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We tend to think of letting go as a big dramatic process, and sometimes it is. Letting go can mean letting go of a job, a relationship, or a story of blame or victimization that has been fueling your rage for years on end!
But, often, letting go is a process less fit for the stage, and it looks like a series of micro-choices. It really is the little things that contribute so powerfully to our health. I emphasize these day-in-day-out choices with my patients.
We can let go of the candy offered to us at the office and then turn around to find an even more tempting platter of donuts. Some days it seems like we are constantly tempted, inundated with not great choices--sugary foods, the desire to watch one more episode of whatever we are “binge” watching on netflix, the temptation of our couch instead of that exercise we know will make us feel better (but that we feel ironically too tired to tackle).
There is some willpower involved in these micro choices (the not eating of the candy, the turning off the TV, getting off of that couch) but willpower takes energy and we can’t always rely on pushing ourselves. It just won’t work to power through with sheer will forever.
What has helped me and many of my patients is to pause and check in before you make a snap decision.
The next time that donut sails your way, don’t grab it! Can you wait 20 minutes? I’m guessing that you might get immersed in work and not even remember that donut. Or if you’re still obsessing about that donut after a while, ask yourself if that donut is the answer to what you’re really wanting.
Is it the sugar jolt you’re looking for? If yes, are you going to be sorry soon after you eat it? Maybe you know that the sugar is a quick fix that will later make you crash. Maybe you need to get more sleep, and today you need to know that there’s no easy answer, and you’re just going to be tired.
Is it a sense of celebration and community you’re craving in the partaking of that office junk food? Is there a way to take time out to say hi to a coworker or text a friend instead?
Or do you sincerely love donuts and feel like this is the donut for you AND this is the moment in time you want to STOP AND SAVOR a donut?
Be picky. Don’t settle for any donut. Make sure it’s your favorite flavor and well-made. Don’t eat it while typing on the computer or reading your email. Spend time with that donut like you are on a date.
This pausing and breathing and assessing can be powerful. It’s so easy to act mindlessly. Take the time to interrupt your auto-donut-mode.
I bet you’ll discover the donuts in the back of your office disappear from the break room super quickly. That’s because “fun” food like this triggers a scarcity myth in us. We see something tempting and snatch it up immediately, as if there will never be donuts in the office again.
See what it looks like if you hold out for a bit. Be measured in your decision to take that donut (or not).
A pause and a few deep breaths in and out can be powerful. Really check in with yourself before you snatch and grab or collapse into that couch. Honor the power in taking the time out to be conscious in your decision, to pause.
Another technique I love to work with when my patients are struggling to meet their diet or exercise goals is accountability. After the pause, you can also lean into the support of an accountability buddy/friend.
Maybe you love donuts and notice a primal desire to snatch one (or more) for yourself. Pause and check in. Use your willpower lovingly and text a friend who has agreed to help hold you accountable. Send them a text saying, “Hi! I am not eating a donut right now.”
This might sound ridiculous, but it can really work. Take a stand. Make a declaration.
If 20 minutes go by and you decide this donut is your ideal, text them back and let them know that you decided you do want to eat a donut today. Be whole-hearted. Really get down with that donut if you’re going to do it.
Set an alert and text them again an hour after you eat it and tell them how your body feels, be honest about if it was worth it or not. Maybe it was. Maybe it wasn’t.
There’s a real power in a pause, and pausing is a part of letting go. Take that moment to let go of your overwhelming desire for a donut, for one more episode of netflix, for collapse instead of exercise, and see if that pause can help you make a more-informed decision about what will serve you best.
If you’re looking for an accountability partner, I often work with my patients on goal setting. Knowing that you will return to see me in a week can help people start to make better decisions and to have a structure of small goals to work with.
I usually work with someone initially for a period of at least six consecutive weeks so that we have time to start to gain some momentum. If you don’t meet your goal straight away, that’s really not a problem. I know you want to get better right away, and I want that for you too, but real change takes time. We have six weeks together so that we have an opportunity to discuss what felt undoable for you (and why) so that we can adjust and start again.
Most of us do not need to give up donuts forever, but we do need to decide consciously what we’re really wanting, which will let us decide when we can bend and when we need to hold steady and stay on course. It’s only by making a choice and assessing the effects that we can decide what to hold onto and what to let go of.