No, we’re not talking about an illicit affair with a married man/woman. We’re talking about the unhealthy love affair with food, specifically sugar-laden, synthetic, artificial, preservative soaked American cuisine. People have affairs because they’re not getting what they need from their marriage (unless, they’re a straight up asshole and then that’s another story). But anyway, I think you get my point. People have love affairs with food because they aren’t happy about something else in their life. We use it to assuage our discontent and unhappiness with life. I don’t want to get into all the complicated and varied personal problems that cause us to eat shitty. You probably already know what they are. I want to help you identify and stop the cycle. Simply put, something cues or triggers a habit, you reach for the cookie, the pizza, the drink, whatever, and you receive immediate gratification and very probably a rush of dopamine from it. I want to intercept the middle part of the cycle, the reaching for that thing that you think will bring you satisfaction and temporary contentment…because an hour after you’ve had the cookie, the pizza, the ice cream, you’re beating yourself up again and/or living in denial rationalizing that it won’t come with consequences. And it really didn’t provide the reward you were looking for, did it? You are actually avoiding solving your discontent the wrong way.
So first, you need to identify the cues/triggers that make you eat poorly or overeat. What’s going on? Are you bored? Are you lonely? Are you angry? Are you just always in a rush and have no time to prepare? (Problem solved: Sundays are meal prep time for you!) Yes, this can get a little uncomfortable, but it’s ESSENTIAL that you address it. What is triggering your habit? Write the cues down, then write down what you really want (which isn’t the food, etc). What is it that you are really needing/seeking? Then think about how you can take steps to solve or address that need instead. If you’re bored, go for a walk, get out of the house, whatever. Actually stalling the habit cycle for 5 minutes with a distraction 9 times out of 10 squelches the habit cycle (for that temptation moment). If you’re lonely, call a friend, join a club, go to the gym. If you’re angry, is food really going to make you forgive, forget, settle the score, et cetera? No. Get to the root of your unhappiness and you won’t be turning to food to make it all better.
The next part of ending the affair with food is plain old time and consistency. These habits are written in your brain almost like your name written in wet cement and then it dries. It sticks around for a while. BUT YOU CAN CHANGE THAT OVER TIME. Patience Young Grasshopper! Have you ever had your kitchen or bathroom remodeled? Did you feel like you were going to lose your mind before it was finished? Do you want to know why? It was more than just that your kitchen was taken away as if by force. It’s because the habit of going into the kitchen to grab this or fix that or get a drink or whatever were and are habits written onto your brain. You did them literally without thinking. It’s the same way with some your habits you’re wanting to change. And that’s why it seems to almost drive you crazy losing a bad habit. This is the challenging part….being patient to stick with it until that new routine replaces the old one. It’s going to take you being conscious of your actions and mindful of what you are doing and the why behind it. But I promise you this works. Start small but start somewhere.
So two things, replace the routine in the middle with something this is actually providing the satisfaction and reward you are really seeking (which isn’t food) and then just be consistent. It only takes 3 weeks to write that habit into the brain enough to make it stick. Just stay mindful, determined and don’t give up!