Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Gretchen Rubin's Habit Book: 'Loophole Spotting' and Healthy Eating Habits

Gretchen Rubin's 'Better Than Before' a Must Read

It's tax time and we're all looking for loopholes to save us money.

We like loopholes. Loopholes are good.

Well, not always.

In her upcoming book, Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives, happiness expert Gretchen Rubin tackles the topic of habit formation; and one of her key concepts is using loopholes -- or lame excuses -- to resist making positive changes.

Rubin outlines ten categories of loopholes on her popular blog, all of which can be applied to weight loss and optimal health. I encourage you to read her original blog post, but for fun I'm going to focus on three of my favorite loopholes in the context of healthy habits.

False Choice Loophole

This popular loophole covers the either/or choices we pose to ourselves to avoid doing things we really don't want to do in the first place.

As in:

"I can't buy this, because then I couldn't afford that."

I may be expensive, but I'm worth it!

“I can’t do this, because then I couldn't do that."

I remember telling myself once that $4 was too much to pay for a cantaloupe and was about to evict it from my shopping cart when I noticed I had a 12-pack of Diet Coke Zero sitting there that I could somehow afford.

We always find the money or time for things we really want, yet we tell ourselves we can't do something that is "good for us" by making it a binary choice between that and something more essential.

“This Doesn’t Count” Loophole.

Rubin defines this popular loophole as making "funny rules to exclude certain behavior." I think of it as the "I can cheat every day that ends with 'y'" loophole because pretty much every day presents us with a plausible reason to deviate from good eating habits.

Most of us have regular opportunities to eat at a restaurant, go to the movies, celebrate someone's birthday or, well... you get the picture. But that doesn't stop us from using these events as excuses to break our healthy eating rules under the pretext that "this is a special situation."

Which doesn't mean we can never make exceptions. If I found myself dining at a Michelin 3-star restaurant, I might eat some foods I typically avoid. But that would be a planned exception -- far different from using a common occurrence as an excuse to load up on empty calories.
Fake Self-Actualization Loophole.

I call this one the YOLO loophole, as in "You only live once." Which is true for most of us who are not Hindu or Shirley MacLaine.

YOLO is just the millennial version of the old 70's mantra, "If it feels good, do it." So we eat half a pizza because it's Friday night or binge watch OITNB instead of taking a walk or going to the gym.

Which reminds me of a great blog post in Psychology Today, in which the author reflects on an experience she had as a graduate student at an all-you-can-eat buffet:
With a mouth full of my second helping of something that looked like peach cobbler, I asked one of my dinner companions why she wasn't eating dessert. "It's free," I encouraged her. This was not one of my fellow clinical psychology students, but someone from one of the other programs on campus. Film History, or American Studies, or Urban Planning and Resource Allocation, something like that.

I don't remember her name now, but I recall that she dressed in gauzy clothing, a la Stevie Nicks.  And that she'd grown up in a family of Carnival entertainers, traveling around the country.  She was offbeat and interesting, and had perspectives that were different from those of the more practical psychology students.
And what she said to me at dinner that evening was something I carry with me even now. In the sing-song cadence of the Valley Girl speech still fairly common on campus at the time, she chirped "Oh, I decided a couple of years ago not to eat food that makes me feel bad."

Excerpted from Psychology Today
Like this wise young soul, most of us eventually figure out that maintaining healthy habits yields a more profound state of happiness than doing whatever feels good in the moment.

Can you relate to these three loopholes? There are seven more, which I encourage you to read about on Rubin's blog The important thing is to spot whatever loopholes you commonly use to sabotage yourself and then reject them.

Sounds a lot like Stop. Challenge. Choose. Right?

More from Diet Skeptic:

Why I'm Addicted to Chia Seeds

Why Fat Head Pizza Is the Holy Grail of Low Carb Pizzas 

The Shocking Truth About Imported Olive Oil

Making Cauliflower Rice in the Vitamix 

Why WebMD Doesn't Want You to Get Well

Follow Nancy's board Low Carb Recipes on Pinterest

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