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 @shotsoflouis / 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.

finding a pattern via my food journal

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. It simply makes you aware of what you are doing, day in and day out. When we settle into a routine and a habit, we just coast. We are on auto-pilot, and are reasonably mindless. The journal brings it all together. I'll write in-depth about a food journal another time.

Looking at my journal, it was obvious that my college habit had not really gone away. Whenever I was bored, I tended to snack on junk food. Whenever I was lazy (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 stewardship of it.

By having permanent access to junk food, I was making it hard/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 my pantry and pick something. Even with all the willpower and the dedication and commitment to a goal is not enough to sort out a moment of weakness, especially when we are new to this thing.

I still repeated the same pattern. I'd get bored. I'd walk down and stare at my empty pantry, 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.

Image courtesy: http://mckaylive.com/

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.

time for action

Here's my tip for you.

If you want to improve your health or if you are looking for fat loss or whatever. Let's say you want to eat better for the next month, or you sign up for the Daily9 or whatever. The next time you want to commit 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 a lot of moments of weakness, and it is okay. Without cleaning up your pantry/kitchen, you are handicapping yourself.

Now, it need not be permanent, obviously. And yes, there's value to learning a skill of having treats in the house and eating them when you want to. But that's an expert move. You'll get there.

Before you give a bunch of excuses about "how it is for the kids", or "in case of a rainy day" or whatever helps you - well, my recommendation is to wait for that moment of clarity and honesty. Or find better workarounds (50 burpees if you open your kids' stash). Until you get there, you will always sabotage yourself.

Over the last 2 months, I realised 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.