“Why can’t I stop my bad habits?”

Rick Gabrielly:

Welcome to THE ROAD AHEAD CAFE. In today’s episode we’re going to talk a little bit about You Asked Us. We had a really great question come across this week.

I’m going to turn it over to Frank van den Horst for his opinion on this and his observations. Frank, tell us what you think about this.

Frank van den Horst:

Well, to be honest, everyone--everyone has some bad habits whether you like it or not. So that’s completely normal. But the funny thing is, do you have a problem with it?

Drinking one glass of bourbon a week is not a problem, but drinking a bottle a day starts to be a problem, then a habit might become a bad habit. Why is it a bad habit?

It’s a bad habit because somehow, some way, it’s rewarding you, but the consequences of that bad habit are quite bad, in this instance for your health. So, you qualify it as bad because it doesn’t work for you, really.

It might be somehow relaxing to have your glass of bourbon, sure it is, and to socialize with people, everything is great. It’s relaxing, true. But too much, you know what happens. In the end, you probably will end up with the Alcoholics Anonymous group and they start to work on your bad habit. So, it’s not fun to have a bad habit, at least this one.

What do you think Peter?

Peter M Fellows:

Yes, so I always look at this from my approach -- to help the Helpers. You know who you are. You’re the people out there who friends always come to for advice.

You meet Marge at the Starbucks for a Mocha Latte or something like that, and she says to you, “Why can’t I stop my bad habit? I wake up at 3:00 am, I can’t sleep, so I go to the refrigerator and I find myself eating something. Why can’t I stop myself from doing this?”

You’ve got to level with her. (First you have to wipe the cream off your upper lip, otherwise she won’t listen to you. You just don’t have the gravitas.) You have to level with her and tell her what’s going on.

“You’re expecting your brain, the one who’s doing this habit (because it works so well for it) to change the habit.”

So, that’s what I’m going to talk about, how you can perhaps overcome that.


Rick Gabrielly:

Good stuff, Peter. Good stuff, Frank.

I think as Frank mentioned, we all developed them. What’s interesting to me is as we get older, you look back and you think about the habits that you had when you were in your 20s and 30s.

If you’re listening or watching today, think about some of the things that you were dealing with, struggling with, how sometimes when we look back, we wish we had that habit instead of today’s habit because they changed so much. We all developed them and I think recognizing and having the awareness of what they are.

I think in my case, most of the time, it was other people either showing me or telling me that I had that habit before I realized it. So, I think that it’s important to try to recognize it yourself. We're hoping that you’re here today listening or watching because you want to try to get that awareness before somebody else tells you about it.

Frank, I know we were talking earlier about some stories behind this. Do you have something you wanted to share more specifically?

Frank van den Horst:

During Covid everything was closed here in the Netherlands. Well, I gained weight. Sports facilities were closed. I could of course take my bike out, but that’s something else than going to the gym, to be honest. So, I gained weight.

A few weeks ago, I badly bruised my ankle. I had to sit in a chair and my feet on a cushion. I sat there and I went through my YouTube videos. I came across a guy called Dr. Berg, someone who lives in Virginia, I guess. He’s from the U.S., and he was telling me about Intermittent Fasting and how to bring your body in Ketosis. I was flipping through it and I said, “Frank, this is it! Just do it!”

So, I decided, at that moment, to stop eating three or more meals a day, have a nice snack, put some cheese in your mouth because you’re hungry at 4:00 pm, I just quit it. I said to myself, going in Ketosis means no carbs, no sugar, no alcohol. Well, if you have that mindset and you go to the supermarket, you look at the back of all those bottles, then you see how much sugar and how much carbs is in your food, that was the first moment of awareness. Changing a habit has to do with awareness: “How do you look? How do I feel? I want to lose my weight!”

I’m six weeks further, I’m now in Ketosis as they say it, and I dropped seven kilos. Just lost body fat. I feel it. I feel better. I feel more balanced, and I changed it!”

I changed it from the moment I said, “I have to drop weight.”

