The other day I was in the check out line at the grocery store. I was buying a lot of vegetables to put in my slow cooker minestrone soup. A man in his thirties was behind me. I couldn’t help but notice the difference in our items. He loaded up the conveyor belt with peanut butter cup, caramel, and chocolate chip ice cream. Three boxes of cereal; Trix, Lucky Charms, and Cap’n Crunch. Sugary drinks. Potato chips. High fat and sodium-rich frozen foods. I tried not to stare, not to judge.
Maybe he was having a party. Maybe his nieces and nephews were coming over. I want to give him the benefit of the doubt. But what I really think is that he enjoys those foods and that’s what he’s used to buying. An unhealthy habit.
It got me thinking how habits–both good and bad–become routine and such a part of us, we may not even realize it.
Habits can become so automatic, that we may do them even if we don’t necessarily enjoy them anymore. We get used to doing what’s always worked. It’s hard to be open-minded and scrutinize things we’ve done for months or years. If someone points out one of my bad habits, I may get defensive. But later I take a good look at it to see if that person is right. If I’m ready to change that habit, I figure out how.
For instance, I eat a treat almost every night while watching TV. Sometimes I’m not even hungry. But my husband gets some popcorn or ice cream, the dog gets a rawhide bone, and I want to join in.
I’m working on being mindful about our nightly ritual. If I had a light dinner and really am hungry, or if I plain and simple want to munch on something, I won’t deny myself. As long as I stop and think about it, and make a mindful decision.
Often I grab something relatively healthy, like a banana and a low-fat graham cracker. Or a cup of decaf tea and a piece of fruit. That way, I’m able to eat a treat with my husband (and dog), and it’s a healthful choice.
But there are times when I crave a bowl of ice cream or a brownie, so I indulge. I don’t regret one bite, as long as I truly want it and make a conscious decision to have it. I’m only angry with myself if I eat it, and don’t even want it.
Some of my bad habits:
- Eating later at night.
- Craving and eating popcorn and candy at the movies (and we go often). My mouth waters just walking into a movie theater.
- Not going to the gym enough (or not at all).
- Spending too much time on social media.
Some of my good habits:
- I eat healthy: a lot of fruits, veggies, Greek yogurt, chicken, fish, whole grains, and not much red meat.
- I drink a lot of water.
- I don’t smoke or drink (except an occasional glass of wine)
- I walk every day, with a goal of reaching 10,000 steps per day.
- I practice deep breathing which helps calm me.
- I smile and laugh easily.
Habits are choices. If there’s something we want to change, we first need to acknowledge it. And then figure out a way to replace that bad habit with a positive one.
I wonder what I’m going to choose to nibble on tonight when I’m watching TV.
Second image courtesy of here