Have a great day - eat something healthy.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Day 14 - Hunger vs. Habit

Many times eating or drinking is triggered by certain events or behaviors rather than by true hunger or thirst. Think about all the times you've sipped a glass of wine while you prepared dinner or lost count of the number of pieces of bread you munched while you waited for dinner at a restaurant.

Some of you may have felt some pangs of desire - almost Pavlovian responses to events or circumstances you encountered. But you've had to overcome those urges - you've been forced to think about them and then deal with them head-on. And I suspect that ultimately you realized that what you were missing was the behavior - the habit - and not the food.

So much of what we put into our mouths is driven by habit rather than hunger. And we think we can't live without certain foods when it's really the behavior we've become addicted to. But you've just gone almost two weeks without alcohol, sugar, caffeine, gluten and animal products - that's everything the Western diet is based upon! So you've shattered a few long-lived myths you've carried about yourself and about the choices you have when it comes to nutrition. You really do have a choice. Isn't it liberating to learn that?

I know it hasn't been easy and I realize that those deeply set habits are difficult to break - when you have years of a certain behavior instilled in your routine and your psyche, and when that behavior involves an addictive substance, letting it go is going to take a while.

Suzie in Chicago mentioned that she's feeling "raw" and that she misses waking up with her cup and winding down with her cocktail in the evening. I'm sure we all can empathize! I said to her, "Even today, after two years of being caffeine free, I feel just the teeniest bit deprived when I sip my green tea. I know it's good for me, and it's warm going down my throat, but it's not a cup of coffee. There's not the smell, nor is there the ritual of making it (what's the fun of putting a mug of water in a microwave?). Even so, it's my new ritual, I know how good it makes me feel, and it's what I choose for myself at this moment."

I guess that's the lesson - that we have a choice, and that our choices directly affect our well being. I hope everyone feels a little more clarity, a little more energized, and a lot more empowered than we did when we started this journey. Congratulations on completing thirteen days of mindful eating!You've all done a great job!


  1. When I do the cleanse I notice all the mindless eating and drinking that goes on around me. If I wasn't cleansing I would probably join right in. Today I had to stare at a plate full of doughnuts at a morning meeting and I was surprised to realize that I didn't even want one. I hope even after the cleanse that I will be able to say no to mindless eating.
    For me weekends are the hardest so happy Monday everyone!!!

  2. I eat when I'm bored. I really haven't had the afternoon munchies since day 2. Don't have anything at home that I can't eat (I actually made that choice not to have sugar and caffiene in the house) Now that's not to say that I'm not thinking about sushi for next weds. I human and need my sushi. I don't care what the skinny Bitch has to say about fish. I miss it. My boss just asked me to go get ice cream with her said I would love the walk but would pass on the ice cream. I think I'm in recovery. Yea

  3. Woo hoo, Trish and Kathleen! Way to stay firm in the face of temptation! Trish, I'm going to try to make sushi rice without sugar - could be an utter disaster, I know. But if I figure it out, that would mean we could at least enjoy vegan sushi during the cleanse - wouldn't that be great?!! Way to rock through the day, you guys!

  4. Hi friends,

    I fully believe that we like the ritual AND the actual food/drug of choice.

    One of the lines from the "big book" (AA's basic text) is that "men and women drink essentialy because they like the effects produced by alcohol" and I believe this is true. It's the reason we're all drinking regular and not decaf, wine and not apple juice, etc. We like how it makes us feel, and that happy sensation then becomes uniquely linked to whatever the substance is, the time of day we typically enjoy it, our surroundings, who we're enjoying it with, etc. That's why when I replace my morning cup of joe with decaf herbal tea, the ritual just isn't as good. Becuase it ain't coffee!

    The whole cleanse experience so far, with the first three days of deep-sobbing and the following days dragging ass out of bed after my mind has literally run wild at night have really made me question what the hell I've been putting into my body!

    I've already started questioning what I'm going to do afterwards. So typical...why live in the moment when I can dwell on tomorrow? I seem to like to chew on the angst more than the average person...maybe that's what I should eat for lunch?

    Okay, anyway, I'm with Trish on the sushi...but I want to be conscious. And I have recognized one thing very clearly: I am not craving sugar! I have a neutrality that I've literally never had. I don't know why I'm having it, but I like it. I'm used to peeling off into 7-11 because I need a post-work slurpee and chocolate fix. And I eat healthy foods a lot of the time, but the junk kept me sane...or did it?

