Old habits are hard to break.
I am in North Carolina, in the role of ‘granny-nanny’ to my ninety year old parents, while my sister takes a well deserved vacation. We are in the process of selling their home of sixty years and it looks like we have a deal. My mother, who has dementia, overheard a conversation between my father and me, and had a total melt-down. Change is especially difficult when one has dementia.
Although I was unaware of my feelings, this must have been emotionally jarring to me. I found myself ‘surfing’ in the pantry, and staring down a jar of peanut butter, as if there were some soothing qualities available by turning that red lid to the right.
That’s an old habit, turning to food for comfort. I eat 3 or 4 meals a day to maintain a 100 lb weight loss for the last 18 years. I’ve not snacked my way through uncomfortable feelings in a very long time. I felt a moment of shock at the prospect of ‘just one bite’, but acknowledged that I was experiencing it.
So here’s my take on this. My old habit of grabbing a comfort food when life got uncomfortable was reinforced for probably 90% of my former life. At age forty-three, that’s 16,000 days of living, I made a huge decision; I was not going to resort to sticking something in my mouth whenever life spiked an emotion. My new habits have been building now for 6,738 days. While that’s good, it still means I’m better at the old habit, by sheer repetition.
Lisa Marie Krysiak states, “We need to be aware that there are “Triggers” which occur prior to a habit (a ritual), that is about to take place.” So, looking in the pantry is a ‘trigger’ for me, a clue that helps me to remember that I have some new habits now, and don’t need to resort to peanut butter to make me feel better! Feelings have a beginning and an end. I sat in my discomfort for a very short period of time, and soon both Mom and I felt better. I also called my sister in Pennsylvania, and shared how I was feeling. The next day, Mom did not even remember her upset from the day before. On the other hand, I would still need to feel the anxiety and then I’d have remorse on top of it, had I indulged in my old habit of eating through emotional pain.
In an MIT article, I read, “Habits help us through the day, eliminating the need to strategize about each tiny step involved in making a frothy latte, driving to work and other complex routines.” Many of my habits serve me well. Eating to quell feelings just doesn’t serve me any more – I no longer care to be morbidly obese!
I found 18 tips to help me change those old habits! Many of them were great. Here are a few that also help me a lot!
- Get support. I found some great blogs where the writers share their weight-loss journies. Jane Cartelli and Sean Anderson have different approaches, but both have an uplifting message. About three years into my healthy eating, I discovered that I could call a friend and tell on myself when the thought to eat crossed my mind. It helps a lot! Jane and Sean do that too, in their blogs!
- Challenge the lie. When the thought occurs to me that food makes something better, I have to remember that this is the big lie. Food cannot solve problems. I don’t believe calling Dunkin’ Donuts when my house is on fire will put it out. Eating a peanut butter sandwich when my mother is upset will not relieve her anxiety (or mine!)
Bottom line, I have a lot of compassion for myself. I guess you could say that food worked for a long time, but now it no longer serves me. When I get those thoughts that a snack will make me feel better, I can thank my head for sharing and remember that I have better remedies today.
Might you have an old habit that’s not serving you well today?