Each day you are bombarded with messages of optimism. Of the best things to start doing today. Or the best habits you need to cultivate. That’s all well and good. I’ve surely contributed my fair share to the pile.
But equally important to talk about are the habits that aren’t so good for you. The habits that ruin your good time and cause nothing but hangovers, half-bitten nails, and a closet full of unnecessarily ironed jeans.
Because those habits do exist.
I have one habit in particular that has consistently complicated my life. It has driven me and those around me insane. It has resulted in my not feeling good – physically and mentally. And, it is incredibly specific. I’ll now state it in the form of an If/Then.
If: I am at my parents’ house. Then: I binge on whatever sweets I can find.
Yes, I am weird like that.
Why Binging Is Bad
To binge is to indulge in excess. And, across the board, excess in any one area is generally a problem. Have too much speed, your car loses control. Have too much water, your blood gets diluted.
When I consume too many sweets, I become a hyped-up, annoying gerbil with digestive issues.
Unfortunately, I have no moderation when it comes to sugary foods. I’m either all-in or not-at-all. And when sugar hits my tongue, my all-in switch goes haywire.
When I say sugary foods, I’m talking about one food group in particular: refined carbs. Refined carbs are those foods that have been processed and refined from their original state. It’s mainly the white foods. White rice, white bread, white potatoes, and sugar (all of the kinds and colors. Including syrup and honey). It is my kryptonite.
However, this year I’ve worked incredibly hard to remove its hold over my life. And I’ve made some progress.
But like a recovering addict, I still have some bad habits and routines lurking in the background, waiting to be lit up.
My Binging Routine
I go to my parents’ house. We exchange pleasantries while I mozy over to the couch. Some light banter ensues. After about seven minutes, my brain lights up. Go check what’s in the pantry.
My eyes go big. Before me rests a menagerie of all things sugar. There are cereals and breads, chocolates and candies. Dentists from across the land rub their hands together at the mere thought of all the potential cavities to be filled.
And I go crazy.
It starts harmlessly. It always does. A little sample of this. A modest scoop of that. And then, somewhere along the way, my hair becomes disheveled, I’ve put on sweatpants, and I’m running around the house like a dog excited for its owner to arrive home.
That’s me on the way up. It’s the fun part.
What Goes Up…
The down isn’t as great.
I become irritable and annoying, anxious and bloated. I feel like a massive blob laboring about. My confidence drops and my self-loathing skyrockets. I basically turn into a toddler on a sugar crash. I’m no fun to be around and am extremely uncomfortable physically, to say the least.
A quick aside – My parents are great. I love them and place no fault or responsibility on them for my behavior.
I’m the one with the problem. Both they and those who visit them don’t have an issue. It’s the equivalent of a restaurant not being held liable by an alcoholic for having alcohol on the menu. The problem falls on the individual, not the establishment.
To each their own.
How I’m Working through It
Obviously, the easiest way to resolve this problem is to just not go to their house. But, in my opinion, that wouldn’t be solving the problem.
A real solution would be one where I could be in that environment and not turn into a sugar-seeking vampire. Plus, this habit doesn’t just apply to their home. There are a lot of places that serve as triggers. Better to come up with a solution that addresses all potential fronts.
So the first thing I have is a goal. A new goal. One to abstain from refined carbohydrates each day. That may not sound like much, but if you are familiar with my work, you’ll know that I take my goals very seriously.
So this habit-goal serves as a powerful way to, ideally, cancel out the hold of my existing bad habit.
Second, I fast. I regularly fast and am currently experimenting with fasting while in risky situations. Like my goals, I take my fasts seriously as well. As in, I rarely if ever break them early. So fasting until dinner lowers the likelihood of me making an ice cream sundae for lunch.
I also try to give myself plenty of non-refined food options. Ensuring I have ample fruits, nuts, and cheeses helps to strengthen my resolve when cravings kick in.
Finally, I remind myself of a comment I came across on Quora:
“‘Do you want to quit smoking? Make it through one day.’ I love that advice. That’s exactly what I did when I quit smoking many years ago. I didn’t make the big promise to never smoke again. I only made a small promise: to never smoke one cigarette. 30 years later I still have not smoked that one cigarette.”
In other words, I take it day by day. I’m not making a life-long commitment. I’m just making a commitment for today.
With Binging, the Reality Is Clear
Excess is not something to aspire to. No one wants excess responsibility. No one wants excess doctor check-ups.
I don’t want excess consumption. And because moderation isn’t an option, the choice is to abstain altogether. That is how I am to break my bad habit.
That and the slew of strategies and tactics I just described.
I know that positive habits are more fun to talk about. They are certainly more fun to imagine and plan for. However, know that bad habits live on the other side of the coin. Know that they are possible to extinguish but, like anything, it takes intention. It takes trial and error.
And more than likely, a good amount of persistence.