For anyone who’s ever tried to change their eating habits, it’s easy to find yourself in a situation that reminds you of snakes and ladders. You make painstaking progress to reach a decent place on the board and then with a single roll of the dice, you suddenly end up right back where you started. Temptation is so difficult to overcome and motivation is so elusive to keep hold of on a long-term basis.
Healthier eating habits revert to the old ways mainly because of stress, boredom and being so close to kitchen cupboards! It’s completely human to resort to comfort eating. Learning something new can be very difficult when you are in survival mode, let alone changing your habits. Let’s take a closer look and understand where you are at right now.
Different Stages of Competency
You start off as being unconsciously incompetent, ie you do not understand your problem or even know that you have one. As you begin to gain the awareness that your choices aren’t benefitting you any more, you reach a state of mind called conscious incompetence. You are conscious that what you are doing may harm your health, but you feel quite powerless to resist it, especially if you don’t know how to go about making those changes you now recognise the need for. You may feel out of control until you find methods to change your behaviour so the tendency is to feel guilt and this in turn creates an emotional reaction and causes you to repeat the very habit you are trying to overcome.
Once you find out how, you are able to take steps to change. You may begin, for example, with a decision to have cake only twice a week instead of every day and to make it a reward for doing something energetic. Be aware of the effects the cake has on your body and how you feel physically if you eat it. You might not have paid much attention to that before, but you are learning and building a realisation at the level that is called conscious competence.
The Cake and the Apple
Conscious competence is when your inner programming and your old habits are still running the show in the background. In the foreground, however, you are gaining the desire and the ability to make more skilful choices. The ‘conscious’ part is the familiar place that drives us automatically and it probably still wants the cake rather than the apple! It is now doing battle with that part of your awareness that reminds us that “eating the cake every day isn’t the wisest choice, particularly as I’m not exercising”. I’m sure you recognise your own self talk!
Your ultimate goal is of course unconscious competence. Here you’ve had so much practice with a skill that it has become second nature and is now performed instinctively.
It’s little steps like this that help you win battles first of all and then the war.
Adapted from the original article by Emma Sims on Motiv8.me.