Habits



I had always been envious of my close friend, Jackie. We have been friends since high school and have stayed friends into adulthood. We've gone through all of the life events together; marriage, kids, and even the inevitable getting chubby. During a barbecue last summer, we were eating a large bag of barbecue chips when she stopped, looked at me, and said "what am I doing? I don't even like chips. I'm not eating them anymore" and just stopped. Since that day, I haven't seen her eat a potato chip. She started eating cleaner after that barbecue, and she lost about 30 pounds over the course of the year. She looks amazing, and I'm happy for her.


Things are different with me. I'm not disciplined like her. I can't just say "I quit" and never do it again. I've tried quitting junk food so many times, but before long I can hear the siren song of snack food. After a while of fending off temptation, I find myself in front of the pantry grabbing a snack. It's not like I can't keep them in the house, my kids like them and so does my husband. If they're in the pantry, it's hard for me to convince myself that I like granola better than a cookie.


Just this past weekend, Jackie and I were on Facetime, chatting while under quarantine. We got to talking about habits, our eating habits in particular. I told her that I've definitely gained the dreaded "quarantine 15". I told her that I wasn't like her. I wasn't going to get up one day and never eat another chip. Jackie said that for her, deciding to do something cold turkey was what she needed. She said "I can't have just a few chips, you know? I end up eating the whole bag. It's easier for me not to start than it is to stop." I told her that I don't have the discipline that she does, and that I couldn't get myself to not start, or stop for that matter. She told me that she had just read a book about habits.


Apparently, it's not just a matter of discipline. She told me that relying on discipline is too much, and that maybe I should try being more proactive. She asked me when I snacked, and I told her that I find myself snacking for two reasons. The first, is when I am feeling "peckish" but we're close to a meal so I don't want to eat too much. The second is when there is junk food out (like at the barbecue). She suggested that, since we're under quarantine and I don't have to worry about junk food being "out" that I try to have a healthier snack ready when I'm feeling peckish. I told her I tried that in the past, but that when I go to the pantry to get healthy snacks, I often end up grabbing junk food instead. She suggested that I keep fruit out on the kitchen counter and that I eat that when I'm snackish instead of even going into the pantry. "If you still want oreos after an apple, you can have them. Habits help you stick with something, you can't just rely on discipline, because the minute you're tired or hungry you just think 'forget it' and go right back to it." She said. I told her that I would try.


Since then, I've realized a few things, the first is that I don't really feel snackish that often. I mean, I do, but I'm not actually hungry. When I think about eating an orange, I feel too full. When I think about eating an entire sleeve of Chips Ahoy, suddenly I have more room. Turns out I wasn't hungry, I was just bored and looking for junk food. The second thing that I realized is that by banking on discipline, I was setting myself up for failure. Jackie was right, in a way. Creating a rule, where I have to eat fruit as a snack with cookies or chips after, was actually pretty helpful. Changing my habit, so the first place that I went for a snack wasn't the pantry, was massively helpful.


I'm still not like Jackie. I do sometimes eat Lays after having an apple. However, I've cut down a good bit. Next time, before I blame myself and my discipline, I'm going to look to my habits first.

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