See that picture to the left? It’s not tacos, which is what I really wanted for lunch on Tuesday. You see, when I started the day I had big plans of bringing my lunch. I had these great leftovers and I wanted to save money, be healthy, blah blah blah. But when lunch came around, all I really wanted was tacos.
Has that ever happened to you?
Your plans are rock solid in the morning but then by lunch or dinner they are out the window and you now only eat chips & salsa?
Well, that’s where I was. I was even convincing myself that it was somehow a noble act because it was Taco Tuesday. Yes, we can play weird mind games when guacamole is involved.
So as I was deciding where to get my tacos, I paused to really drill down on what I was craving.
First, I realized that I was hungry. My morning had run long and I was heading to lunch late so I was starving. As we talked about in the Truth About Cravings, I knew that the reason I was dreaming of salty chips and warm tortillas was because I was simply hungry and most food would satisfy that need.
Then I dug a little deeper and realized that I was also feeling a little down. I was drained from the morning and feeling sad about hard adulting things. I didn’t want to feel those feelings anymore. I would rather feel tacos. Who wouldn’t?
Finally, I thought about the food that I brought. The fact is, I really liked it. I made it over the weekend and knew that it was both delicious and that I would physically feel good afterwards. I also knew that it was part of a plan that I had made that it would move me towards goals that are really important to me.
After this quick check-in, I knew that a taco would taste good and probably make me feel good for an instant, but it wasn’t really what I needed. I needed tasty food (which I had) and I needed real comfort. I needed a release and a break from the day. I took my leftovers, walked to the park and had lunch with a very lovely tree. I took a few minutes to feel those crappy feelings, rest my brain and recharge and then was able to continue with my day refilled rather than stuffed.
You may feel the take-away was that I successfully chose the veggies over tacos. Yes, that’s true. However, I believe the real take-away is, that I was able to identify my needs and find an effective solution. The reason that was able to happen was that I:
- Paused and really checked-in with what I needed.
- Was very honest about what would meet those needs vs. what would just buffer the feelings.
- I was prepared with something that I really enjoyed eating.
To be clear, I am not a better human because I didn’t have tacos. The food you eat has nothing to do with your value as a person – I don’t care what your social feed says! I very well may make a different decision next time. However, the process of really identifying what your body needs or is craving rather than responding to an urge is an important skill to build.
What to do with this information
If you find yourself stuck in a cycle of intending to do one thing but choosing another, it may be that you are missing one of these steps.
- Did you pause or just barrel through based on an urge?
- Were you able to assess what you actually needed? Is it hunger? Is it emotion? Is it a break?
- Do you actually enjoy the alternative (meaning the food you were planning to eat or the activity that you were planning on doing) or are you just doing it because you think you are supposed to? (HINT: if your “healthy” habits feel like torture, they may not be your best solution or it might just be too big of a step for right now. We will talk more about this but be careful not to jump to the conclusion that white knuckling is part of a healthful lifestyle.)
Now please don’t worry if you can’t answer these questions at first, and you certainly may not be able to change your behavior immediately. The important part is that you pause and ask. Once we drill down and see what you really need, then we can find the solution. And you know what? Sometimes it might just be Taco Tuesday;)