Recently the women in our household have been listening to a book called, “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg. We are into it by three CD’s so far and I have learned that habits are formed in a sequence: first is the trigger, next the thing that we do when the trigger happens which becomes a habit, and lastly the reward. Identifying the trigger is the key to changing our habit.
For example, I one thing I am triggered by is stress. A stress trigger for me at one time was when I was helping a particular child with their homework and they begin making those irritating whiny noises. I would reach for sugar and starch and chocolate. Those sugary treats gave me a pleasure rush and also dulled my senses to the whining. When I became aware of that trigger , I knew I could either accept that I needed chocolate or sugar when I worked with him, or I could remove myself from the situation temporarily. For weight loss, the removal of myself from the situation temporarily would be the better habit of course. This was awhile back and I did not figure out any other solution (but then I hadn’t read this book yet either),
Another trigger for me is laying down in the bedroom and watching TV, or going to the movies. Being still and watching leaves my hands and mouth bored which ends in me wanting a snack, especially at the movies! I have such a habit of eating candy or treats I always want something, and lately especially, well buttered popcorn and M&M’s!
According to Duhigg, in order to change a habit, the trigger is identified, then an alternate action is taken instead of the old habit. The alternate action must be something that can also provide the pleasure reward we seek when being triggered.
I have figured out how to alter my habit at home. Instead of watching TV in the bedroom where the lights are out and our family is all together sharing popcorn on the bed, I have started watching (or listening to a book) on our computer in the living room, where I can spin wool while watching or listening. Spinning wool is fun to me and I love the yarn I make. By keeping my hands busy doing something I enjoy, I am altering my habit from one pleasure to another. Altering the habit of eating fatty treats to something else I enjoy when the known trigger is happening will help me with my weight loss goals.
So, by identifying what is triggering you to eat things you are trying to avoid, or by identifying triggers to other habits you would like to change, you are on the way to finding alternative habits which provide pleasant rewards, to take the place of an unwanted habit.
Give it a try if you like, and let me know how this works for you. You might also enjoy reading “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg.