Have you ever tried Nutella? And I don’t mean a quarter of a teaspoon on a piece of whole grain bread. I mean a tablespoon full of plain, good old Nutella – nothing else.
Well, I have. In fact, I found out the other day that I had almost an ENTIRE JAR by myself.
This is how it all happened: I convinced my boyfriend to accompany me to the grocery store. Just so you know, the grocery store is like Disneyland to me, whereas my boyfriend is the kind of person who systematically runs through the checklist of items that we need –all in an effort to depart as soon as possible. He even skips whole entire aisles without taking a peak. Baffling, I know!
A few Disneyland trips ago, my boyfriend decided confidently that Nutella was the missing item form our all-too-healthy shopping list. My hesitant response was “Are you really going to eat Nutella?” (Internally, I was on my fifth ride on Magic Mountain - cotton candy in both hands.)
As I could have predicted, the Nutella jar remained sealed for about two weeks … until I had a sweet craving. Six weeks later and with my boyfriend out of town for 10 days, I had essentially found a new lover, listening partner, and closest confident. Hoping that I wasn’t the Nutella jar’s only friend, I even said: “Yummm… Nutella still tastes as good as it did when we were kids, doesn’t it?” He responded: “I guess so. I havn’t had it in years.” GREAT! Did I really eat that whole jar by myself? Well, I did and I knew it the whole time, but it was just too good to resist. So sweet and creamy… AND I had been feeling an annoying combination of stress, restlessness, and impatience.
Despite knowing how much I enjoyed every single spoon of Nutella, I subsequently felt so bad about the fact that I had seemingly unconsciously eaten a whole jar. Why didn’t I stop when I reached the ‘level of moderation’ that keeps the indulgence on a healthy playing field? I know better than that.
And I do, in fact, KNOW better than that.
What I didn’t realize was that this outplaying of my craving had nothing to do with KNOWING and everything to do with acknowledging how I was FEELING.
I realized that I was not dealing with the stress I had been feeling constructively. In fact, I tried my best to hide my level of stress from myself. After all, my work wasn’t going to do itself, was it? Even though, I am involved with this topic of stress reduction and balanced living on a daily basis, my own wellbeing had somehow slipped to the “optional” section of my to-do list. This can and does happen to all of us.
So, instead of looking at my Nutella vice as an indulgence that came out of nowhere and now only symbolized proof for my lack of self-control and secret wishes for more self-discipline, I began to reconsider:
What if my stressed mind and body knew that it could get my attention by tempting me into over-indulgence?
Now that was a thought that lit a couple of light bulbs at ones.
Clearly I wasn’t willing to listen to my body’s other signals of excessive stress. Poor sleep, achy back, slight pressure behind my eyes… none of it was enough to snap me out of my stress cycle and slow down.
Apparently it took a whole Nutella jar to get the job done.
Resting with this novel approach to my sweet cravings, I realized that I did not want to be a stressed out person who soothed herself with unconscious indulgences into creamy deliciousness. Instead I want to be the kind of person who realizes when stress becomes too much and separately from that enjoys life’s culinary treasures. What kind of person do you want to be?
So, Caroline, get down to it. How is a vice also a blessing?
Our vices, our over-indulgences directly tell us that something is out of balance. That some feeling that we are currently unwilling to acknowledge, wants to be heard and cared for. Our vices are active feedback about internal disregulation. They are messengers that fight for our well-being, our balance, and our happiness.
Any vice has its roots in the unconscious – that is why it is so strong, so irresistible and can leave you feeling so powerless.
So, I am suggesting for you to reframe how you look at your vices! I am challenging you to turn towards whatever your vice is and to stop scolding yourself for it. Instead use your vice to access feelings that you might be presently denying.
In the end this integration of the reality of all of your feelings will lead you to emerge as a person who possesses more strength, resiliency, authenticity, wholeness, balance and happiness …to name only a few.
I am of course not telling you that you should never treat yourself to anything (unless your vice is one that is harmful to you even in moderate amounts), but I am suggesting that it is far more beneficial for the relationship you have with yourself – mind and body – to indulge when you are in a state of clarity, when all your senses are engaged and not when you are really just trying to bandage up a deeper feeling.