Somebody said, “Hey, Frank, buddy, you’re a nice guy but you have to do something about it.” Just what Rick said. Someone else gave me their feedback. But that is the motivation, is the momentum, is to turn the key, and the simple thing as always is just do it and stick to it.

That’s my story.

Rick Gabrielly:

Alright. Peter, what do you think?

Peter M Fellows:

It’s an excellent story. I think it’s amazing that you have that willpower to be able to stick to that.

When a person is called upon to help their friend, like Marge in the Starbucks, the first thing you always do is just listen. And what you’ll hear is how the brain works.

Marge says at 3:00 in the morning she wakes up, she can’t sleep. So, the brain says, “I have to do something.” The brain doesn’t like to do nothing, it always wants to do something. So, it says, “Ah, I know, I’ll go and get a snack from the fridge.”

That’s victory--getting a snack from the fridge.

“But there’s a lot of work you have to do, to get something healthy. Nah, it’s too much work. I’ll ust get some Chunky Monkey which I got from The Sweetery [a small ice cream and candy shop in Belvidere, IL] online and have a couple scoops of that. It’s really easy, it’s really simple, and just a couple scoops, just for the stomach.”

And it all makes sense and it’s all a victory.

At the same time the brain goes, “But you know, this is going to put it right on my thighs. This is not a good thing.” So, it feels guilty. Loss of points.

Brain is always trying to protect or grow your self-worth. So, it goes, “Ah, loss of points because then I’ll get fat thighs, I don’t want that.” but it says, “But you know what, tomorrow I can have a salad and some water, intermittent fasting, whatever.”

Tomorrow. Procrastination is the best friend of your brain. so it [your brain] feels good about that. “Look, I thought of a plan! I really know what I’m doing, this is really good!”

You have those conflicting feelings, but the brain is rewarded, it’s done something, and you go back to bed.

How do you change that? How do you change that?

Well, what you don’t do is bring out your karate blocks and say, “Oh, you want Chunky Monkey?” Boom!

You don’t bring out your Jiu-jitsu and wrestle your brain down. “Don’t think that! Don’t be thinking that! Just ignore the urge to go and get that delicious ice cream!”

You don’t have to do that, you don’t have to fight.

What we teach in mindfulness is to do nothing.

Nothing at all.

It’s like the Aikido Master. You just simply say, “You want some ice cream? Get some ice cream. But I’m curious...” See the but? You put the little but in there.

“But I’m curious, what happens if you say, “How can I maximize fulfillment here? What can I do to get the maximum fulfillment? I can hvae the Chunky Monkey (which is really great), but how can I maximize fulfillment here?”

And then you tell the brain, “Do nothing but look...” (So, I guess that’s actually something.)

You look, just look at what happens, what comes up.

Well, these thoughts starts to come up and at first, it’s the brain with the usual stories. Interrupt those stories, say, “Yeah, that’s good. What else comes up? What else?”

Pretty soon you’ll get some direction from the non-conscious mind and things will change. All you have to do is just watch what happens. Not change anything, just watch what you feel as you eat the Chunky Monkey. Watch what happens, what thoughts come up, watch what emotions you have.

The incredible thing about this is you’re doing nothing which is the opposite of what you think you have to do. You’re doing nothing but being mindful of what is happening, especially in relation to how you can maximize fulfillment.

You will get that guidance, it comes up automatically. The research shows that mindfulness like this is five times more effective for quitting cigarettes than leading treatments for quitting cigarettes. We know that cigarettes are more addictive and harder to quit as a chemical addiction than cocaine or alcohol and yet it works never-the-less.

So, this is the power of doing nothing and this is what you can give to people just by encouraging them to go with the flow, whatever the brain says, but add that one thing: what happens when you say, “How can we maximize fulfillment here?” What comes up?

I don’t know what’s going to happen , you tell me. But it might be worth trying.

