I have to confess, I have put on a little quarantine weight. And now I think it’s time to address it. Anyone with me?
I am all about creating new habits by making small changes, one at a time. If you have been reading my articles for a while, this will not surprise you. We must realize, however, that this effective way of developing new actions works for creating beneficial habits but can also establish unwanted ones!
If we are not paying attention, we can unconsciously add small actions that we do not desire, and they can easily become new habits. A piece of candy or an extra handful of nuts may not even register in your brain when it is happening but can quickly become part of your everyday life.
Time to take a look at our actions closely. If we are getting different results than we did in the past, we must be doing something differently.
Step One – Find the What
Because these habits probably started small and unconsciously, we have to first get out our magnifying glass and inspect everything. Have you ever heard the saying, “A fish doesn’t know that it’s in water”?
We have to step away and pay close attention to the details of our day. This is a great time to journal your nutrition or activity. The action of writing down your food and exercise alone can sometimes reset our habits.
Me and Bailey’s – One of My Discoveries
This new life of quarantine has me staying home more and watching a lot more TV. Somewhere in the endless evenings of watching some television series, we started having a glass of Bailey’s over ice. It seemed like a nice treat at the time.
It would have been fine, except that it started happening several nights a week. Then, almost every night. This rapidly turned into a habit.
The repeated action checked two of the boxes for habit forming acceleration:
1) It was immediately physically addictive because of the sugar and fat involved.
2) It was tied to a particular activity, so my brain quickly and unconsciously thought, “Time to watch TV, time for Bailey’s”.
Boom! Habit formed. It took a few weeks for me to realize (or to want to realize) that this was now a habit, and I had to put an end to it. I did not berate myself for having a human brain and slipping into this habit, and you shouldn’t either.
You might know of some unhealthy activities that you have started since the pandemic began. Have they become habits?
Step Two – Find the Why
We take actions based on what we are thinking and feeling, so we have to examine our pandemic-drenched minds. Our clever little brains will come up with a lot of stories, so don’t believe them all!
Here are some common pandemic thought errors that seem to justify our actions. Are any of these floating around your head?
“I’m so stressed”, or “This is so hard”, quickly followed by “and this will make me feel better”
Grabbing some food or a drink to try and ease stress is a very common and accepted practice. It may have begun when you were young. Did you fall down and scrape your knee as a child then get a cookie to help you feel better?
Maybe you broke up with your boyfriend as a teenager and dove into a pint of ice cream with your girlfriends to ease the pain?
Start watching for these types of thoughts and unhelpful resolutions. You might have been soothing yourself with snacks or treats over the last few months without even realizing it.
“I deserve this”
We have all been through it this year. And maybe we should all get some kind of award, but not one that is harmful in the long term.
Before you dig into a treat that “you deserve” make yourself tell yourself exactly what you did to “deserve it.” I find trying to come up with my heroic action that was so deserving very entertaining.
“I will take care of the weight gain when this pandemic is over”
I don’t want to be pessimistic, but I’m not sure this is going to be over any time soon. New normal, maybe? No matter what, putting off dealing with any extra quarantine weight gain is not the answer. The longer you sit in the habit, the longer it will take to break.
“I will just wait until 2021 to start, and the holidays are coming!”
Okay, that is true, the holidays are coming, so pick a couple of days to eat your traditional favorites and be done with it. It doesn’t have to be a six-week free for all. Especially this year, when most of the holiday gatherings are limited or cancelled.
Now is the right time to do something about pandemic weight gain, and any reason your brain comes up with for why it isn’t possible right now, is just not true.
“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”
— Chinese Proverb
We need to be scholars of ourselves, and researchers of our actions and our brains.
If you would like some help researching what you are actually eating, try using this Food Evaluation Worksheet for a few days and see what you learn.
What new habits might have slipped into your life that are not getting you the results you want? Is your brain offering any “believable” reasons for these unwanted actions? Please share in the comments below.