I went grocery shopping a few days after my last meeting with Rachael, and bought one box of Zebra Cakes and one box of Swiss Cakes Rolls. I struggled a bit with even putting them in my cart, having thoughts like "this is the worst idea ever; I'm never going to be able to stop eating these once I start", and even "oh god what if I run into someone I know and they see I'm buying snack cakes" (the horror). Bringing those two small boxes into the house gave me the weirdest mix of thrilling excitement and massive anxiety.
I waited until my daughter was asleep before opening up a zebra cake packet (2 cakes per pack). Total honesty: The first cake I devoured in two bites like a wild animal. I don't think I even tasted it at all. I paused afterward for a few deep breaths and suddenly had a flashback to some really fond memories of eating them in childhood. I had forgotten about this, but as a kid I would take forever to finish one because I took the teeniest tiniest bites just trying to savor it and prolong the experience as much as possible. I stared at the second snack cake still sitting there and decided to try it that way. And let me tell you... It. Was. Amazing. Just as good as I remember! I enjoyed the hell out of it. Well, until it was gone and then every part of me was immediately itching to stuff the rest of the entire box into my face in one sitting, like an addict desperate for a fix. It was such an overwhelming urge I had to physically walk away to try to regain some semblance of control.
As I was pacing the living room it hit me that deep down I was still mentally treating this as my "one chance" at eating snack cakes, and after this experiment I wouldn't ever buy them again. Like I had given myself permission to eat them - but only once. I told myself over and over I could have them again until I started to believe it, and I was at least able to wait until the next day before having another packet. At that point I was still kind of thinking, "I'm going to finish this whole damn box in a matter of days and hate myself. This still seems like a very bad idea." But, something else happened instead. By the third day, the desire/craving for snack cakes had already lessened considerably, and when I wanted something sweet that evening I decided on a mug of hot cocoa instead. It is such a weird phenomenon to explain, but when I thought about eating one, it's like I could actually taste it in my head and know exactly how it would feel to eat it, and that alone took away much of the allure.
By the end of that first week, snack cakes had gone from being this thrilling, magical forbidden food in my head to feeling the same as any other treat. At one point I forgot I even had the boxes in my drawer (yes, I hid them in my dresser drawer so my husband wouldn't eat them all, so I wouldn't feel compelled to "compete" and eat more before he finished them...ha!). I also learned that while swiss cake rolls do still taste quite good, zebra cakes are definitely my favorite, and knowing that took away the appeal of the former. Almost a full month later I just now finished the last pack of zebra cakes from that original box I purchased, and it has finally sunk in that my initial fears didn't come true. It's really empowering to know that if I can occasionally have a snack cake for a treat without losing control and eating a whole box and feeling sick and hating myself as punishment. I can eat one and walk away totally satisfied. Outwardly it seems like such a simple thing, but that is actually major progress for me.
During my last trip to the grocery store, I walked past the Little Debbie section and didn't think twice about them. I have spent YEARS pausing in front of that section, daydreaming and salivating (and then overeating a whole bunch of other foods because I couldn't have what I really wanted). It is wild how dramatically my perception and feelings towards this one item have changed over the course of a few weeks.