Overcoming Addiction: When You Need to Quit a “Good" Habit
“You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”
- Harvey Dent (The Dark Knight)
We’re always told that in order to achieve a particular goal, we need to adopt new habits that drive us toward that goal. So what do you do when a good habit becomes an obstacle in your life? Take the following scenario:
Self-tracking is often heralded as a good way to adopt a new habit like frequent exercise or a new diet. So you write down the exercises you’ve done in a session and the number of reps, or the distance you ran and time taken. You write down what you had for breakfast, lunch, dinner and all your snacks.
You begin seeing results, so you double-down on your commitment—or maybe it’s just me and my Type A personality. Soon enough, other parts of your life begin to suffer, like a lack of focus on your work when you don’t meet your goal for the day. Or you don’t have that extra slice of pizza because it’’s not cheat day and you’ve already taken in your quota of carbs for the day.
These all happened to me. It also happened to this lady.
Commitment, passion, and drive are vital to success in any endeavor, but when it becomes an obsession, an addiction and a compulsion. Things get more than a little out of whack.
Kicking the Habit
There were several occasions when I recognized just how crazily obsessed I had become, and I wondered if I could maintain my new exercise regime if I stopped using my Fitbit. I also wondered if I’d go back to eating loads of junk food if I stopped using MyFitnessPal.
I had the opportunity to answer these questions when my Fitbit broke. I decided to take the chance. If I found that I was slipping up, I could always buy a new one. I went cold turkey on MyFitnessPal as well.
The stunning result was that I maintained and subsequently improved my exercise and eating habits. Fitbit and MyFitnessPal certainly helped me to adopt healthier habits but maintaining those habits became totally intrinsic.
Remember Why You Started
Clawing your way back to a balanced lifestyle requires going back to the drawing board. Remember why you started what you’re doing.
You wanted to be more active and more conscious of your diet. Are you? If so, do you think it’s now so innate in you that you can continue without having to monitor yourself as closely?
When I dialed back on recording my workouts and every aspect of my diet, I found myself more committed than when I tracked myself constantly but for an entirely different reason, yet in a more balanced way.
I found myself largely driven by fear of disappointment if I didn’t reach a daily goal when I tracked myself constantly. Conversely, I felt a greater sense of uplifting if I managed to deliver the same commitment and intensity without someone or something else prompting me to take action. In fact, I found that I was now doing better than when I tracked myself.
I know my situation won’t apply to everyone, so explore the methods that will work best for you to re-establish balance.
Getting It Right
I haven’t entirely given up self-tracking, and I wouldn’t advise anyone else to do that. Like in every aspect of life, there are upsides and downsides, and something must be given in order to get. The important thing is to recognize where to draw the line.
Respect your limits, but don’t be afraid to challenge them.
Be committed, but don’t overcommit.
Love everything and everyone around you, but always love you.