Warning: For those who are squeamish or love peanut butter, be warned. If you read this, you might throw up or never be able to eat peanut butter again. Those of you willing to face these dangers, proceed.
The Set Up
I have not written much about it, but in some of the days when I was depressed and creating much pain for myself by stupid actions, I ate a lot of peanut butter. Not out of hunger. Past the initial few mouthfuls I wasn’t really hungry. I sought distraction in putting peanut butter in my mouth.
I did this to excess, eating half a big jar (400 g) on one of those days. As you can imagine, my stomach could not keep up. Quite a few times I have felt sick from having eaten two or three tablespoons on a stomach that was already filled with food.
I became disgusted at my actions yet found it hard to stop. Sheer force of will did not work. I had greater forces within me driving for distraction.
At one point I remembered the technique used by Tony Robbins and other people to stop eating junk food. They associated the most disgusting features they could think of with junk food. If someone hated mushy carrots, they would associate junk food with mushiness… for days. I decided to take it a step further, as I could not easily bring to mind attributes of food that were particularly off-putting.
So I associated peanut butter with poop. I used visualization to vividly imagine how peanut butter tasted like poop. I had never to my knowledge eaten poop, so I improvised. I imagined peanut butter to be bitter, to smell like poop and the crunchy bits of peanut to be bits of particularly hard feces. I shudder and feel nauseous just describing it.
As expected, one visualization of an unpleasant item with one that has a long history of pleasure associated with it was not enough. Hiding the peanut butter behind a box of pasta in our cupboard, I continued to visualize poop with peanut butter, binding the two in my mind.
This two-pronged strategy worked. I did not eat peanut butter and did not go so far overboard in eating other food for distraction. I did this for about a week, not making a big experiment with careful measuring. I considered it merely a side fancy that would work for a while and ultimately fail. It was working and my moods were better.
Yesterday, I decided to fast. I would tame my eating so that I no longer did it mindlessly and for distraction.
Fasting was easier than I expected it to be. I had no irresistible desires for food, and although I was hungry on and off throughout the day, it was totally bearable. I did not feel particularly tired or energized. I didn’t have headaches and my day went pretty normally. Frequently, I would feel hungry, and think about eating or actually standing before realizing that I was not eating that day.
What I found surprising was that I became very thirsty. I drank water only to feel thirsty again 20 minutes later. Probably my body trying to flush out toxins now that it did not have to spend energy on digestion. Or it could be that I confused thirst with hunger and have eaten many times when I actually needed a drink.
I went to parkour practice that evening and loved it. I did only half of the conditioning exercises and did not jog with them at the start. I did this for two reasons: firstly, I was not as fit as them and have decided to work up gradually and keep it fun. Secondly, I was learning the backflip so wanted to have as much energy for that as I could.
I reached the trampoline as soon as I could and spent most of the next hour on it doing various progressions. Last time I had tried to learn a backflip, only to land and realize that I had inadvertently learned a frontflip.
The move I did the most was to land on my back and try to do a backflip on the up-bounce. I did not tuck tight enough and more than half of the time I starteled in the middle and opened up. I almost fell on my face more times than I could count.
I got tired and got off. Then I got back on almost instantly, determined to get it right that night. I do not know what it is that causes you to lose track of your breathing on a trampoline, but I did. When I finally got off, I had not learned it yet, but I was falling on my face a lot less. I had skinned knees and my heart was racing like I was running a kilometer without breathing. I felt as if I could have given myself a heart attack if I had stayed on for 10 more minutes.
I got home and went to bed when I felt tired enough to fall asleep. I was wrong, so got up again at 11pm when I became too restless. After falling asleep I woke up at 2 am. Then I woke up at 4 and did not try to sleep anymore. The adrenalin and cortisol coursing through my system had a large effect.
I broke my fast with a packet of mushrooms and six eggs scrambled in a pan. Then I wanted to eat some bread so I ate a slice of our maids “government bread” with coconut oil. I have enjoyed that on many occasions but this time, the bread tasted a lot different. I still felt hungry or desiring, so I got out normal bread and the peanut butter.
I had decided that I did not want to permanently lose access to peanut butter so I stopped conditioning it and tried not to think about the conditioning I had already done. With my first bite, I tried to focus on the actual taste and not my mind’s projection. Wait for it…
The peanut butter tasted bitter. Not extremely, but a lot more than I remembered it to taste like. With the next few slices, it faded and once again I was just tasting normal peanut butter.
Changing the taste of food with just a few rounds of visualization is not something I have considered before. What other food can I warp the taste of? What foods will I be willing to never taste right again? Experiments where I associate the smell, taste or texture of one item with another could work like this:
Look at a food, then blindfold yourself and eat another that you haven’t seen while intensely focusing on linking the image you just saw with what you are tasting and smelling. Repeat for a few weeks, without coming into contact with the specific food outside your conditioning. At some point, it should become very hard to erase the connection and those sensations will come to mind when triggered.
- Look at and smell an apple, then be blindfolded and pinch your nose.
- Bite into a lemon.
- Remove the lemon and open your eyes and nose to the apple.
- Repeat for a few weeks.
While writing this I have been thinking of a lemon. I can tell you that my mouth is watering like a hosepipe. There isn’t even a lemon in the house!
I don’t know when I will be doing these experiments, but I will let you know and record the whole process.
To happiness, and beyond!