To Change the Habit, Change the Trigger

I am aware of my food choices. I am careful about the foods I choose to eat. If it is sugar, I look for cane sugar rather than white sugar, chemical sugars or even chemically produced stevia. I use honey as a medicine and molasses as a source of iron. I like cookies so I make them myself knowing I can control the kind of sugar, the kind of flour and the amount in the cookies I bake.

In the long and cold January and February nights I like to have a small cookie or two to give me a nice boost. And I bring some to work so that when I am working late, I can have one as a reward for getting things done. At least this is my plan, one to which I commit to every time I put it into action.

But sometimes the plan goes awry. I am sitting at my desk at work. It’s Monday, I feel an energy dip and I now have a choice to make. What am I going to do? It’s winter and rainy or cold so I “can’t” go outside. I know, that’s the first excuse. I look into my food bin and I see them: my cookies for the week. I’ll just have a small snack-warning number two-“small” snack. It’s amazing how easily and without even pausing to consider the impact to my goal of losing 8-10 pounds this will have. I eat 4 of those small tasty treats. I know better and still I go for those tasty treats.

This is annoying. After the second one, I don’t really want more, I just eat them all because they are there.  So I stop bringing the cookies to work. This works for a couple of weeks and then I quietly talk myself into some dark chocolate…just a little. I go to the store and rationalize my purchase of two bars by seeing the 2 for 1 Theo sale.  I have the same intention-eating the 65% dark chocolate bar with cane sugar over the week.

But no; I unfold the wrapping and before I know it I have eaten half the bar. If I weren’t annoyed I’d have to be impressed with my lack of respect to my own objectives.

And I even have oranges in my food basket at work. I like oranges, but the same 4 big, juicy oranges are sitting in the same place they have been for the last 10 days while I have gone for the chocolate.

I know the trigger is the feeling I experience of an energetic lull and wanting to quickly assuage it. I quickly, silently and almost automatically talk myself into the value of the sugar as brain enriching glucose. Really?! Apparently it is good enough a rationale for me to go for the sweet. And they are so much less fuss than the orange. After all I have to peel the orange and it may get runny. How messy! The orange is not a piece of chocolate I can feel melt so delightfully on my tongue. No, it’s just an orange.

The trigger is the self-talk on needing the energy boost to which I easily and agreeably offer myself the great solution of a cookie or chocolate.  You may not think this is so bad, but when I am trying to lose the 4 pounds I gained from not exercising for a week over the holidays while drinking hot chocolate, it’s not helpful.

So I have changed my trigger. When I hear the trigger of “time for energy boost” I pause and say what for: if it is “you’re tired, I say okay, let’s take a desk nap.  If my body then says I’m not really that tired, but I need an energy lift, I say great, me too. Let’s have that orange. With reluctance I bypass the cookie and the chocolate and the energy bar that’s been there for a month, peel the orange. And am grateful. I have lost 2.5 pounds since the holidays.

Changing the trigger changed my habit.  I still make my cookies and still have two each weekend evening. I have satisfied my craving mind.

What do you do when you hear that trigger you don’t want speak to you? Let me know, I’d love to hear from you.

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