Your bad habits are a metaphor

Seeing bad habits as the enemy is harsh. We can’t just beat them into submission with willpower


The urge hairy beast

The Urge. A beast or a bonus? © Laura Eades 2014

So.. can’t I just change my daily habits to eat better?

I’ve decided to work on the ‘What I Eat’ after the ‘Who I Am As An Eater‘. So I can change my habits, yes, but very gradually. It’s tempting to go for it first, since taking action feels reviving, but it’s going to be the last thing I alter this year.

Goals have power…

Goal-setting helped me out last year, and I lost a stone and a half. Training for a 10K running challenge, having daily routine, distracting myself away from urges with targeted novelling stints – more than anything, these things unlocked my ability to eat in a controlled way.

‘What I eat’ habit change helped too – what I shop for, what meals I plan, what ingredients I habitually cook with, whether I put milk in my tea. Since we eat so many times a day, and think about it so many more, our ‘eating habits’ are really quite a complex collection of microhabits, so tiny changes really do add up where weight loss is concerned.

… but also, so does listening to what the bad habit is saying

Marc David points out in his book The Slow Down Diet, how we’re conditioned to think of bad habits as the enemy that have to be beaten into submission. That’s how I came to draw this beastly picture of The Urge. But they are actually your psyche’s friend, trying to point out that something’s out of balance.

He says: “The way we are as eaters is how we are in life”. Stressed? Pressured? Rushed? Disconnected? Can I look for these patterns first, and alter them?

Why did eating habit change only work temporarily last year?

There are three reasons.

  1. Firstly, last year, I improved a lot of things at once (something habit change guides always advise against). Habit change requires vigilance, planning, concentration. So, if your concentration or willpower slips, so do the new habits.
  2. And secondly, pregnancy made my appetite really hard to read, and many of the newer restrictive habits no longer felt appropriate. It’s entirely possible I used it as an excuse too, though I’ve tried to keep exercising and awareness present.
  3. Thirdly, all is positive as long as it’s working out. But how you talk to yourself inside when you’re not being obedient can unravel you. I need to go back to the deeper level and invite all parts of myself to join the same team.

If at first you don’t succeed… congratulate yourself

There are times I feel dismal that success is short-lived. But seeing backsliding as ‘the end of the world’ is distinctly unkind.

Eating habits coach Isabelle Tierney points out in a recent blogpost that as a parent I wouldn’t speak negatively to my daughter about something she’d tried to do that hadn’t worked perfectly. She’s only two and a bit years old so she just doesn’t have all the learning she needs yet. Instead, I’d praise all her positive efforts and try to give her confidence to take the developmental leap she needs.

I know now that I can have a really healthy and happy eating relationship that stays. Our brains are proved to have plasticity: It must be learnable. I’ll be here, blogging, and learning from trial and error, until I get there. It requires my attention. I’m going to give it the time it demands.

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Tackle the symptom or the cause? What’s your view? Click on the pale grey dot with a plus sign to open up the comment thread.

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