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The Best-Worst Present

For Christmas, I received the best-worst present of chocolate peppermint bark. It comes from a well-known gourmet cooking store, and it is beyond delicious. Knowing that once I get started on it I cannot stop eating it until I’m sick, I decided to return it and buy something that I couldn’t eat. Like a spatula.

I felt proud of my willpower as I brought the sealed tin back to the store with the gift receipt. As I set it down on the counter, the clerk tilted her head and said, “Aw, sorry hon, we can’t return food items. It’s a health issue.” I was stunned. “But….but… it’s sealed. You have to take this back! It’s really important.” I tried to make my face convey the seriousness of this. She shook her head apologetically. “Nope, sorry.”

So I left with the tin, knowing exactly what would happen. Within minutes of getting home, the plastic wrap was off and I was eating a big piece of the bark. My daughter walked in and I said defensively, “Look what that lady made me do by not letting me return this!” My daughter, who understands the basics of behavior change, raised her eyebrows and said, “She MADE you eat that?” I scowled and retreated to the pantry to get another piece.

That night, my husband and I were watching a news story about some cows who escaped their barn, moseyed over to a nearby feed store where their entire winter food supply was kept, and then ate their way through the entire store in one giant feast. About half of the cows died from overeating.

As I rested on the couch with my stomach aching, vowing to never eat peppermint bark again, I wished I could reach through the TV and give those cows a hug. “I get it,” I would whisper. “You have no idea how much I understand.”

Author: Alyssa Forcehimes, PhD

An expert in behavior change, substance use disorders and empathic communication, Dr. Alyssa Forcehimes serves as President of The Change Companies® and Train for Change Inc.® She lives in Arizona with her husband and two daughters.