I’ve always heard about the benefits of good habits and why it is important to break our bad habits, but to be frankly honest, it has always gone right over my head. It isn’t until recently that I’ve started to realize the importance of my habits, and why if anything is going to change, I need to make new ones.
We are all habitual people…we love our cup of coffee in the morning, we have set times that we do certain tasks, and without even thinking about it, we exsist on a schedule. And there is nothing wrong with that…it is our habits that add structure to our day and help us to get done with the tasks that make our life easier. Some people can only function within their routines, no matter how trivial and silly they seem to everyone else. A perfect example is Pauline. She is a 97 year old resident of the assisted living home that I work at, and she is one picky, predictable, onry little woman. Every single morning, she shuffles in with her walker to “her” spot at the table, downs her juice as soon as she sits down, then tears up her napkin. Don’t ask me why she tears up her napkin, but she does, every morning. Then she announces to me that she is in, tells me “Now, I don’t want too much cereal, and I don’t want my coffee yet, save it for later.” She then tears up her toast (again with the tearing!) eats her cereal, stacks her utencils on her plate, calls to me for her coffee, saying “now don’t make it too hot!” After her coffee, she asks me what is for lunch, tells me she ate enough for a man, then shuffles back out. You could literally time a clock on when she will ask for her coffee, and heaven forbid you make a mistake and give her too much cereal, or forget her juice…it throws her whole day out of wack, and she gets CRANKY! Maybe our habits aren’t quite as, um, unique as the napkin tearing, but I know I have a couple weird ones. For example, when I was pregnant, every single day at 3pm I would make a cup of hot chocolate and watch Dr. Phil. When I hang up laundry on the line, I like all of my clothes to be in order; shirts, then pants, underwear, and all of Logans clothes have to be hung up together. It takes me twice as long to do laundry, and I know it makes Rob crazy, but I always feel better when I look out and see all my garments hanging perfectly and in order. We all have our own quirks and habits…it is what makes us all unique and interesting people. Think of how boring it would be if we all thought the same way, did the same things…where’s the fun in that?
My problem is that I have formed a lot of habits around food. Whenever something great happened in my family we would celebrate with a dinner at the steakhouse. One of my favorite memories with my sister was when we would go to our orthodontist appointments together. My sister Amanda had just gotten her driver’s license, so she would take us from school to the appointment. Afterwards, instead of going back to school right away (like good girls should) we went to the Hearth Family Restaurant and ordered a huge breakfast. She would order chocolate chip pancakes and I would order a full size of French Toast, complete with powdered sugar and whipped cream. We would change a dollar for the tabletop mini jukebox, sing to the songs, talk about school and other random things, all while reviling in the fact that we were skipping school. After taking our leisurly time, we would eventually make it back to school, usually around 6th period. It was something that made us enjoy our monthly adjustments at the orthodontists and we never, ever told our parents. Just thinking about it now makes me smile…
I used to insist on having desert with every meal. It started with Rob and I buying Hershey Kisses one time when they were buy one, get one free at the grocery store. After lunch and dinner, we each would have a couple, not thinking that they were doing any harm, since they were so little. After we finished the two bags, (which didn’t take as long as it should have!) we kept buying other treats. On more than one occassion we made special trips to the grocery store just to buy a dessert for that night. When I made the decision to get healthy, I knew that my sweet tooth would give me some trouble.
I read somewhere that it takes 21 days to break a bad habit, so I resigned myself to no sweets for three weeks, which didn’t sound so bad at first. The first week I was miserable. I would finish my lunch and start foraging through all the cabinets for something, ANYTHING that was sweet. It seemed to be the only thing I could think of…chocolate, cookies, vanilla cake, anything that contained a substancial amount of sugar. Somehow I made it past that first week with only one relapse – (White chocolate macadamia cookies from Subway…too stinkin good) The second week sans dessert wasn’t too horrible and I only ended up craving it two times. By the third week, I realized that I was thinking about everything but food for the first time in my life. In fact, there were a couple of times that I was too busy playing with Logan or cleaning to realize that it was time to eat. Now if I am craving something sweet I will drink a glass of water and wait 15 minutes. If I am still craving something sweet I grab a handful of blueberries or some watermelon which seems to calm my sweet tooth beast.
Conquering my dessert obsession has made a huge impact on my success so far…when I think about all the empty calories I was injesting every day its no wonder that I was growing a size every couple of months. It also makes me think of what else I can change during the next 21 days…less TV watching? Going to bed earlier? How about shaving my legs every day? (ha ha…yeah right!) What are you going to change in the next 21 days?