23 November 2009

Ruminations on Habits

General Thoughts.

Habits are tricky. Good ones are so hard to establish, bad ones so temptingly comfortable.

I don't think I'm that unusual in that when I establish a good habit or correct a bad one—working out regularly, going to bed at a reasonable hour, not eating an entire bag of chips every night—one little slip-up can get me right back to that familiar comfort zone. Missed a day at the gym? Guess I'll stop going altogether. I know this about myself, and thus can be a little manic about maintaining the habits I work hard to establish. The idea of months of effort being undone by one day off the wagon is just too much to bear.

I'm trying to be more mindful of finding middle ground in these efforts, in not being so black and white. Working out once in a week is better than nothing. Eating a handful of chips is better than eating the whole bag. A lifetime's worth of struggle with perfectionism comes out in all kinds of ways, habits not excluded from that list.

The Habit of Writing.

Writing is, for me, like any other good habit I managed to get into place. Doing it regularly takes effort, but it's effort that's well worth it. One missed day, though, can so easily become two or three or five, and then the excuses come in and it's back to almost nothing.

I'm happy to have made this month NaBloMoreThanItHadBeenMo. It's not perfection, but it's more than I've been doing, and that has been good.

The Habit of Eating.

I'm a comfort eater, and I like to reward myself with food. I enjoy the rituals around food, I love the way food tastes, and I get great pleasure out of the wonderful way food can bring friends and family together. I do try to eat in moderation and to eat a variety of healthy food, but it's easy for me to get into bad habits around what goes into my mouth.

In the craziness of moving away from Boston, starting a new job, and settling into a new house, I had established lots of poor eating habits. Serving sizes were at an all-time high, I often ate dinner twice (with the kids and after they went to bed), plus some kind of snack and a glass or two of wine once the twins were asleep. I was exercising more—which I continue to do—but not enough to offset my consumption.

It finally got to the point that my pants no longer buttoned without significant effort. My hatred of shopping and my cheapness were enough for that to be the straw that broke the camel's back. And so, for the past three weeks, I've been doing Weight Watchers again.

And I've lost five pounds! Additionally, I've been eating tons more fruit and veggies, and so have the kids. So it's all good. I want to lose about five more pounds—the pants now button, but they are still giving me the squeeze at the end of the day. It feels good to have good food habits in place again, though, and to just have a more realistic gauge of what a serving is. This will be the second time that I've been seriously doing WW over the holidays, though. It's a blessing and a curse. Trying to focus on the blessing part.

The Habit of Self-Care.

I started this post about six hours ago. Six hours, one trip to the doctor with Maddie (she's fine), one evening of dinner/bath/stories/etc., one hour spent cleaning the house, and two glasses of wine ago. I'd typed in the heading "The Habit of Self-Care" before hitting the save button, but now that I'm back to the post, I have no idea what I was going to write about. Huh. Guess my thoughts on self-care will have to wait for another day.

Holiday Habits.

For a bunch of logistical reasons, John and I got into the habit of spending Thanksgiving with his parents and Christmas with mine. The twins and I have kept this up. If memory serves, we missed the first Thanksgiving after John died—I'd have to look back in my archives to see what we did that year—but the following year we headed to Michigan and this year we'll do the same again.

I'm truly looking forward to the trip. I find hosting my parents-in-law quite stressful (although less so the past few times), but being at their house is a real pleasure for me. They take excellent care of me and the twins, and my mother-in-law is an amazing Korean cook. While my family can get carried away with plans and togetherness and FUN, John's family knows how to capital-R Relax. I'm planning to see a few of John's friends, and my sister-in-law has already laid in some wine. It should be a good trip.

Much to my surprise, I find myself wanting to go to John's grave site. The idea occurred to me just today. I've been fearful of feeling pressured to go to the site on past visits, but this time, I find myself ambivalent at worst and interested at best. I don't plan to push the issue, but if it comes up, I'm open to it. There are a lot of other things going on—Thanksgiving dinner, visits with friends, yoga, a family portrait—but we'll see. It's an immense relief not to feel dread at the idea of the grave site visit; I was so turned off by the idea of it as to not want to go to Michigan at all in years past. Progress.


What A Card said...

Happy and safe travels to you!

It's fun to see you posting more regularly. I know just what you mean about bad habits and trying to protect good habits. I should have tried NaBloMoreThanUsualMo myself.

It sounds like your move has been really good for you. I know that comment isn't super related to this post, but more a general comment on many of your recent posts. For what it's worth, I know it must have been a difficult decision, but I think you've done good, girl :)

Sandi said...

My in-laws are having everyone over for Thanksgiving and we weren't invited. Did I mention they suck. They always did, though, even when John was alive.

beyond said...

i hear you on the good habits/ bad habits routines. sigh. last year i did a series of sit-ups and sun salutations every morning for over 4 months. i knew that it would be over if i missed a day. and so it was. happy thanksgiving, snickollet family!

Becky said...

I am doing WW, too. It really seems to work for a lot of people! I think I have lost 8 pounds so far (in about a month). I am totally the same way about not wanting to buy bigger clothes because I am cheap. Thankfully, my pants all fit again.

Carrie @ Who Knew? said...

I am right there with you about the all or nothing thinking. I get that way about everything. Even though I know it's just an excuse, I find it very hard to think my way out of it.

Enjoy your holidays!

Sadia said...

I have a similar all-or-nothing outlook on life, as my therapist and husband keep pointing out.

I even manage to get manic about balance. I will have complete balance or none at all! It's exhausting. :)

Have a fantastic trip. I'm so glad that you're looking forward to it.

mames said...

I love this post, it is truly so hard to keep the eight habits and ditch the less fruitful ones. Sounds like all the good ones Are worth keeping. Happy thanksgiving.

Anonymous said...

Visiting the grave site of my late wife. That is something I have been putting off for a long time, and should do. This should be the first normal holiday since my lovely wife's death and I arranged a huge family reunion with 41 guests just to get everyone together. Or maybe I'm trying to spare myself another holiday sitting alone with my son being miserable???

OTRgirl said...

Great post. I can so relate to the 'break it once, forget about it' model.

I'm glad you're looking forward to the time in Michigan. That does sound like wonderful progress. It's neat that you have both their traditions around John's death as well as your own. And that you're more able to enter theirs this time. That's cool.

I enjoy your more frequent posts!

(how's your mom?)

(another) karen said...

god, i love it when you write....

wonderful, safe, HEALTHY holiday to you and yours,


BiancaW said...

FIVE POUNDS!! Wow - that is excellent. I have also recently lost a bit of weight, so I KNOW how hard it is! I started with WW and Couch to 5K, but have slipped off the WW wagon a bit. Have kept up with the running though. I find it easier to run for 40 minutes or so, than to watch every single morsel that goes into my mounth, all day long. Although - that is why I am losing weigh so s.l.o.w.l.y!!!!

listings Toronto said...

Yeah, moving into a new, not-so-well-known place might very easily start weird eating habits. You are just not so comfortable at the new place yet or too busy with anything else to eat regularly and healthily. That usually happens to me when I move to a new home, at least.