Growing up I was conditioned to associate dinner with dessert. My family is big on dessert. So after dinner every night, my mom would always let us have dessert.
Sometimes it was a waffle sundae, other times fried dough or sometimes it was a franken-snack like Pop Tarts, cereal, toaster pasteries or whatever sugary treat my brother and I decided we wanted to eat.
And while that association between dinner and dessert was great when I was kid–I mean, seriously, what kid doesn’t want to eat sugary snacks that taste delicious!!–it’s not so great today, as an adult who wants to be healthy and live life free of the ailments that plague so many.
Because no matter how hard I try, I always want to eat dessert or snacks after dinner. Even when I’m not hungry. The habit is that strong for me.
And for the last few years it’s a bad habit I’ve struggled a lot with. Because I hate it, and yet I still want to do it.
So anytime I decide to have dessert or I cave and eat a ton of sugar, I give myself a hard time about it. Sometimes it’s all I think about all day… you got to stop eating dessert or you’ll end up with diabetes or worse… do you want to be healthy your whole life? or do you want to be like all those people who believe that falling apart and bad health are just part of getting older? … you’re not gonna be able to maintain your body weight much longer if you keep this dessert-eating habit up…
On and on the negativity in my head just streams, like a song playing on repeat. And when I’m giving myself a hard time about something, it makes me feel demotivated and drains my energy.
So I decided to take my question to my mentor, someone who’s overcome some seriously bad habits around food. I asked her, “How do you break a habit that is super engrained in you… like needing to have dessert after dinner. This is one of the worst habits I have and I want to break it but feel like it’s so deeply engrained that it’s damn-near impossible.”
And what she said to me was, “I think you need to stop looking at it like a bad thing and stop giving yourself a hard time about it, and instead reframe it. I enjoy having a treat at night. I wouldn’t want to give up my after-dinner dessert, but I just choose to eat healthy things that I know will make me feel good, like raspberries with almond butter or Greek yogurt with coconut and berries.”
Sounds so obvious when I hear her saying it, and yet my mind never went there. My mind never said to me, “hey, how about instead of eating cookies or chips, you have some berries or chia pudding?” Eating berries and chia pudding as my dessert wouldn’t bother me at all, because I love that stuff and it’s good for you.
So rather than giving myself such a hard time about the “bad” habit, I just needed to reframe it. And this exercise works with anything.
I reframe stuff all the time, until it feels good to me. For example, last night my husband and I went out to dinner and then to this old-school video game pub I recently found (yes–an old-school video game pub!! My novel SoundCheck has come to life!!), and when we were leaving, our car wouldn’t start.
He got frustrated and started worrying about not having the car the next day for what he needed to do and how long we’d have to sit on the side of the road waiting for AAA to show up, etc., and then after I called for roadside assistance the car suddenly started right up. Which is pretty damn annoying and inconvenient.
But rather than see it that way, I reframed it for us… maybe it was Divine Timing. Maybe if the car had started when we first tried it would’ve put us in a bad situation on the road and we avoided it completely by the car not starting.
When you look at it that way, it makes it not feel so bad that we had to sit there and waste time for 20 minutes.
That’s the power of a reframe. It can change your entire mindset and way of thinking and feeling.
And it can help you stop being so hard on yourself.
When you look at the things in your writing life and life in general right now that you don’t like or that you’d consider to be “bad,” you can ask yourself, how can I reframe this? How can I shift my perspective?
Do this exercise right now. Think about something you usually give yourself a hard time about.
Go ahead, I’ll wait.
Now I want you to think of how you can reframe it into a positive perspective.
Do it right now, either in a journal or in your head.
Got your reframe?
Now stick with it. Use it whenever you’re giving yourself a hard time.
And realize that the more things you reframe, the better you’ll feel, which is the whole point. You’re meant to feel good. Feeling good is how you create the positive, uplifting energy you need to bring your dreams to life.
Plus, it feels pretty damn good not to be so hard on yourself all the time about every little thing. If you have bad habits, it’s not because you’re bad, and often these habits are serving you in some way or you’re getting something out of it.
When you’re nicer to yourself and don’t constantly give yourself a hard time about everything, you’ll actually build up your confidence and start to feel good about who you are.
And confidence is what you need if you’re gonna go after your dream writing life with everything you’ve got.
Dream life or bust,