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4 years of a fun habit
My regular evening snack while in college was a candy bar, a packet of chips and some Coca-Cola to wash it down. And by college I mean when I bunked college and bummed around my house.
Photo by louis hansel @shotsofiouis / Unsplash
This happened (at least) once a week for 4 years. With zero physical activity, most of my weight gain can be traced just to this, probably. But what this also did was made me okay with the habit of eating junk food at any time of day, any day of the week. It became normal, like brushing my teeth.
When I decided to start ‘eating like an adult’, I started with a food journal. In case you have never tried this before, that’s probably all you need to do to help you on your health or aesthetic goals – whether it is to lose weight or to gain weight.
Writing it down makes you aware of what you are doing, day in and day out.
When we settle into a routine and a habit, we just get into autopilot mode and become reasonably mindless. The food journal brings it all together.
Looking at my journal, it was obvious that my college habit had not really gone away. Whenever I wasbored, I tended to snack on junk food. Whenever I waslazy(to cook, to grocery shop etc), I tended to snack on junk food. And unfortunately, by this point of time I was making more money, I was living in the USA (the junk food capital of the world) and my house was stocked with junk.
We will sabotage ourselves
I had a single moment of clarity and strength. I threw out all my junk food. I did not literally throw it in the trash can, as my room-mates were more than happy to take care of it for me.
By having 24/7 access to junk food, I was making it impossible for myself to stay off of it.
Previously, when I wanted to snack on junk, all I had to do was head down to the kitchen and pick something. Even with all the willpower, the dedication and commitment to a goal is not enough to get us through that moment of weakness, especially when we are new to it.
I still repeated the same pattern. I’d get bored. I’d walk down and stare at my empty kitchen, and with no choice, I’d just drink some water and go back to my room. And if I was truly hungry, well, I had real food in my fridge which I could cook.
The best way to break a bad habit is to make it impossible to do.
– James Clear
While I was not making it impossible, I made it extremely difficult to do. It required me getting into my car and making a drive to the grocery store to get something to eat. And I would still do that.
But instead of snacking on junk food 20 times a week, it became 2. And instead of eating candy bars, I would tell myself that I might as well eat something amazing. So, I’d treat myself by going to Ghirardelli’s and getting amazing chocolate ice-cream, rather than mindlessly eating average junk food. Driving to Ghirardelli, finding parking, walking in, waiting in line, and then coming back took at least 45 minutes.
Funnily, half the times I made this trip, I’d drive back once I got there. That initial rush, that initial moment of weakness would be replaced by a reminder of my larger goals.
Tip 1: Sleep more.
This might sleep obvious, but poor sleep = weight gain. This is just a fact and how the body works. When you do not sleep enough, your body will increase your cravings for food. And relying on willpower will not solve it. So work on good sleep habits.
Tip 2: Fruit is your candy
Fruit is nature’s candy, but the healthy kind.
Pieces of fruits
Use fruit as your first option whenever you have cravings.
Avoid fruit juices and have the whole fruit.
The fruit provides you with more nutrients and the fiber will help you keep fuller for longer too.
Tip 3: Have 2 glasses of water
Often we confuse hunger and thirst. We think we are hungry when we are really thirsty. So whenever you have a craving, first drink 2 glasses of water. In most cases, you will find that the craving goes away.
Tip 4: Try sugar-free gum
Sugar-free gum has a tiny amount of sweetener. But it will satisfy your sugar craving and by the time you finish chewing it, it’s quite likely that the craving has gone away. It’s a useful zero calorie option to deal with sugar cravings.
Tip 5: Give in, but just a little
It’s ok once in a while to give in to your temptations and have a sugary treat.
The important thing is to keep the portions small.
Slice of cheese cake
Having a small piece of cake will not set you back much. But having half a tub of ice cream will. So always keep your treats small.
Here’s my tip for you.
If you want to improve your health or if you are looking for weight loss, try this. Let’s say you want to eat better for the next month, or you sign up for the Daily9 coaching programme. The next time you want tocommit towards that goal, or you feel annoyed with yourself for not taking it seriously enough – seize that moment of resolve. Get rid of all the junk food. Yes, literally! Give it away or throw it away.
There will be many moments of weakness, and it is okay. But without cleaning up your kitchen, you are handicapping yourself and reducing your chances of success. So get rid of it all.
This need not be for life, obviously. And at some point, you need to learn the skill of having treats in the house and eating them when you want to, in a responsible way. But that’s an expert move. You’ll get there with time.
Before you start giving yourself a bunch of excuses about “how it is for the kids” or “in case of a rainy day” or whatever you need to tell yourself – well, my recommendation is to wait for that moment of clarity and honesty and do it properly. Or find better workarounds (50 burpees if you touch your kids’ treats). Until you get there and do this properly, you will always sabotage yourself. We’ve seen this a thousand times in our coaching programme.
Over the last 2 months of the Covid-19 lockdown, I realised that I had slipped into my old habit of snacking on a bit of candy daily. Being in the house for a lot more hours meant looking for something to graze. And eventually, my old habit found me.
It took me a while to listen to my own advice and get rid of it. These are battles I still fight. Except I’ve won these before. I have a lot more tools as well to win them. I just happen to win them a lot more often.
But it all comes down to doing. As always.
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