There was a 6am queue for the McDonalds drive though as I went past, en-route to teach my Friday morning HIIT class. Five or so cars, all awaiting their McMuffin fix. At the same time they were devouring their questionable meat, I was teaching a HIIT class to four people.
I found myself annoyed at McDonalds. Partly because they had more people in attendance than me, but mostly because they have somehow managed to convince the masses that, at 6am, a McDonalds is just what’s needed. Not exercise, a hearty bowl of porridge or a nutritious smoothie, but a fried, grease-laden muffin.
“A vol-au-vent is not a canapé.” Or so the presenters of a radio show informed me one morning this week.
Apparently, if you are unable to eat it in one bite then it cannot be considered a canapé, or a nibble to the less cultured of us. Now I don’t know about you, but Christmas is the only time of year where I find it common form to eat a vol-au-vent, usually as a pre-turkey dinner appetiser. We are creatures of habit who delight in our rituals and, I for one, revel in the Prosecco and vol-au-vent tradition of Christmas morning.
Every year the British marvel at how cold it gets in winter, how dark it is when the clocks go back, or forward, as we can never remember. A confused face and a moments silence ensues whilst we recall the, ‘spring forward, fall back’ rhyme. I get up every morning and return to bed with a cup of tea whilst scrolling to catch up on overnight Instagram and FB news, regardless of whether it will make me late.
I have the same shower routine. Wash hair. Allow conditioner to soak. Wash body and then face. I have had the same thing for breakfast for the past four years; porridge with raisons, seeds, and a dash of coconut, although I did start adding flaked almonds last year and I must say it’s a winning addition.
As a personal trainer, I often find myself informing clients that ‘it takes twenty-eight days to form a habit’. I always cringe when I hear myself sprouting these words, because as true as they might be, they are also annoying. But, like much of what comes out of my mouth, it’s said before I can think too much about it and I suffer people’s glazed-eye nods, as they secretly think about what they’re having for dinner later.
So why do we create habits that we know are not good for us?
We are mostly aware of the ‘should’ and ‘should nots’ of a healthy lifestyle, yet we continue ‘treating’ ourselves to a Friday morning McMuffin.
I have three sachets of (brown) sugar in my coffee and more often than not I succumb to a bar of chocolate with a cuppa and an episode of my favourite trash telly in the evening.
However I get up to exercise first thing, reduce my sugar content or swap my chocolate bar for a satsuma to allow myself a sugar hit in a healthier way. It is consistently a struggle. I appease my conscience by saying that I am ‘mostly healthy and the odd treat isn’t harmful’. Though, in reality, 365 bars of chocolate and 1068 sachets of sugar in a single year is hardly a ‘harm-free occasional treat’.
Breaking The Routine
I read a book recently about the power of habit and how we are unconsciously rewarded by our reoccurring patterns of behaviour. And the more I read, the more it made sense. As a child I used to go to the shop every Saturday afternoon and choose my chocolate bar of choice. I would enjoy it whilst watching Gladiators followed by Blind Date and Casualty. They are fond memories of my childhood, snuggled up in the lounge, open fire blazing, surrounded by family and warmth. And somewhere, deep down in my unconscious, a chocolate bar equates to comfort and safety.
I recently committed to making positive change to my morning routine; I had to drink a bottle of water before I was allowed my cuppa and I had to wait an hour before catching up on social media. It was easy and I welcomed the change.
My body was more hydrated making me less grumpy getting out of bed and I watched the sun rise or read my book whilst enjoying my tea, present and mindful, rather than scrolling through a strangers latest gym workout selfies.
Facebook and Instagram weren’t around when I was a kid. They don’t bring me feelings of comfort or safety. So giving it up was simple. I can proudly be thoroughly hydrated and minimally on social media with ease, but I fear my deep-routed sub conscious shall continue to evoke cherished feelings of Saturday nights as a child whenever chocolate is near.
Make That Change!
So to the early morning McDonalds customers, I am not declaring that your McMuffin fix is wrapping you in the comfort of a loved ones embrace. Most likely you were late for work, McDonalds was open and their million-pound marketing slogan for the latest offer has made it the most logical choice that particular morning. However, perhaps simply being more aware of our habits is something to consider.
We mindlessly proceed through the majority of our days carrying out tasks that are hardwired into our brains. We wake, repeat and sleep. But if, like me, you have stomach cramps and feel slightly nauseous thirty minutes after a McDonalds, it’s time to reconsider our habits. Form new ones that offer just as much reward without the negative physical impact.
So I vow to no longer continue with my nightly chocolate. I shall have a satsuma, two if I must, and resist the temptation of my habit. The memories of my childhood shall remain whether I eat chocolate or not. I will rewire my brain’s computer and form new habits that only serve toward my happiness.
That said, I have decided to continue with my prosecco and vol-au-vent Christmas morning treat. Partly because it allows me to get tipsy in the morning and let’s face it, it’s the only day of the year where you can be drunk that early without judgement. But mostly because I can prove my point that vol-au-vents are indeed a canapé. I want to see just how many one-bite treats I can eat.
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