Last Friday was tough. It was the first time in years I didn’t join the multitude of Americans celebrating National Doughnut Day. While all you guys were getting glazed, sprinkled or frosted, I was driving slowly by Donuts To Go—three times—while my stomach made jingoistic growling sounds.
The conniving side of my brain argued that I had a patriotic duty to stop and get several old-fashioned maple-flavored doughnuts. After all, National Doughnut Day harkens back to World War I when the Salvation Army “lassies” went to the front lines of Europe to bring cheer and, yes, doughnuts, to soldiers in the trenches. Often, the inside of a soldier’s helmet was used to cook doughnuts for the brave men. How could I, in good conscience, drive by Donuts To Go (three times) and not show my support for those courageous infantrymen?
But drive by I did. My heart attack last October has altered personal traditions like secretly devouring two maple bars, or sneaking across town for a caramel milkshake. I’ve always loved unhealthy foods. My mother was proud of saying her secret in the kitchen was to use plenty of butter, sugar and salt. What chance did I have?
People do change in healthy ways, even those of us who grew up with cooks like my mom. Since I have spent over 25 years in the field of behavior change, you’d think all of this would be automatic for me. But it’s not. After seven months with a stent in my heart as a reminder, I still struggle at times. I even partake in the occasional doughnut hole. Or two. Or three.
For me, I need to decide that the payoff for the changes I am attempting to make is more important than what I’ll be losing. For example, by not participating in National Doughnut Day (and forgoing all those other goodies out there) I am deciding that protecting myself from another major health crisis is more important than the instant gratification of devouring all those buttery, sweet and salty foods I desire. Next, I need to convince myself I am capable of making these changes, and put into action the strategies that will assist me in achieving my goal.
It also helps to learn from experts. I read a lot. The book Changing for Good by Jim Prochaska, and other evidence-based resources, have improved my understanding of how I can put change into action. I journal about my progress. I call on help from my physician and friends.
And heck, if I can drive by Donuts To Go last Friday without stopping, you can change just about anything you put your mind to.