Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Habits R Us

"First we make our habits, then our habits make us."    Charles C. Noble

This morning I caught myself saying, to myself, for the umpteenth time, "Self, I need to stop eating late at night."  Not only is right before bed the worst time to eat for caloric reasons and gaining weight, it also makes you more prone to heartburn.  I've had heartburn only two or three times but it was extremely uncomfortable and something I don't want to repeat.  So, "Self, it would be a very good idea to eat earlier in the evening so the food can begin to digest before you lie down. Okay?" 

I'm not sure how this habit got started.  Maybe just the delights of a little comfort food treat, maybe a little rebellion after a particularly virtuous culinary day, maybe filling a void with food that could better be filled with something else.  I think it has something to do with being the only one awake.  Does it somehow make it okay if nobody sees me have crackers and cheese at midnight ?  Or way too many cherries?  Or way too many nuts?  Or way too much watermelon?

Every time we make a new choice it creates a new pathway in our brain.  The more we go down that path, the stronger it becomes.  Eventually it's practically a rut.  And ruts keep us stuck.  So maybe a good choice, once we are aware of what's happening, is to make a different choice.  Should be an easy thing to do.  Intellectually it sounds so very simple.

But here's where habit comes in.  When neural pathways turn into ruts, we have formed a habit, consciously or unconsciously.  Could be a good habit or a bad one.  One that is totally harmless, or one that can have devastating and life long consequences.  They all start out the same way....by making choices.

Whenever you realize you are beginning to do something over and over, just realize it is on it's way to becoming a habit.

The more conscious we become that we are indeed making a choice over and over, the easier it is to continue it or discontinue it.  If it's going to the gym, that's a good thing.  If it's smoking cigarettes, that's a bad thing.  If it's eating too late at night, well, that's become a bad thing for me.  Why?  Because I let it.  I allowed it to become part of my routine, my ritual.  I convinced myself I slept better after a little wholesome snack.  It's just that over time it became not so little, and not so wholesome. 

I think Charles Noble was on to something with that quote he left us.   "First we make our habits, then our habits make us."    Yep, he definitely was.  Use it for good, or use it for "evil".  Always our choice.


  1. Following via GFC from the Wild Wednesday Blog Hop :)

  2. If I had a dollar for every day of a failed attempt to break this habit (and going to bed too late) I'd be rich enough to just stay up later so it didn't seem like I was eating late at night because I wouldn't have to work or get up with the kids!

  3. I know, Heather. It's crazy. I think we need to find another way to nurture ourselves. Maybe a good dinner at a reasonable time. Then, when it's late and the urge to snack happens, take an hour soak in the tub with a good mag or book. That's what i'm trying. Soooo hard. I know. You can do it though.


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