Avoid exceptions to form new habits

Yesterday I went to a meeting that involved travel an hour away. Lunch was being served, bbq. The real deal, pulled pork, tenderloin, spicy smoked sausage, beans, coleslaw and cornbread. Even as I write this I ask, “what’s wrong with that?”

The problem is I’ve been gaining weight for the past five months because of exceptions when eating. The exceptions generally occur when shopping, eating out and at events. I’ve proven to myself through experience that eating a McDougall diet allows me to control my weight without excessive exercise or not eating.

What’s a McDougall diet? Plant based, low fat, whole foods, starches and greens in particular. Yesterday I could’ve packed a lunch or eaten bbq.  Eating bbq was one exception. That exception made it easy to allow another. Let’s just say sugar.

My intention is to stop making exceptions, pack a lunch every day, exercise daily, avoid sugar. More than avoid, treat it like poison, because it is, it makes me fat!

I have to crowd out the bad with the good. The last lunch batch I made was boiled potatoes dressed with mustard, dill relish and cider vinegar.  The potatoes were accompanied by three bean salad and a vegetable. Twice it was brussel sprouts, at least twice it was coleslaw with a ginger tahini dressing.

One of the reasons for the exception yesterday was that I needed to do some batch cooking. It takes about an hour usually to prepare rice, beans or potatoes and vegetables then assemble into containers for two to four days. Because it wasn’t convenient to cook I didn’t. What was my backup plan? I need one because if I don’t prepare for what I will eat, I’ll eat what I shouldn’t eat.

This post is not really about food. It’s about the exceptions that arise when wanting to form new habits. How can I prevent the exception? Willpower only goes so far.

If I had a backup plan for packing a lunch when there is no prepared food I may not have made the exception. Create alternatives to the exception? Willpower is a last resort. I could have chosen to simply not eat.

Let’s go upstream. What is my vision? What is the why? Why do I want to change my eating habits? Maybe that’s the weak link. I hate being fat. The food I love makes me fat. Change the foods I love to change my body. It’s the mental pictures that need to change. One channel is focused on the foods I currently crave. My new desire to be lean and fit conflicts with the foods I currently crave. The cravings are winning. They’re fully entrenched. The new desire will require me to learn to substitute and discover new foods, and new ideas.


By thinking I’ve identified mental pictures as a key strategy. The old mental pictures of foods that give me pleasure are going to be turned into negative images. Instead of imagining a donut and thinking about sweet and creamy taste sensations I’m going to think about trying to squeeze into pants that don’t fit. And what’s the price of a pastry? They’re expensive. Going to bakeries and vendors involves effort. I should be able to attach several negative attributes to what I wish to no longer crave.

The foods I should eat can be linked to the images of what I want to experience. My pants getting looser. Getting back into yoga. Feeling lighter, cleaner and more energetic.


I’m thinking bananas. I like apples but bananas are even more compelling.  Getting rid of pastry doesn’t mean I can’t eat. It doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy eating either. There’s pineapple and blackberries in the fridge. Several pieces of fruit and some grapes are ready to pack. I do need to cook but everything’s here. I have now focused on the why. To be lean.

I’ve made the good bad and the bad good. Compared to a pastry an apple has no chance if you’re craving the taste sensation of the bakers art. But thinking about being lean, clean and fit, the taste of the apple links to that image, the pastry just gets in the way.

Eliminate exceptions.

Easier said than done but my why is pretty strong. I’m eager to start changing the mental images and focusing on preventive measures. What’s my strategy for dealing with negative food cravings? Contingency plans and conversion of mental images. Flipping positives into negatives, negatives into positives and focusing on that why so intensely that I can resort to willpower if need be.

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