Rick Gabrielly:

That’s good, that good stuff.  I was thinking as you were talking, Peter. At my age right now, I’ll be 59 in a couple weeks. I know you guys are both younger, so when you get to my age you’ll know what I’m talking about. But I think the ‘not doing’ - I’ll just use working out, for example. When I don’t work out, what I used to think I was either lazy or tired or didn’t want to do that or whatever. Now I’m thinking about “Is there a problem or a feeling that’s keeping me from wanting to do that?” So, now I’m much more aware of the thing that is keeping me from doing.

In my case, sometimes the habit is not doing something that I want to do. So, I’m looking at life from that perspective. I remember when I was turning 50, I wanted to give myself the gift of becoming a health coach because I loved to work out, loved to use weights, but I didn’t like to eat right. I was missing the nutrition piece.

So, I went to IIN, which is The Institute for Integrative Nutrition, one of the mantras was, “It’s not what you are eating; it’s what’s eating you.” We talked about that all the time. So, all the health coaches that are hearing this will be jumping up and down, “Oh yeah, that’s our main thing--what’s eating us.”

So, what is this problem or feeling that I may be ignoring or hiding that I’ve got to get to the bottom of. Again, using your method, Frank, or your method, Peter, to try to figure out what’s eating me.

We used to talk about adding something rather than omitting something.

So, if you’re struggling with a bad habit, instead of trying to stop that habit, add something which maybe then doesn’t feel like you’re even quitting. Like you said, Peter, instead of stopping and not eating the ice cream, just go get the ice cream, and then think about that later.

I always like that ‘adding on’ thing where you could add something which might either take you down a new road--in your case, Frank, it created a new habit for you. I like looking at it like that as opposed to depriving because deprivation never really serves us.

Frank, I’ll turn it back over to you. What are your thoughts on what we’ve said?

Frank van den Hurst:

Yeah, I think you’re right. There’s a simple formula for you and it’s called KALM. What do you want to Keep, what do you want to Add, what do you want to do Less, and what do you want to do More?

One of the most dramatic things is if you have a bad habit that you want to change overnight. So, in my example, I could do it because, somehow subconsciously, I was already motivated for quite a long time to change that.

I wanted to change my weight. I wanted to improve my health. So, this was the right momentum, and you could say the Universe provided that momentum because I couldn’t walk that easily. I had a terrible pain in my ankle. So, I had to sit down and reflect. This was a momentum for me to do it. I didn’t want to Keep it.

To Add something, yeah, I want to add more healthier food. I like to have pizza and I love to make pizza but as we all know pizza is a lot of carbs. So, is it healthy? It’s nice, it’s tasteful, it’s joyful, it’s great stuff, but there’s a lot of carbs in it.

So, I found a recipe in which I made a pizza with a cauliflower. That was something great and I experimented with it. But that’s me. I like to experiment and see “Does this work for me?--yes, no, a bit, how can I twist it?” So, I wanted to add something.

And then I wanted to do something Less. I wanted to lose calories. But if you look at Dr. Berg’s videos and not only him, but also others in this profession, he said, “Okay, you don’t look at the carbs, you look at the proteins, the fats and so on.”

I didn’t want to look any more at the calories but I wanted to do a more balanced thing. I added More vegetables, more salads, fish, even some meat, and to make the right balance. Maybe some extra thngs like your vitamins and potassium and that kind of stuff.

This is not nutritional advice. Go and see, please, your medic, but it’s an idea to think about what do you want to Keep, what would you like to Add, what would you like to do Less, and what would you like to do More. Yes, that’s the thing; use KALM to stop a bad habit. That’s the recipe.

Rick Gabrielly:

That’s terrific! What about you, Peter?

Peter M Fellows:

Well, when I’m speaking to the people who are called upon to help other people, we have such resources available to us. People like Frank, like Rick, who are life coaches, who know a lot of ways and techniques and approaches you can use to help you stop your habit.

But the one who always knows what would work best for you, is yourself at a deeper level. In the Mindful Patfhinding model we say, the conscious you is the journeyer. That’s your life, you’re the one taking the journey. The non-conscious part of you, which is aware of what’s going on all around, knows you and what would work best for you, that’s the Pathfinder in this model, and the brain is the pilot. The brain’s at the controls.

