What do I Get From Lemon Oreo Cookies?

It has been a while since I have written. 

The last time I wrote I was struggling with defining what success looked like to me, for this pandemic.  And I set a goal—to track most days, to be mindful in my eating, to focus on things I could control rather than those I couldn’t….. well……

My focus has not been there.  Motivation is hard to find when the “routine” things I rely on are not routine any longer. 

Things are still not back to normal.  I am still staying home.  I am still doing online shopping.  I am not getting together for lunch with my friends.  I don’t get to go to my workshop.  I am not meeting with my friends to walk and talk.  I am not running errands.  I am staying home almost all of the time.

Life used to be chaotic.  Life used to be busy.  Life used to be routine.  My world was bigger than it is now.  My world now, is here, at home. 

I miss routine.  I miss hugs.  I miss meeting friends and visiting with them.  I miss having people over to my house.  I miss walking into a store.  I miss…… a lot. 

So, with these days still in the twilight zone, motivation is hard to find.

I am finding ways to deal with things.  Instead of in person gatherings, there are messages, emails, phone calls and video chats.  Not the same, but better than total isolation.  I am writing, maybe not here on my blog or on my other blog, but I am writing.  I am watching lots of movies and binge-watching Netflix.  I am scrapbooking, traveling the world through my memories and pictures.  And I am practicing mindfulness through meditation and walks in my pool. 

But…. I miss my life!

When routines are out the window, motivation is hard to find.  The world feels chaotic.  Stressful.  Uncertain.  And that is when old habits pop back up!

Emotional eating has always been my Achilles heel.  And right now, that habit has come roaring back.  It is familiar.  It is routine.  It is “normal” in a world that does not feel so normal.  Habits bring comfort.  Even habits that are not healthy.

Habits make it so that we do not have to think.  It just happens automatically.  Without thought.  Sometimes that is a really good thing.  Imagine if you had to think about it each time you brushed your teeth, took a shower, tied your shoes…. You get it, right?  I just do those things, no thinking about how to do it, the steps involved, nothing….just do it.  Those habits free my mind to think about other things. 

But some habits are not so helpful.  They are still automatic, and I don’t think about them, but in the long run they just don’t help.

In many WW workshops we have talked about habits.  And I am currently reading (for the 5th time) the book “Target 100”, written by Liz Josefsberg (a former WW Leader and now motivational speaker and weight loss coach) and I am listening to a masterclass on the CALM app called “Breaking Bad Habits”.  All three reinforce the same thing—a habit consists of a trigger, followed by a behavior, followed by a reward.  The trigger causes the behavior and the reward reinforces that behavior and then we repeat the habit.  We get something from the habit, or we would not keep repeating it.

But what do we get?  What is the reward?

Those are the questions I asked myself when this happened—Lemon Double Stuffed Oreos! and I ate most of them in less than 24 hours.  There were only 3 left when I asked my husband to PLEASE throw them away, in the big garbage can so I couldn’t get to them.  Only 3 left.  That is when I KNEW I was emotionally eating.  Until that moment, yesterday, I hadn’t really been paying attention.  The chips didn’t signal me to stop.  The cookies.  The crackers.  The bagels.  The brownies.  The cake.  No, none of those made me think that maybe, just maybe I was eating more from emotion than true physical hunger. 

I was tired.  So, I ate. 

I was stressed.  So, I ate.

I was lonely.  So, I ate.

I was sad.  So, I ate.

I was angry.  So, I ate.

I was bored.  So, I ate.

I was……. (fill in any emotion).  So, I ate.

Then those Lemon Oreos happened.  And this morning I listened to more of the masterclass on CALM.  Yes, you guessed it.  Todays lesson on breaking bad habits hit on eating—non-physical hunger eating.  And I heard the question— “What do I get from this?  Is there something better?”

What do I get from eating when I am not hungry?  What reward does food provide me? 

Comfort.  Relief.  Numbness.  Avoidance.  Distraction. 

Food provides those things for me.  But only temporarily.  For a moment.  Then the guilt steps in and I eat again.  It is a cycle.  A habit that is not helpful.  A habit that I know I can change, I have done it before…… but life is different now and going back to old habits brought about a comfort I need when the world is as uncertain as it is right now.

But awareness is the first step to changing a habit.  And now I am aware (again).  So, how to change it?  How do I stop eating when I am tired?  Bored?  Stressed?  Lonely?  Sad?  Etc.? 

I have to work with the habit loop.  The emotion is my trigger.  And instead of it triggering me to eat,  I need another action—call a friend, write, go for a walk, scrapbook, read, take a nap, swim, just sit outside, listen to music, dance…. There are so many things I could do instead.  So many things that would give me what I need, reward me in ways that won’t make me feel guilty.    So many things that will provide me a reward that is the same or better than what food provided me… and the reward from a non-food behavior will be much more long-term instead of temporary.

But there are a lot of emotions that drive me to eat and changing them all at one time, will be too overwhelming.  So, this week, I am going to focus on one.  And I am going to be specific about the new behavior.  Being specific means, it will be doable.  And I am going to be accountable, right here, because accountability means I am more likely to do it.

So here is my plan, my habit change and how I am going to do it this week–

Stress is the hardest emotion for me to not eat.  Instead of eating, when I am stressed, I am going to go outside—in the pool, in the hammock or walk.  How will I remind myself to do that instead of eating?  My sandals will be by the door and on my fridge and pantry will be a picture of my backyard with the words– Feeling stressed?  Go outside!  You won’t feel guilty after! 

And my reward will be the calm I will feel. 

Stress (trigger)— Go outside (behavior/action)— Calm (reward)

What’s your plan to battle the emotional eating habit?  What are you going to do instead and how are you going to remind yourself to do it?