I often talk to people who are trying very hard to STOP something. They want to stop eating emotionally or stop eating after dinner or stop snacking at their desk, or stop going through the drive-thru after work. They’re exhausted from the struggle.
The first thing we need to know is that behavior change is quite possible; there is always a way through, and together we can figure it out.
Second, we need to understand this fundamental point:
Nature abhors a vacuum, and so does human nature.
If you want to stop doing something, make sure you start doing something else in its place. Replace the negative behavior with a positive one. If you don’t put something else in its place you will end up defaulting to your old behavior. Muscling through only works as long as your willpower lasts – and as we all know, willpower eventually runs out.
It’s usually much easier to start doing new things than it is to stop doing old things, and – this is cool – when we start doing things that work the things that don’t work tend to naturally fall away.
Important Change Principle: Choice empowers us.
Let’s take EMOTIONAL EATING as an example. If I want to stop reaching for food when I feel stressed I’ll need to have other stress-relieving choices easily available – choices that meet the same need eating does, only without the side-effect of regretting it later.
POWERFUL EXERCISE: Have choices ready that fit you. Stop, think and write down some things you can turn to next time you’re emotionally uncomfortable.
MAKE A LIST. BE SPECIFIC. FIND THINGS YOU CAN USE AT HOME & AT WORK:
- ACTIVITIES – List several things you enjoy doing that distract, please or refresh you. [ex: stroll, crossword puzzle, ride bike, solitaire, whittle, magazines, music] Have these things close by.
- PLACES – List places that help you calm down. [park, swing, your room, back yard]
- PEOPLE – List some positive people you can call anytime, people to whom you can vent your feelings or who make you laugh.
- WORDS – Write down some inspiring thoughts that encourage and strengthen you – could be poetry, scripture, quotes, lyrics, etc.
- RELAXATION TECHNIQUES – heating pad, yoga poses, back scratcher, deep breathing, etc
Now that you have your list – the next step is very important…
POST IT where you will see it.
Do not underestimate the power of this list. These choices give you POWER. These choices give you options. They keep you from falling into the old default behavior of overeating, and then hating yourself for it later.
Choices change our lives.
Remember, human nature abhors a vacuum. If you stop turning to food when you feel sad, stressed or bored but you don’t have something else to put in its place, it’s just a matter of time before you’re standing in the pantry or in front of the vending machine.
Have your choices ready at all times.
Picture a well-worn dirt road from “Little House on the Prairie”. There are deep ruts made by traveling this way for years. In fact, it’s difficult to take a wagon down this road without falling into them, and once you’ve fallen in its mighty hard to get out.
However, when you fill the ruts with new gravel – everything changes.
So, stop, think, make your list, post it in plain sight – and start being empowered to take good care of your amazing self!
Note: When it comes to emotional eating there is another important piece of the puzzle. Our reoccurring uncomfortable emotions are usually red flags that are trying to tell us that something needs our attention. If you continue to be pushed to eat to cope with your feelings, then it may be time to take a good look at the “why” behind the feelings…the why behind the why.
Feelings come up for a reason. Acknowledging them, being honest about them and listening to them is the first step to handling them well. If you want to explore this further, I’m on your team.