: See your unopened box of Thin Mints (or other paraphernalia) before you.
- What do you feel in your body and mind in that moment? The moment before partaking in your cookie of choice?
Whatever the substance and whatever the occasion, is there a sense of “I deserve this”?
- If so, ask: “What, exactly, is it that I deserve? A box of cookies? Feeling miserable later? Or something else? Care? Nurturance? Comfort? What am I longing for?”
What is the Magic Moment – the moment before indulging – promising you?
- Do those things really come from the cookies? Can eating the whole box ever bring what you deserve or truly long for?
- Is the promise of that Magic Moment – when everything feels momentarily okay – a promise that’s ever kept?
- What are you truly addicted to? The cookies? Or something different?
These are big questions, and I encourage you to spend time with them (rather than trying to figure it out in one shot). They are the stuff of ten thousand small steps and ongoing exploration.
They also hold the answer to why addiction – and relapse – happen. It’s not about the cookies.
Seeing this offers the possibility of stepping away from that unopened box...and out of a painful cycle.