Friday, August 7, 2009

Muscle Memory and Habits

*Disclaimer: I am not a scientist or psychologist. I just know how to read and make hopefully logical connections. If anything I have written is incorrect please feel free to correct me! I claim to know nothing! :)

Why do I finish an entire bag of Twizzlers (or twizzies as they are referred to in my house) at a movie when I'm not hungry? Why do I drink Diet Dr. Pepper when I'm not thirty? What is up with my inability to stop eating chips and salsa no matter how full I am at Mexican restaurants? Two words my friends. Muscle. Memory.

"Muscle memory is fashioned over time through repetition of a given suite of motor skills and the ability through brain activity to inculcate and instill it such that they become automatic."

Basically, we have all trained ourselves to eat the way we eat. If before this month you used to grab a handful from the box of Wheat Thins every time you opened the pantry, you can bet it is going to be super hard to not grab that same box now. Your have programed your mind that way. The first day of paleo Kody and I went to lunch at McAlister's. I got a salad and he got something fairly healthy that came with Club crackers. Oh. My. I. Love. Club. Crackers. They are buttery goodness. Right? I always eat them when we are there. I steal them from whoever I am eating with. It is fun to try to sneak them away before the victim notices. Anyway, I found myself reaching for them out of habit. I remember looking at Kody saying, "I wasn't even thinking! I just reached for them!" Don't worry, I didn't even get as far as opening the package.

This is why cheat proofing your house and getting friends and family on board with what you are doing is so important. You wouldn't dangle alcohol in front of a seven day clean alcoholic would you? Well, we shouldn't subject ourselves to the temptation either. If you can't resist the bread at Zio's then don't go eat there. Don't torture yourself by watching others eat it like I did with the cheddar biscuits at Red Lobster. I learned my lesson. It takes a good month to change habits. What have you noticed you do without even thinking that may jeopardize your quest of paleo perfection? What have you done to start retraining your mind?

Eating is so much more than taste. We have emotional connections with food. When we are at certain events or celebrations we eat certain things. Totally normal. Every time I am at the airport in Dallas for a lay over I always get a pretzel from Auntie Anne's. It is my tradition. Normally I am hungry, but even if I am not I get one. I need one because I am at the airport and that is what I do. I'm going to have to stay strong because day 28 will put me in that predicament.

We have built up these associations with food our whole lives. They will be hard to break and hard to resist. Maybe harder for some than others. When you are about to encounter one of these events whether it is a long car ride, a wedding celebration, or a movie have a plan about how to resist your normal reaction. Have portable paleo snacks with you, eat enough before so you aren't hungry or keep a bottle of water with you at all times so you can have something in your hands to distract you from reaching for food.

You will create new habits. You will be able to retrain your brain. You are never to old to change the way you think and react to food. Never.

1 comment:

  1. Ginny! I am a lover of the Club Cracker, too! As a kid, I remember try to start a club where we all ate Club Crackers. If that isn't a glimpse into my issues with carbs, I don't know what is. A week has passed and, although I am still SICK of protein, I am feeling less and less insane over missing grains and dairy. Muscle memory is hard for me. Sadly, food is involved in all traditions for me. Sunday morning is a brunch tradition. Movies? Candy. Thursday? Mexican food. I could go on. I guess the important thing is to create new traditions to replace the old ones. Thanks for the post on Muscle Memory. It makes total sense! I'm off to go eat some protein now!