Pathfinder, the non-conscious mind is the GPS, always streaming what the best route is, and the pilot is the one who drives the car, “No, I know where we’re going. I’m alright,, I know where I’m going,” who follows the things that you’ve learned, the conditioned thinking you’ve had since your childhood.

That’s one reason why your can’t stop it, because you’re asking him [your brain] to change what he’s doing, and he goes on autopilot. He’s putting on that automatic pilot.

So, it’s two aspects.

Simply being mindful of what you’re doing when you do it, rather than resisting--that in itself tends to self-regulate or self-heal.

But the second thing is from the inner self, you can often get direction that says, “For you, KALM is a very good approach, or for you, intermittent fasting would really help if you look into that. And that’ll be specific to you, from yourself.

So, you always have the answers you need. This is what you can give to the people you’re working with, as (call it a peer coach not a life coach) a peer coach. Say to them, “Hey, you’ve got the answers, let’s just have an opportunity to see those answers.”

That’s what I’d go with, Rick.

Rick Gabrielly:

It’s funny. I was thinking “Can we be more like a cauliflower pizza as individuals?’  A slight variation, same joy, and maybe a better result. How can we take these metaphors, these slight variations? Sometimes it’s just a tiny little tweak, right? One degree. We always use the example in navigation in boats. One degree in a thousand mile journey can take you to a different place on the planet.

So, how can we change that one degree in our own lives, how can we take that challenge or that habit as we’re talking about today. Just change it one degree. How can we use cauliflower instead of dough, so that we can get that different same joy?

I was thinking as Frank was talking, of course I’m hungry, I was thinking about the ingredients on the pizza. Is it the sauce that makes me love the pizza? So, if I put that sauce on cauliflower, I’m going to get a different result.

What is that sauce in your life? What is that piece of the recipe in your life that we can just change slightly, so that we can feel the same about that first bite but then get a better result?

I know, Frank, you are talking about having a better body, Peter talking about having a better mind or a mindset. In my case it’s being able to love yourself more, maybe be able to get in better relationships, whatever. I think that when I look at the problems and challenges that I have, I think about how to get by those things, to have better relationships. Excuse me. So, that’s my thing.

Frank, what do you think? You want to give us some closing remarks?

Frank van den Horst:

Well, there’s a funny word that’s ‘joystick.’ What Peter said in the Pathfinder, find your inner joystick, and the word is joy and stick. What sticks?

Be aware of what is sticky to you. Yeah, that might be a very good habit, a rewarding habit, but also can be a very bad habit with very nasty consequences.

But the main word is joy. Joy is the key word--what gives you really joy and what gives your body joy? When you feel more energized, sleep better, more relaxed, don’t have to buy a bigger size clothing but you can even have a smaller size which fits you better, you look better.

People say, “Hey, Frank, you really change, you look better.“ Don’t we all want that feedback? Well, I can tell you, I like that feedback because it’s honest feedback, not because somebody wants to please me because I feel it and I feel recognized, and that makes me great. First of all, I feel it myself. It’s not because someone else tells me and pleases me, but actually is not telling the truth. That’s the tricky thing. Be aware of that.

Find your inner joystick and play with it in your life, really enjoy it. Thanks

Rick Gabrielly:

Nice. Peter, how about you? Want to close this out?

Peter M Fellows:

Just to say, you always have the answers that you need or the way to get the answers that you need. All you have to do is to relax and ask yourself, “How can I maximize fulfillment here?” and get the direction you need for your life. Thank you, Rick.

Rick Gabrielly:

You’re welcome. Great job guys. I’ll finish by saying we can change. So, if there’s something that’s not working for you, just know that you can change it. We’ve all talked about that a lot in our own lives. As we come together, it’s an important thing for us to try to help you, and get that change to happen.

Join us on the next episode, where we’re going to talk ALL ABOUT. In this case, it’s going to be about using AFFIRMATIONS which feeds right into what we talked about today. We’ll give you some great life hacks to be able to do that.

Thank you for joining us on THE ROAD AHEAD CAFE. We will see you next week.

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“Why can’t I stop my bad habits?”