Changing habits but the doom of the day already is in sight? Check out this backup plan to save the day with a smile!
So, we have started our journey of changing habits. We’ve read about the complexity of the human brain and have some superficial knowledge about how our brain works and why it creates habits. We also know how we establish those habits when going around in life and although daunted by its elongated timescale, we are ready to roll.
We are also aware of how certain outside factors can influence our behavior and may have put ourselves to the test, already starting to implement habits changes in practice which resulted in failures.
That’s good. Failing is what we want in the learning process because failures show us what’s not working. What’s more important than failures though, are adequately recognizing them then find their root cause.
Once we have faced those issues and start tinkering with them, we’ll find the solution that leads us to the desired results.
Although this sounds fine and dandy, we don’t always have the patience to go through something if we know right at the beginning that we’ve screwed it up and it’ll serve us no good going through all the process again. Everyone knows the results of a one hundred yards dash when someone stops to tie their shoe mid-race and the lesson is already learned to double check them before the event, next time.
Similarly, we all know what will happen to those candies, crisps or chocolate bars that we put in the shopping cart when not being careful enough and wander into the isles of temptation or just finding them mid-shopping.
If we are strong enough, (because our brain isn’t drenched totally from a bad night’s sleep or an exhausting work day) we may be able to negotiate our way out of such situations but more often than not, we just end up in a situations, we don’t really want to be in because we’ve been there already and it didn’t feel like helping us reaching our goals at all.
On such occasions backup plans are an essential part of our toolbox when implementing habit changes.
These emergency measures shouldn’t be habitually used in place of proper habit loop analysis with its cue localization or reward substitution because eventually our brain will figure out ways to circumvent them but once in a while they may actually work.
So, to stick to the chocolate example, going into the shops fresh and reasonably vitalized, with a clear shopping plan while avoiding any cue that results us ending up among shelves of candies is the only long-term solution to avoid temptation.
But what if we accidentally slip up and absent-minded take the wrong turn to check if there is any new sugar free chocolate on sale and unfortunately our favorite just got new exciting looking flavors? At times like these, it’s good to have a panic button to reach to.
It’s not like we shouldn’t try those new flavors, especially if it fits within our calorie limit but who can only buy one bar and if we are there, why not get some of the others too, after all those are our favorites and if we don’t like this new one, we’ve just wasted a day on bad chocolate.
So, we end up with a bunch of chocolate that someone will turn into extra weight on their body if we can’t get rid of them before that.
For such precarious situations emergency plans are paramount importance.
Thinking and time are on our side when it comes to impulse shopping and the more time we have, the better ideas we can come up with not to buy the things we don’t need.
If we happen to end up with unwanted stuff, such as extra chocolate in our cart, just take the time to stroll another round in the store. Find a safe place where we aren’t nudged to buy unwanted items for ourselves like pet food, vegetables, cleaning equipment or whichever doesn’t tick our senses then leave the burden behind there.
On our way out, mind to avoid the cursed spot which made us accidentally steer into the land of temptation before, then check out without remorse or looking behind.
If we happen to end up with unnecessary calories, getting rid of them is the only way of not putting them on our bodies. Giving them away or in worst case scenarios throwing them out is the only way we don’t end up with them sooner or later. Sure, if we have control over our actions and fit such treats into our daily calorie allowance, we can have them without a second thought. Unrestricted overindulgence is what causes long term problems.
Unfortunately, not only mental challenges that throw boulders into the way of our progress but there are sometimes physiological difficulties such as hunger too. Although hunger is just a signal of hunger hormone level that our brain interprets, it can be quite persuasive, even though we are fully aware of that we don’t actually will starve to death in the coming weeks, thanks to the energy stored on our bodies as fat.
Although, being hungry is ok and will cause no harm -apart from dying once, we live up all of our energy stored in fat and muscle- it can be quite frustrating experience, especially for the loved ones trying to live around someone constantly having their “hangry” phase.
Note, that as mentioned earlier, hunger is a response to our stomach increasing ghrelin also known as hunger hormone levels to let the body know, it’s ready for digestion, hence true hunger doesn’t happen many times a day but only before 20 – 40 minutes before regular eating times. The rest of the day hunger is most likely -at least at their beginning- just there as a substitution for some higher-level need.
So, in such cases when we are actually hungry, because we just screwed up our protein calculations or skipped a meal and in the last twenty minute until lunch our ghrelin soaked brain seems to be losing it, we may need to reach to some food to save our family members from wildly waging rage and our diet from carbs overload.
Quickly accessible, high protein content, low calorie drinks such as low-fat milk, sugar and sweetener free soy milk or even better, hot drinks made from them such as hot cocoa can be a great emergency solution when we feel the reins are slipping from our hands.
Sure, high fiber fruits like apple or even better vegetables such as celery, broccoli, carrots, cabbage, (shredding then mixing them with some dairy makes a great low fat, protein rich coleslaw or broccoli salad) can also work without impacting much the daily calorie intake.
Living a social life while being on an uncommon diet, such as the sugar free diet, can be as challenging as being a vegan on keto diet.
Our friends and family may not understand why we take such drastic measures and how one could live without sugar but by the passing of time most of them will get it. Even grandparents can get the hang of it eventually, but when people first meet someone who goes against social norms and the generally accepted normal way of life, some explanation may be required on our part.
If we don’t want to spend a night explaining the proven health implications of sugar, how addicted people can’t see their addiction until they choose to or just simply we don’t feel comfortable snubbing around our own sugar free superiority, we need to prepare with short but meaningful answers to questions that won’t give options for arguments.
Coming up with possible answers beforehand may not sound like a backup plan at all, but true preparation for such occasions means making sure in advance that we have something to consume even if that means bringing our own stuff with us.
While blaming our diet choices on illnesses, sensitivities or allergies feels tempting that closes most inquiry short, it could shed a bad light on us if it turns out to be not entirely covering the truth. Coming up with fairly neutral phrases will make our life easier when coping with awkward social situations:
- We’re not compatible.
- We had our fair share of adventures and decided to part ways for an undisclosed amount of time.
- It makes me feel bad.
- I’m on a special diet to improve my health.
- I’m doing a challenge.
Be prepared to opt for alternative options in place of the regularly offered food and drinks, so our host won’t get offended. Feeding means loving, hence people who love us will process our pickiness as rejecting their love. Give them heads up or suggest alternative solutions immediately so they don’t feel bad and try to shovel down a bite or two of their creation anyway.
Coffee, tea, water and lemon juice, sparkling water, water with pieces of frozen or fresh fruit, freshly squeezed lemon or orange juice or even slices of cucumber will make a tasty drink and requires just enough preparation that our host will feel satisfied by making one for us.
Fruits are all possible options when it comes to diet-friendly dessert options and most households have them in one form or the other.
When it comes to food carrots, celery, tomato, cucumber and cheese or cream cheese to dip into may be a viable option that can be prepared in a flash if necessary.
- Habit change requires planning, observation, adjustments of the process with conscientiousness until the desired results are achieved.
- Keep backup plans for emergency situations only.
- Time and thinking are on our side when we fight against impulse shopping. Take as much as needed to come to the right decision.
- Satisfy the body’s needs so the mind can be freed from worldly desires then able to roam on the endless pastures of thoughts.
- Food is love. Prepare for social gatherings both for the body and the mind.