“Stop looking for things you don’t want to find” is a phrase I have been trying to live by recently. I find it applies to many areas of my life – work, personal relationships, productivity, positivity and yes, also to weight management. If I want to quit being distracted by emails or social media, I simply need to stop checking them so often. If I want to only see the positive in a situation or a person or a relationship, I need to quit looking for the negatives. And when it comes to diet-busting food and beverages, if I don’t want to eat it or drink it, I need to stop putting myself in situations where it’s available.
There’s a convenience shop in the skyways that I walk past nearly every day. I’ve never wandered inside, but from what I can see, it’s a shop of death. Candy bars, chips, sodas, cigarettes, and preservative-laden “baked goods” (which look as old as I am) line the shelves, and something is always “On Clearance – 70% off today!” Sometimes when I’m walking past the shop, I’m hungry. Often, I’ve just finished working out for an hour or more (it’s on my route to and from the gym). It would be easy to justify a stop inside. I could go in under the pretense of looking for a healthy snack bar, or checking to see whether they’ve got any almond milk in the refrigerated display in the back. But I know that if I did wander in there, I would see a lot of other things I don’t really want but might be tempted to have when they’re right there in front of me.
We both know the fact that I’m not going in with the intent to buy a candy bar doesn’t mean I won’t walk out of there with one. Or three. Similarly, if I want to drink less wine or beer than I have been, the answer is simple – just don’t go to the wine shop. If something isn’t on my shelf or in my fridge, I can’t be tempted by it and I won’t have it. Even if I’m suddenly struck with a craving for it, if it’s not in my house I can’t have it, so it’s a moot point. My personal calorie-cutting mantra is (repeat after me): Willpower Happens at the Grocery Store, Not at Home!
Three weeks ago, when I first started noticing how big a problem email and Facebook distractions really were for me, I changed the settings on my computer. I no longer get alerts of any kind from my Facebook account, and I turned off notifications for all of my email accounts. I no longer get pop-up banners or sound alerts when messages come in, and I even turned off that little number badge (indicating new messages) that I was always obsessively trying to get down to zero.
It wasn’t long after I’d made these new changes that I glanced into the convenience shop and was struck by the realization that junk food is just like Facebook. It will always be there, niggling you for attention if you let it, but one simple thing can make it go away: Stop looking for things you don’t want to find. Stop surrounding yourself by the very things you are trying to resist; don’t go to places where you know bad things await. You can tell yourself you’re going there for the healthy/positive/productive reason, but we all know what happens once we venture inside.