Bad habits can be hard to break

March 10, 2010

After a month of practicing being a mindful eater, my client came to my office yesterday with an interesting analogy about his eating behavior.  He said, “It’s like when I’m driving a car and I see the stop sign, but, I don’t stop and I keep on driving.”   Basically, he was trying to tell me that while observing his eating behavior, he has been able to recognize his harmful behaviors, but he can’t seem to stop himself from doing them.

I’m sure that everyone has experienced this in one way or another: You recognize your own bad habit, but, you can’t seem to make yourself change it.

One of my own worst habits is excessive gum chewing.  I think I chew at least 5 pieces per day.  Now, even though it’s sugarless, my intuition tells me it can’t be healthy to chew so much gum.  I have thought about changing for several years.  Why haven’t I made the change? It serves a purpose for me (the benefits of chewing gum outweigh the risks).  For me chewing gum, keeps my mouth feeling clean and fresh, it prevents me from snacking unnecessarily, and may even prevent tooth decay.   The only real negative that I am aware of is that it doesn’t look pretty to see a person chewing gum.  However, if it suddenly became known that chewing gum was harmful for my health, I would make more of an effort to find a substitute for the gum immediately.

My point is, a change in behavior (no matter how big or small) can only happen if:

  1. You’re aware of the behavior
  2. You want to change the behavior/ It’s important for you to change (the benefits changing outweigh the risks of continuing the habit)
  3. You know how to make the change
  4. You feel confident that you can make the change.

For my client, he’s done the first step of being aware of his behavior, but, he’s stuck because he doesn’t think it’s important enough to change his bad behavior, he doesn’t know how to do it, and/or he doesn’t think he can do it.

These are some things that I encourage you to think about for any bad habit you’re trying to change!

Sounds simple…but, it’s definitely not easy….:)

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