Do You Or Don't you?


By Janine Stichter, PH.D

25 September 2016


Do you or don’t you? Deprive yourself that is.

There are tons of articles and advice about how to make a lasting change.

Some suggest a high degree of discipline- two weeks without sugar and you won’t crave it.  Other sources say- don’t deprive yourself, just learn moderation and have a few jellybeans at a time.

Deprivation is an interesting word.

It seems like an easy to understand concept, “the lack or denial of something considered to be a necessity.”

If someone is deprived of love, food, shelter we can all agree that this is deprivation.

All of these things are necessities.

So does that mean nothing else is?

Are sweets a necessity?

Is wine?

What about Grandma’s garlic mash potatoes, or your favorite TV show?  

When I ask my clients this question, they always respond, “of course those are not necessities.” I hear this most often when they decide they need to drink less wine during the week, watch less TV or cut back on their spending or eating.

However, this is exactly why these experiences or foods are so hard to give up- they are, indeed necessities.

We all know there are two main parts to the human condition, right?

Physical and emotional.

Food and shelter certainly are necessities for maintaining and growing our physical selves. While our emotional side needs to feel safe, connected to others and valued.   

When we only put effort into the physical aspect of our being, the emotional side suffers as well and we are indeed in a state of deprivation.  

Therefore, grandma’s garlic mash potatoes and that favorite TV show truly can be necessities.

Let me illustrate further…  

Are your taste buds really that strong that they drive the major need to regularly eat Grandma’s garlic mash potatoes? Or is the need that is driven by those mash potatoes representing belonging or value or even safety? Was grandma a key person in your life? When you grew up with her cooking, did that represent times of happiness?  

Are you spending the time on the couch because your roommate or significant other is gone a lot and it’s nice to watch a story and connect with characters in a special show?

Does that wine represent value? You worked hard and can afford it. Does it it represent a sense of being valued for what you do all day?

When we do not ask ourselves these questions, we approach our goals in the wrong way.

We do things like wake up on January 1st of the new year and tell ourselves we won’t drink wine anymore during the week, or we won’t eat any more of our favorite food and that we will get off the couch. 

Without understanding the motivation behind these needs we can inadvertently create a sense of emotional deprivation.

A little bit of mindfulness and exploration of what necessity our “excessive behavior” is fulfilling is key to modifying it or replacing it.  

If that nice bottle of wine is serving as that, “I worked hard treat,” then what about a really nice carafe that holds one glass at a time? That way you can extend your amazing bottle of wine for the whole week as opposed to finishing the bottle in a night. Every time you pour a little bit of wine into that carafe you can feel special and deserving of something so nice.

If those favorite shows are filling a void of belonging, pick the show that is your favorite and keep it. After that, decide on a book club or sand volleyball league that you can join; or think of a friend or family member you can call to chat or play cards with instead of watching more.  

Being in a prolonged state of deprivation is not good for our physical or emotional self.

Through observation and asking yourself some key questions, you can meet your goals without depriving yourself.