    One last thing I've noticed...one of the hardest things on this cleanse is saying NO to family/friends when it comes to mealtimes. I've had to forewarn two separate groups who have had us to dinner that "by the way, I'm on this cleanse, and I'm not eating this this and this...."and bring some of my own food to each dinner. That is not easy for me. Everyone wants to know why I'm doing it, and I don't have the answer yet. Honestly, what i know is that I want to see what's on the other side, but only once my mind is cleared of the fog and my heart is open will I really know the purpose of this.

    I am so grateful you're all in this with me. Thanks for the support!

  5. Wow, Maggie, you bring up a very interesting and valid point - one I completely overlooked. You're absolutely right - we love the effect of the toxins we ingest. At least at first, right? But I think that's where I picked up on the ritual thing - I see the ritual as the anticipatory aspect of an addiction or habit. And I believe that anticipation is 90% of almost any experience. That's why there's foreplay, right?!

    Seriously, though, that's what I was alluding to when I wrote about ritual. The pop of a cork, the aroma of a steak on the grill, the sound of the coffee dripping into the pot, whatever it is that precedes the consumption can become a ritual. And I think the ritual can become as important as the substance itself in many cases. It did with me. I like the feel of a wine glass - I like the stem. I hate drinking wine in Italy because they use tumblers and not stemmed glasses. But then again, I never find myself lacking for Pinot Grigio when I'm in Rome.:-)

    So first things first - it is the effect of the substance that drives the behavior. And certainly with alcohol and coffee and sugar. But I wonder if that's true with the stuff we mindlessly gnaw on, like breadsticks at the dinner table or cheese and crackers before dinner. I don't know... for some reason that seems more habit-driven. What do you think?

    I love that you're over sugar. That's excellent! And I know what you mean about saying no. It's difficult because cleansing sets you apart from everyone around you and it makes us the center of attention - at least for a while. Most of us are trained not to draw attention to ourselves so it feels awkward and selfish. But in the same way that you expressed curiousity about cleansing when you first heard about it, perhaps that's what your people are doing too. And you're getting stronger about the way you deal with food; that will translate to the way you approach social situations. I'm not saying you'll become rigid or annoying; to the contrary, I think you'll become more graceful in the way you handle those situations. Give it time and don't ever feel like you have to make excuses for eating well!

    And I think it's cool as hell that you're not sure of the reason why you're doing this - in my opinion that's a good thing. I think that if someone does this just to lose weight they'd see this as a 21-day diet and miss out on so much. We all know by now it's so much more than that. So just keep on keepin' on. And as you continue to tell your story, it will become more clear to you. You are doing GREAT! And I think I speak for everyone when I say it's great to have you here!

  6. Hey Ivy,

    Thanks for the comments. I agree, there are times when I'm in ritual, and times when I'm mindlessly eating - the breadsticks are a great example. Kathleen talked about watching people do that, and I haven't really taken notice of that yet. Maybe because I haven't gone out to eat as much since starting the cleanse. It's funny, we really are like Pavlov's dogs...I sort of salivated when you mentioned the aroma of a steak on the grill!

    Anyway, thanks for your insight! I will keep on keepin' on for today!


  7. Hello All,

    Great insight from everyone on habits and rituals. And yes, addiction. Now I realize how much I have depended on my morning triple Venti @ Starbucks to get my mind and body boosted. Plus, I enjoy the routine of walking over to Starbucks in the morning for coffee and to read the newspaper. The alcohol story is definitely one of need and how to get into a social mood or to relax my busy brain. I still haven't figured out what I do after the cleanse. Have I really committed to this forever or is this a temporary experiment? In some ways I have treated this as a diet--forbidden foods and drinks to accomplish weight loss. Instead, I need to frame this as a lifestyle change for the long term. Thanks to all for the daily thought provoking comments. Now, I am going for my walk -- and will avoid any corner that has a Starbucks. This is not easy in Chicago!

  8. Hi, Suzie! You bring up some interesting points, the most important of which is what to do after the cleanse. That is entirely up to you. Think of this as a demo of a different lifestyle. You've proven to yourself that you don't need all those things that you were probably consuming every day. So you can do with that knowledge whatever you wish. In the past some cleansers have returned to eating meat, but they eat it less, and only eat organic free range products. Others who have gone through caffeine withdrawal and don't care to do it again (like me) have stayed caffeine-free. Maybe you'll just start reading labels more frequently and carefully. Whatever you choose, you'll know that there are always alternatives to SAD (a GREAT term I just learned for "Standard American Diet"). And if there are times when you feel low energy or a little off balance, you can cleanse for a few days. If you need to shed a few pounds, it works for that, too (I always cleanse before I go on a bathing suit vacation!). It's all there for you to use whenever you see fit. I hear the weather's great in Chicago right now - hope you're having a good walk!