Years back, before shifting to full-on paleo-primal eating, I was hooked on having a particular muffin at a particular coffee shop every morning for breakfast on my rush to school.
There were all sorts of tempting baked goods in the case by the counter…but I always got the same thing: my morning muffin.
Now, I’d love to tell you that muffin was To. Die. For.
Sadly, it was not.
Thing is, I only realized that after going grain-free for 30 days as a self-experiment. When those 30 days were up, I was beyond excited to get back to my muffin…only to discover it was dry, tasteless, and made me sleepy and too full.
Turns out, my “favorite muffin” had just been a familiar, comforting, known part of crazy, rushed mornings.
Turns out, my new muffin-free breakfast tasted (and felt) way better.
The Muffin Lesson
These days, I eat full-on paleo-primal and am 100% muffin free.
But the “muffin lesson” taught me to look for other places in life where I get a little too attached to something less than ideal or less than delicious—just because it’s familiar and thus comfortable.
In seeing those places, I try (sometimes successfully, sometimes not) to stretch a bit beyond them.
When working with Alchemist Eating clients, we urge them to do the same—and to ask: What do I want more? Reaching my desired destination…or staying put, in a less than optimal but familiar, comfortable place?
Seems like the answer *should* be easy. In truth, it’s usually not.
Thing is, we sometimes choose misery—or mediocrity—simply because it’s what we know.
It’s familiar…and so comfortable (way, way more comfortable than the beginning parts of change).
What’s wrong with being comfortable?
Absolutely nothing. We even encourage people to find foods and habits that are comforting in a nourishing, health-supporting way.
The problem comes when attachment to comfort is holding you back from experiencing the truly delicious stuff.
Or from implementing changes you really want.
Or from getting where you want to be with eating and health.
Or from living a full—and fulfilling—life.
What’re you holding onto? Is it worth it?
An important part of change is getting really honest about what we’re holding onto “just” because it’s comfortable in its familiarity.
This might be a favorite muffin…or it might be a bag of chips. It might be a well-paying job that bores you to tears…or it might be a relationship empty of true, Heart-felt connection. It might be four hours of television every evening…or it might be insatiable scrolling of social media feeds.
Nothing’s “evil” about any of these, mind you.
But do you love the comfort they bring more than you want change?
Do you really, truly want them more than you want to reach your desired destination—whether with food, health, relationship or anything else that’s somehow lacking?
Whew. I know that’s a bit heavy—and can be overwhelming.
But it’s also part of being human.
And just getting really honest about where you might be choosing familiar over truly delicious is, in itself, surprisingly powerful.
It’s also big work—the sort we guide and support in Alchemist Eating programs.
Sometimes though, even a bite-sized piece can be helpful. That in mind, perhaps give this one a try:
1. Pick a “standby” food you eat daily—something that’s not particularly fabulous…or particularly supportive of where you want to be with eating and health. (Don’t have a food that fits? Pick a “standby” habit instead.)
Tim has eaten the same lunch every day for five years: salami and processed cheese on white bread (extra mayo) with a 20-ounce diet soda and a small bag of BBQ-flavored chips. “Yep. That’s my standby,” he thinks.
2. Next time you eat that food (or engage in that habit), do so as a curious, mindful investigator.
Go slow. Pay close attention. Notice how it tastes, how it feels, how it makes you feel. Notice whether it’s truly delicious. Notice how long (or short) any deliciousness lasts.
Next lunchtime, Tim eats a bit slower than usual, carefully considering how his sandwich, soda and chips actually taste…and how they make him feel.
“Ahh,” he says as he pulls the sandwich from its baggie, opens the soda and chips, and arranges everything in front of his laptop. “It’s as though I finally get a moment of peace after a hectic morning. I don’t have to worry or even think about it. It’s always the same.”
As he starts eating, Tim brings curious attention to what, exactly, his lunch tastes like. “Well, it’s alright,” he thinks. “But, honestly, it’s nothing special. Nothing particularly yummy. Funny how I feel I must have this every day—and for years! I mean, I do like other food…and I do get sleepy and congested after eating bread and processed cheese. But this just feels so comfortable—so comforting.”
3. Once you’ve finished your standby food (or habit), step back, as if watching yourself on a movie screen, and ask: Was it worth it? Or just familiar?
Tim, in asking himself these questions, feels…well, a few things.
On the one hand, he thinks, “This is ridiculous—there’s no harm in sticking with my usual lunch. What’s the big deal? It’s a comforting part of a crazy day. Maybe I’ll consider changing how I eat next week.”
On the other, he thinks, “This is ridiculous—I don’t even like this lunch that much. What’s the big deal? Why don’t I just try eating something that feels healthy—and might even taste better!?”
Now, your experiment may not look anything like Tim’s. But whatever information you gather will be useful.
Because the more often you get curious about what’s really going on when you reach for something familiar, the more clearly you’ll see what, exactly, you’re choosing—and why.
This seeing—this honesty—is the first step in forgoing a sad, tasteless muffin…and choosing something truly spectacular.
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