Habit vs. Desire

Posted: October 6, 2011 in Uncategorized

I’m trying to get a better handle on what are things in my life I participate in that are simply habitual.  Meaning, for whatever reason, over time, they have become a part of my life on an ongoing basis to the point where I now partake in it without much conscious thought of whether I really desire it, need it, want it, or benefit from it.  Now, if something is a habit, you can’t imagine living without it.  That is what habits do.  They convince you that you HAVE to have it and you CAN’T live without it.  It is only by the power of discipline that you strip a habit out of your life, and you have a window of opportunity to reassess the “habit” based on those questions:  1) Do I really need this?; 2) Do I benefit from this or is it hurting me?; 3) Do I even desire this?.

Case in point:

My wife and I yesterday completed a 30 day program called Whole30 (check out link to see what it entails).  It is a diet & nutrition plan intended to “restart” your digestive system, adjust your tastes & desires, and break unhealthy eating habits.  So for 30 days I have given up:

  • Going out to eat.  That’s right.  I haven’t gone out to eat in 30 days.  You have no idea how big of a deal that is to Kelly and I who eat out ALL the time!  When we tell the kids it’s time for supper, they literally move towards the car.
  • Giving up coffee.  Now, I didn’t have to.  I could drink it black (or with coconut milk), but I hate black coffee.  I normally drink 32 ounces of coffee every morning (decaf since June 2010 because of high blood pressure).  For 30 days I haven’t had anything to drink except water.  Nothing.
  • Giving up dairy.  Hello!!!?  Are you listening to this?  I couldn’t have ANY dairy – no milk, no yogurt, no cottage cheese, NO CHEESE…ANYWHERE…including on fries.
  • I couldn’t have breads, grains, pastas, white potatoes, artificial sweeteners (that means no soft drinks), legumes, alcohol, processed foods, pizza, cheese fries, and ALL of my favorite things.
  • In addition, over the past week I gave up Facebook (that could be another blog post, but I hate the new Facebook!!!).  I’m not saying it will be forever, but for the past week I’ve not look at the newsfeed (I still respond to Facebook messages or anything someone posts on my wall).
And now that the 30 days are over and a lot of my old habits have been severed for the past month, it is interesting to me how I answer some of the above questions:
  • I don’t want 32 ounces of decaf. coffee everyday.  Saturday morning sounds like a good time for it, but I don’t need or want it daily.  I think I drank it everyday because somehow, someway, I just started to do it and it became a habit.
  • In the 30 days I was never starving.  What I ate filled me up and I felt great.  I’m not sure I need all the above to feel full.
  • I don’t want can after can of diet soft drinks (I normally have a dorm refrigerator in my office stocked for such a purpose)
  • I’m OK with not eating Outback cheese fries on such a regular basis that they recognize my # on their caller ID.
  • I have so much more time now that I’m no longer checking my Facebook newsfeed and my wife gets less irritated with my inattention.
  • I lost 20 pounds in 30 days.
  • I like how I feel.
  • I don’t think I want to go back (again…I’m not making any declarative promises)
It was interesting to me that today I was “free” to do what I wanted to.  I finished the Whole30 challenge.  I didn’t have to eat what I’ve been eating over the past month.  I did it.  It was over.  I could have had coffee, donuts, or a block of melted Swiss cheese, and the only thing I wanted this morning in addition to my normal breakfast over the past 30 days was a bowl of oatmeal (without butter and sugar even!!!)
Now I’m on a search for all the things that are habits in my life (things that I do so routinely anymore that I don’t even think about it…except showering…I’m keeping that habit) that needs to be cut off to see if it is something I really need in my life, or even desire.
  1. david says:

    Sounds GREAT!! Good for you!
    I watched “Forks Over Knives” on Netflix a couple weeks ago and I am now on my third week of going Vegan (no meat or other animal by-products, such as milk, eggs, etc.). I never thought I’d do such a thing, but now it feels so simple. Like you, I’m not saying that I’ll be doing this indefinitely, but it has been a good experience.
    Check out the movie, now that you have some free time from Facebook…

  2. kneip says:

    Wow, man! I haven’t been on your blog in a little while, so I just read this. Super proud of you, friend! That is really great. Many blessings on you as you discern what you do really want, post-detox.

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