1.  I fall in and out of love with foods.  Does anyone else do this?  For example, I ate hard-boiled eggs for breakfast for almost two years and then all of a sudden, one day, I’m just like, DONE.  And I haven’t really had them since.  I’m not exactly sure what they did to me to deserve the cold shoulder, but it is what it is.

2.  From mid-February until the end of March Madness (or the hockey playoffs, if the Blackhawks are in it) is the only time I have full-blown cable and during that time I gorge on all the sports channels that I normally only dream about.  The rest of the year I have the $19 basic plan, the highlight of which is a channel that is shows nothing too much more than Law&Order, Cold Case, and Criminal Minds marathons.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

3.  Sometimes in the winter I’ll send Belle to bed about 20 minutes before I’m heading there so she’ll warm the bed up for me.  I’ll even help her get under the covers.

4.  Skinny jeans aren’t necessarily the best fashion choice for going out for a nice, big dinner.  Don’t ask me how I know this.

5.  Currently, I have 3 treadmills in my house.  You’d think I’d be in much better shape than I actually am.

6.  I also have 6 bikes in the house, but only 5 of them are mine, so it’s not like I have a problem or anything.

Stockholm Public Library

Stockholm Public Library

7.  When I hear about a book I want to read, I immediately go to my library’s website to see if it’s in the system.  Most often, I need to request the book to get on a wait list for it or for it to be transferred from another library.  But sometimes, I’ll request it even when it shows that it’s on the shelf of my library because then I know the very, very nice librarians will pick it off the shelf for me and set it aside instead of me having to find it myself.  Yes, I am *that* lazy.

8.  On an unrelated note, I make an annual donation to my most awesome local library (in addition to all the overdue fines that I owe with alarming regularity).

9.  On more than one occasion, I have shoveled snow off the grass in my yard.  For the dogs. Because, you know, they don’t want to actually have to put their sensitive paws in the snow. Yes, these are my mean, aggressive pit bulls who don’t want to get their poor feet wet or cold.

10.  There’s a Panera that’s being built about a half mile from my house and I’m way more excited than a person should be.  Soon enough, I’ll be in bread heaven.  And a food coma shortly after that.  If I ever go missing, you’ll know where to find me.

The alarm on my phone goes off: I guess it’s time to get up.

Belle’s sitting in her cage, staring daggers at me: I guess I should feed the dogs.

The doorbell rings: Hide! It’s probably someone selling something.

Oh, wait! My butt is buzzing: someone loves me (get your mind out of the gutter, it’s just a text, people).

All of these? Cues. Things that happen that cause something else to be put in motion. The meat of any habit, cues let our reptile brain make decisions without any conscious decision-making taking place. It’s that innate urge to go get a snack while watching a movie even if you’ve just finished eating and have already unbuttoned your pants to get more breathing room. You don’t know why, you just know you need it and have to have it. Right now.

Of course, not everything in our lives is defined by cues and habits, but think about it: most of the things we want to change about ourselves? Habits. It’s the unconscious, unthinking non-decisions that pave the path of least resistance. For me, habits are at least part of the cause of my overeating. Damn you, habits!

Growing up, I was in love with books and invariably, while reading, one hand would be holding the pages open while the other was dug into a bag of pretzels. We weren’t allowed candy or anything sweet, nor were we allowed potato chips or Fritos, but pretzels were a sanctioned snack.  And so what do I do now? My love affair with books endures and so everything else is much the same except with more grey hair, a Kindle and anything from pretzels to cheese to chocolate to Poptarts (those same sanctions obviously don’t exist in my own household).

As soon as I sit down to read, the urge starts. I begin to salivate. My brain takes inventory of what tasty treats are in the house. Restless, I have a difficult time concentrating on the words in front of me. And without any thought towards whether I’m actually hungry or not, like magic, food is next to me — and now I can finally make some headway on the book.

In the past, I’ve circumvented this highway to treats by tracking every calorie. And it worked! It forced me to consider every morsel I put into my mouth. Okay, let me amend that a touch: counting calories worked — but only for a little while. Do you know what a pain it is to log every little thing? Take my word for it — it’s a huge pain. And plus, calorie tracking made me a little (more) crazy because then I’d hate to eat anywhere that I couldn’t get an accurate calorie count of the food I was consuming. Sounds like a healthy lifestyle, doesn’t it?

Now I’m trying something different: my little black book. Except instead of putting names and numbers of romantic possibilities, I put the names of foods and a 1-10 rating of my hunger level (yea, not nearly as much fun). The goal is twofold: first, the act of writing down the meal makes me pause just the slightest bit and that short breath is sometimes all I need to stop the action. Second, I rate my hunger on a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being “please just roll me to bed because I’m too full to move” and 10 being “Donner? Party of 2? No? Only 1 now?”

IMG_20150405_093944Sometimes it’s enough — it’s my way of forcing myself to check in and see if I’m actually hungry or if I’m feeding something other than my body. And the little black book doesn’t judge; no matter what I write down, there are no regrets or recriminations. It’s just data to be mined.

So, like I promised last week — it all comes back down to developing practices that encourage mindfulness. My body knows how much food it needs and it’s just a matter of listening to it rather than hitting the override button without any sort of consideration. If I only eat when hungry and stop eating when I’m satiated (but not yet full), I don’t have to worry about what I’m eating nearly as much. There’s room in my life for cookies and sweets and pizza, as long as it’s preceded by true hunger.

And I’ll tell ya – that’s the kind of life I’m happy to live in.