My current emphasis: how to make good habits and break bad ones (really)

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Bad habit: 5 tips for kicking a bad habit.

TastidliteEvery Wednesday is Tip Day.
This Wednesday: 5 tips for kicking a bad habit.

Well, September is half over, and I’ve managed NOT to eat any of my beloved Tasti D-Lite. And it hasn’t even been that hard to give it up. How did I go from 2-3 stops a day, to zero? Here are the strategies I used to kick my bad habit.

1. Running start. I gave up Tasti D-Lite after we returned from a short vacation, so I’d already gone four days without it by the time I was faced with temptation. This gave me a gratifying head start.

2. Busy time. I’ve heard that it’s easier to kick a habit when your schedule changes, because you don’t have a fixed pattern yet. I gave up Tasti D-Lite right when school was starting up again, when my schedule would be unusually hectic. I feared that this might work against me, because one of the attractions of Tasti D-Lite is that I can grab it on the fly, and it’s conveniently available at several stops in my usual path through the neighborhood, but rushing around also kept me from dreaming up justifications for indulging. And I don’t have any times yet when I usually stop to give myself a treat – so I don’t have pangs when I don’t get it.

3. Not one bite. No exceptions. I gave it up entirely. Many people advocate moderation for treats, and this strategy works for some folks, but not for me. If I ate Tasti D-Lite three times a week, I would spend a huge amount of time and mental energy fretting about “Now? Later? Today, tomorrow? Does this cone ‘count’?” I find that a lot of people are pretty judgmental about this: they insist that I should be able to enjoy things in moderation — and they predict that giving things up altogether will mean I will be less likely to stick to my resolution. True, the cold-turkey strategy isn’t for everyone, and it may sound draconian, but in fact I have much better success, and much less difficulty, when I give up things altogether. Know what works for YOU.

4. Head off temptation. One reason that I ate a lot of Tasti D-Lite was that I was genuinely hungry, and it was a convenient snack. I’m trying to make sure that I don’t let myself get hungry, so I don’t get tempted to take the quick solution. Fact is, for me it’s a lot easier, and more fun, to grab a Tasti D-Lite cone than to eat a civilized bowl of soup. I’m making sure I get enough real food to keep from being tempted to eat fake food.

5. Consider marshmallows. I heard that if you’re wondering whether you over-indulge in something (shopping, alcohol, Tasti D-Lite), you should substitute “marshmallows,” and ask yourself what you would think of that habit. In my case, I said, “Twice a day, sometimes three times a day, I stop to eat marshmallows.” “I feel a little embarrassed by the number of marshmallows I eat.” “I wouldn’t let my children eat this many marshmallows in one day.” Ick! Too much! This reminds me that I stopped this habit for a valid reason. Nevertheless, I wholeheartedly agree with Samuel Johnson, who said that, “All severity that does not tend to increase good, or prevent evil, is idle.” I’m not being idly severe with myself; I’m not giving up TDL (as I affectionately call it) because I think it’s “wrong” to eat it. I don’t think it’s wrong to eat it. I was just eating too much of it, and it was crowding out more nutritious food.

Gosh, it feels good to kick a habit. I feel freer, less guilty, more virtuous. My resolution only covers the month of September, but I doubt that I’ll go back to my previous habits when the month is over. Maybe I’ll keep Tasti D-Lite for a special, occasional treat.

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Interested in starting your own Happiness Project? If you’d like to take a look at my Resolutions Chart, for inspiration, just email me at grubin, then the “at” sign, then gretchenrubin dot com. No need to write anything more than “Resolutions Chart” in the subject line.