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  • Writer's pictureStephanie Rauch, Ph. D.

Snake in the Garden of Eden

Updated: Mar 9, 2019

Have/Can’t Have Eating Cycle

I've been working with a nutrition coach to help me surface my naturally thin body with newfound skills for eating healthy. I can’t believe I didn’t think of conscious eating sooner. Paying attention to how I eat triggers all kinds of associations. I’d like to share my latest metaphors with you now.


Have you ever heard the adage “my baby is driving my car,” for someone acting childish? If you haven’t, this is a cute but apt description of our instinct or “id,” overriding our good adult (ego) common sense.

Yesterday, I was reliving an emotional binge-eating episode and was struck by the thought that my baby needs a good momma (my ego) to teach her how to drive, especially since babies driving cars can cause serious wrecks! My baby also doesn’t know how to eat properly, and I’ve been "losing my girlish figure" following her lead.

Good mommas leave the house with snacks for her baby so the baby doesn’t get so hungry that she acts out. We can be good mommas to our bodies by not allowing ourselves to get so hungry we want to eat everything in sight. Being a good momma to your internal baby means having a wise and strong ego.

Can’t Have/Will Have

The baby that does not have a wise and strong ego has no adult holding her hand. “Holding your (internal) baby’s hand,” means paying attention to your body’s hunger/satiation. If you don’t pay attention to your body’s hunger signals, you are in effect giving your baby the keys to your diet. That means you are letting yourself get so hungry you feel deprived. Feelings of deprivation trigger determination to have. This determination in children might be called the “terrible two’s.” But in some adults it looks like overeating, and losing the svelte figure that is rightfully yours!

On another level, I believe this feeling of lack is related to survival fear. The impulse to survive is our strongest, because if you don’t survive, nothing else matters. So when determination to have kicks in, it’s akin to determination to have life. The way to defeat this cycle is two fold:

1). Prevent it.

2) Minimize the frequency and duration of the cycle.

In both cases, love and care are the ground that we must walk on. A good momma not only pays attention to her baby’s hunger signals, but she also has wise eating strategies that don’t let her baby take over with the “can’t have/will have” power cycle.

Can’t have/ will have Eating Cycle DRAMA Take One:

You haven’t eaten in six hours. You see cookies.

Internally you hear, “Oh. I really want those cookies.”

Another voice pops up inside and says, “You shouldn’t have cookies. Cookies are bad for you.” Now you want those cookies even more. This triggers a nasty internal judge saying, ”No! If you eat those cookies you’ll be bad!”

“What? I can’t have these cookies? I’ll show you!”

Your internal determination to have wins. You eat two cookies. Then that nasty judge labels you “bad,” and you’re still hungry! You have no moral reason to stop since you’re already "bad.” Therefore, you eat as many of those cookies as you want.


Hunger pangs trigger the baby’s need to survive since we can literally starve to death. Put survival fear against the baby’s memorized rules on food from Mom and Dad, ie., “the judge,” and you have a real battle.

Ideas of food trigger the judge to label those ideas good or bad. The hunger pangs trigger images of food. So if the hunger pangs are slight, survival fear is mild and you can still think clearly to make adult decisions. But if the hunger pangs are severe and you feel like eating your arm off, you are in survival fear and the judge is also at his peak since the judge meets the baby with equal and opposite force. (Hint: This is a re-enactment of you as a baby with mom and dad telling you the food you can have and can’t have.)

This is based on an old adage that our learned defenses are equally as strong as the original stimulus. But there’s another equally important rule of psychology and that’s that the underdog builds up pressure giving him power; therefore ultimately the underdog wins. You can see where this is leading.

The baby will win unless a strong adult is present to mediate the power struggle with love and common sense. When the baby’s “have/can’t have” cycle is stronger than the adult, this is trouble in paradise.

Eve and Snake

This power our baby body has on us is like the power the snake had over Eve in the Garden of Eden. I’m simplifying the Bible story for the purposes of analyzing the power our appetite has over some of us. Eve knows God (our adult) told her she shouldn’t eat the forbidden fruit. But the snake (have/can’t have cycle) convinces her she can eat the fruit, and nothing bad will happen.

Baby and out of control eating

The tempting snake's voice makes us believe we can do anything we want. In this case, our hunger pangs get triggered, and we believe we can eat without consequences.

It’s as if the snake said, “God said you could eat from any fruit in the Garden. See, you didn’t die?” Eve didn’t immediately die from eating the forbidden food, but that was the beginning of the fall of mankind. Likewise, we don’t gain 20 pounds immediately after eating a whole bag of cookies. But we might if we don’t listen to common sense and our own bodies. In this analogy, listening to our wise bodies is analogous to eating from the Tree of Life.

How do you encounter the sneaky snake? Do you notice the snake in your everyday eating?

Leave a comment below or drop me a line and let me know. If you would like more information on how I work with clients, contact me at, and we can discuss setting up an appointment or finding someone in your area who might be able to support you.

Stephanie Rauch has a Ph.D. in Counselor education, is a licensed professional counselor and a licensed massage therapist in North Carolina.

Stephanie Rauch has a Ph.D. in Counseling Education, is a Licensed Professional Counselor in NC and is a Licensed Massage Therapist in NC.

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