In no way, shape, or form was I great high school athlete, but the things I remember from my distant youth have a tendency to lose their accuracy as I age. A t-shirt from college also pointed out that all my classmates were great high school athletes as well. The statement ranked #4 on the “Top 10 lies heard at St. Olaf” shirt of my era. Memories and habits formed when we were younger are incredibly powerful forces and I felt one yesterday as I walked into my mother’s house.
For as long as I can remember I have equated my mom’s house with food. The reasons for this are varied. One of my first memories is being in the kitchen with my mom, watching her cook dinner, and listening to MPR. (Talk about routine, I still listen to MPR every day and often think of the kitchen at 1520 Indian Hills Road.) Later upon returning home from college for visits the house meant free food. Music to a college student’s ears. And for years my mom’s house has represented “food that cannot be found in our cupboards at home.” I’m talking snacky food, crackers and cheese, some chips.
Much like SuperAmerica of the day before I could feel the pull of my mom’s refrigerator before walking in the door. (This is neurological. Once a habit is formed our brains signal reward before we get it). However, a strange thing happened on the way to said refrigerator. And it had nothing to do with me trying to be aware or conscious or lofty with my habit identification program. It had everything to do with my mom.
My mom has waged a valiant battle with her weight for some time. Whether it be walking around the lake of Worthington, MN religiously at 5:00 am for years, attending Weight Watchers, or now working out at a fitness center regularly, she has been a foot solider in the war with her weight. Some difficult struggles, some amazing successes. We often talk of nutrition and how to get your exercise. She lets me preach.
Last week was a good one for my mom, as have the past several. The scale at Weight Watchers is going in the right direction. She’s on. Exercising daily and reporting it to me. And that is what happened on my way to the refrigerator yesterday. Her. She did. My mom. Gone where the chips, crackers, cheese. Not because she ate them, but rather because she hadn’t bought them. Feeling my habit tug and pull I jokingly said, as I glanced through the fridge, “It used to be fun coming here, good stuff in the refrigerator.” Ok, half jokingly. I moved the milk out of the way, maybe something fun was hiding in there. No such luck. She laughed at my silliness and threw a small lifeline, “There are Popsicles in the freezer,” more for my daughter’s benefit then mine I presume. I pounced on the popsicles, after giving our 4 year old one of course. 60 calorie frozen flavored water just doesn’t cut it when you are Grammie’s house.
My mom’s house represents a powerful habit developed over years. My brain senses the pleasure prior to my arrival. Combine this with the other information we’ve looked at this week and no wonder I struggled:
Mom’s house (Location)
2:30 pm (Time of day)
Busy (Emotional state)
Alone (Others people)*
Driving (Immediately preceding action)
*My mom was present yesterday, I wasn’t speaking to her hologram, Mr. Tupac. As was my daughter. I was alone in the sense that my partner wasn’t there. My partner exerts a powerful and kind influence on my eating habits. She’s my gatekeeper and even though I get frustrated at times she gives nothing but support. I’m starting to see that when she isn’t around I struggle with food. At the office I’m ok being left to my own devices, for the most part. Home is where I shouldn’t be left alone. Or at my mother’s. I also have sensed that my habits kick in when I am busy or frustrated, or more aptly when I’m feeling a lack of control (ie some approaching deadlines that subconsciously sit in my mind and cause distraction).
Starting to get somewhere. This week I have further defined my habits by location (home, mom’s house), time (3:00ish pm), emotional state (busy and frustrated, loss of perceived control), and other people around (nobody). I’m still working on my immediately preceding actions. I’ll get there. Habits.
How’s your week?
One last moment from my mom’s. Her fridge spoke to me. If it were only this easy not to eat the pie: