Toilet paper and diets.
Now there’s a conversation I never thought you and I would have. But here we are in 2020, contemplating a very different world from 2019.
There are entire cities locked down, school closures, flight cancellations, strict border controls, self-quarantine periods and bare shelves in supermarkets, all altering the way we live.
Many of us feel anxious, worried, fearful, or downright scared.
We’re dealing with not only the social impacts, but also the health risks and potentially severe financial impacts through loss of work and income.
This is something that touches many of us all around the world on a daily basis now.
Today, for starters, I took my son to the doctor for a chest infection and we had to go through an inspection BEFORE we were even allowed in the building to see the doctor.
The nurse outside the front door, at her nursing station, asked us, “are you feeling sick?”, which felt quite ironic. I mean, clearly we’re here to see a doctor, right?
I completely understand why they’re doing it. But it’s all quite weird.
Anyway, they put us in the “coughing” corner, because coughing is a symptom of coronavirus. Non-coughers were segregated on the OTHER side of the waiting room. Which is really smart and helpful for the non-coughers. I’m just happy a real coronavirus patient wasn’t sitting with my son in the coughing corner.
We saw the doctor, got antibiotics for what was indeed a chest infection, and made our way home again.
And so here I am still pondering the toilet paper-buying epidemic that’s going on out there after reading this morning’s news headlines.
It started in Australia and New Zealand, then the United States, and now even the British are ditching their tea bags in favour of stocking up on toilet paper.
In fact, British supermarkets have put limits on how much toilet paper any one person can buy at a time.
But what has made so many people so determined to stock up on this ONE household item?
Why is it not food? Surely if you have to quarantine for 14 days, having food to eat is more important than wiping your butt?
Lack of food results in starvation. Lack of wiping a bottom just leads to a messy bottom.
Are we a global community of avid bottom-wipers?
I couldn’t understand it myself. Which is why everywhere I’ve gone in the last couple of weeks, I’ve asked people whether they’d stocked up on toilet paper.
I truly wanted to understand what was going through their head – why toilet paper?
I only met one guy who admitted to buying up. And he really didn’t understand why he’d bought so much.
I’ve got to be honest, I didn’t connect the dots until I saw this post on Facebook.
This toilet paper situation is an EXACT reflection of what happens with dieting….As soon as you think you're going to…
The truth is – we over-consume when we know or fear that access to something will be restricted in the future.
Because many people fear that they won’t be able to get toilet paper when they need it, they’re now buying up huge packs of toilet paper, much more than is needed in their weekly shop, to make sure they have a good stash of it in their home.
So we’re over-consuming toilet paper to make sure we’re prepared (in a slightly panicked kinda way).
The interesting thing is – this is EXACTLY the same way we over-consume in the weekend before starting a diet. Our “last supper” before the new diet starts.
Knowing that we ‘aren’t allowed’ to eat our favourite chocolate, chips or pizza while on the diet, we go out and buy a pile of our favourite things and eat it all up by Sunday evening so we can start the diet on Monday.
Lots of dieters over-consume food just before they start a diet.
Then the strict rules of the diet are too hard to follow and before you know it, we feel deprived, crave those missing foods, buy them, eat them, feel guilty and ashamed and feel hopeless, so we give up on the diet.
After a while, the feelings of deprivation disappear because we’re regularly eating our favourite foods.
So we decide to give the diet a shot again. And out we go to buy up a pile of our favourite foods BEFORE we start the diet. Eat ’em all by Sunday. Start the diet on Monday.
And on and on the cycle goes.
Round and round the cycle goes – we overeat before dieting, then restrict and crave, finally give in to the cravings and overeat again, feel guilty, and so on.
The toilet paper situation is no different – except there are no calories in toilet paper, and generally speaking no-one is making you feel like a second-class citizen for papering your bathroom with rolls of triple-ply.
What’s more, no-one calls you a toilet paper addict. Or tells you that you’re lazy because you’re not fighting your urge to buy toilet paper.
And you don’t feel like you have a toilet paper problem, so you don’t join toilet paper anonymous and stand up to announce that, “I’m a toilet paper addict.”
Because, quite reasonably, you figure that buying up a pile of toilet paper is a sensible response to the potential shortage of toilet paper in shops.
But swap that toilet paper for sweet food and all of sudden there’s a moral or mental health issue.
Why are you buying it? Are you addicted to sugar? Do you have no willpower? What’s wrong with you?
Truth is, you buy and overeat sweets because you know your upcoming diet will lead to restriction of your favourite sweets. And that sucks.
So back and forth, like a pendulum, you swing between overeating and restricting sweet foods (or whatever other food you’re restricting – bread/pasta/pizza).
Until…. you decide to STOP THE RESTRICTION.
When health promoters talk about ‘moderation’ and boring stuff like that, people’s eyes tend to glaze over.
Moderation. It’s a fairly boring word, right?
It sounds like a boring lifestyle too. Moderate. No parties. No fun. No nothing. Just a moderate life.
But the truth couldn’t be further from the lie.
Moderate eating in response to your own hunger and fullness, whilst satisfying your own food preferences (aka intuitive eating) is the most exciting and fun way to eat!
You take out the restriction of foods, so there is never a Sunday evening spent as a “last supper” overeating before starting a diet on Monday.
There is no fear of missing out on your favourite foods. So you don’t feel the need to buy up piles and overeat.
You can relax, knowing you can have the food whenever you want.
And gradually over time you start to notice you’re eating less of those foods, because they’ve become everyday foods now, not restricted foods.
And one day you finally realise you’re not addicted to sweet food or any food for that matter.
In fact, you don’t even have a problem with food.
What you had a problem with was diets and restriction of food.
And similarly, one day toilet paper will be in such large supply, and coronavirus won’t be such an urgent concern… and the toilet paper over-consumption will stop.
People will go back to buying their small packs of triple ply.
They’ll no longer stockpile in the back of their garage enough quilted paper for a small village.
Everything will go back to how it was before coronavirus.
Except for you. Because you will know first-hand, from watching this whole thing happen, exactly how restriction affects human beings’ behaviour and causes over-consumption.