In grad school, my professor made us read The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. At first, I was skeptical, as I am with most books in the self-help genre. But, I decided that it would be a worth-while read, once I read that it was possible to train myself to ignore a box of doughnuts and replace that craving by going for a jog. I never thought about my life as a bunch of habits, until Duhigg mentioned that many of our well-considered decisions are, in actuality, habits. It was also scary when he pointed out how easily bad habits can become automatic, without us even noticing. “When a habit emerges, the brain stops fully participating in decision making.” This is what exactly what was going on with my sugar intake. Dessert after dinner became a habit. I found myself craving sugar after dinner, every night, for the first two weeks. It was like I was going through withdrawals.
What Duhigg preaches, and what I’ve slowly come to see, is that habits can be changed, as long as we understand how to go about changing them. We can do whatever we want. We pave our own path in life. And to make sure that path is smooth, we just have to become aware of our habits. Strategies such as giving ourselves pep talks, rewarding ourselves for small accomplishments, finding a support system, thinking outside of the box, and being committed, will help make change happen. Changing routines can be difficult, but we need to break free from the things that hold us down in order to grow.
I was lacking willpower, but I’ve slowly come to see that the best way to strengthen willpower is to turn it into a habit. Living without added sugar hasn’t been an easy change, but it’s getting easier as time goes on. I’ve replaced my habit of sugar consumption with the habit of not consuming it. I’m proud of myself for lasting 17 days, however July 1st still feels like an eternity! Wish me luck!