I’ve alluded to this before, but our habits – our routines – are what drives our success or our downfalls. We’re constantly paring behaviors. We pair watching football with drinking beer or eating pizza or nachos. We pair coming home from a stressful day and pouring a glass of wine because “we deserve it.” We pair boredom at home with going to the fridge and opening it and just staring at it thinking “what’s talking to me, I must eat.” We even pair seasons with behaviors. Winter usually goes with less activity and summer usually has more cocktails and barbeques.
Changing habits (re-pairing with a healthier choice) is uncomfortable and our society can’t stand uncomfortable. We can’t handle feeling hurt or stressed or sad or disappointed or frustrated. It’s hard. It’s hard to feel. We think we need to numb everything. If it’s negative, we immediately go to mask – not fix – the feeling. And often, that masking comes with food or drink.
Why are we always trying to make ourselves comfortable? Why do we think uncomfortable is so bad? Are we really that conditioned to think our lives are supposed to always be comfortable and happy? That as soon as the first glitch happens and we’re not, we immediately try to turn it around and mask that negative feeling (physical or emotional) with something so as not to feel it? It’s far worse to NOT feel.
We get stressed out or angry or sad so we comfort ourselves with food. In fact, there’s a whole category of food – comfort food. (By the way, if you Google comfort food, you’ll get lots of cheese casseroles, but hardly any, if any at all, steamed vegetables.)
We’re human beings and as human beings capable of feeling a range of emotions. We’re meant to feel a range of emotions – not just good ones. We’re meant to learn to cope with all emotions and it’s not the emotion that defines us so much as the coping and our responses to those emotions that determine our successes.
What do many of us do when we’re bored? We eat. But are we not smart people with other interests? Is there nothing to read? Is there not a game to play or a puzzle to solve or a skill to learn or a craft to be crafted? (For me it’s rarely the craft!)
We start a plan (which takes some adjustment in our lives) and the first sign of disappointment or frustration, we’re turning back to our old habits. Our old pairings. How did that help us? We need to face the feeling and ask ourselves the questions that need asking to cope with the feeling. I was coaching someone when they said that they have been doing this for 5 weeks. That they only lost (two words that should never go together, by the way!) 3 pounds and therefore it’s just not working. She was frustrated and angry and about to quit. I heard her loud and clear. I told her that I heard that frustration and anger and asked her what happens usually when she feels those things. Her answer: copious amounts of chips. Now you all can read this and since you might not be truly in it, see the flawed logic, but you also might sympathize or empathize with this pairing. If this was your mom or your best friend telling you this, what would you tell them? Are copious amounts of chips the right coping mechanism? Will she still be angry and frustrated? And now? Probably more. Part of changing – re-pairing – the habit of pairing that emotion has to start with addressing it. Head on. Sometimes we’ll see the flawed logic and we can ask ourselves a simple “Is that true? Is it really not working just because it’s not at the rate I want?” And sometimes the feelings – the VERY real feelings – need to be addressed in a different way.
Remember in elementary school when we got worksheets from our teacher that had us draw a line from one column to something correlating in another column? I think we need to brainstorm on one side of the paper all the emotions we feel. And then brainstorm some healthy responses to those.
What would be on the right side of your page with those? Does it need to be wine or chocolate?
I have goals. I need to lose weight or maintain my weight. I need to feel and address those feelings. I need to do the things I love without the old pairings.
I get to have football games without beer.
I get to have summertime without as many cocktails.
I do NOT have to pair everything in my life with food or drink. (This was news to me.)
Science shows that 40% of our feelings are choice (50% is our physical makeup and 10% our circumstances.) I love this science. I love knowing that I always have a choice. That it’s possible to see the lighter side. I am a happy person – most of the time. I am a Pollyanna all of the time (except when I’m being a neurotic Jewish mother who thinks their kids are stuck in some hole or ditch.) I also like to know that THAT choice can be to feel sad because at times in my life I should. I get to feel frustrated. I get to be disappointed in myself and others. I get to feel joy and love and boredom and nervous and stress. I get to feel all those things because I’m MADE to feel all those things. It might be uncomfortable but it’s OKAY to feel these emotions! It’s important to feel these emotions.
But they all don’t have to be paired with chocolate.