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Victorious Over Your Vices in 4 Steps

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It’s week 2 of our Nutrition Challenge, and this week’s “wild card” points each day are given for giving up your vice. What’s cool about this spot is that it’s unique to each person. Everyone gets to choose their own vice. They get to choose the one thing that they have almost every day, and if they gave it up, it would be the one thing that could move them closer to their goals.

Some common examples: chocolate, ice cream, or desserts. Wine, beer, and alcohol. Sodas or sugary coffee drinks. Kid’s snacks or packaged foods like chips. Vices can also vary but come at a consistent time each day, i.e. after-dinner snacks or midday treats.

Here are 4 Ways to Be Victorious Over Your Vice (and get 3 points each day you are successful in our challenge).

STEP #1: Bring Awareness to Your Vice
Ever catch yourself handfuls or scoopfuls deep into your vice, without even realizing what you’re doing? Sometimes we fall into such a habit consuming our vice that we’re not even sure why we crave it, but we do. And now that we crave it, it’s tough to give up.

The first step is recognizing the cues that create the craving for the vice.

I developed a really bad habit of eating chocolate immediately after I finished dinner. I say it was a bad habit because it didn’t matter how full I was, I mindlessly walked over to the pantry and snapped off a chunk of a chocolate bar. I could have been uncomfortably stuffed from a gigantic dinner and I’d still go for the chocolate.

I recognized that the cue of finishing dinner and cleaning up the kitchen always gave me this craving and anticipation of receiving chocolate.

So instead of cursing chocolate and swearing it off altogether. I attacked the cue head-on, the ritual of finishing dinner and cleaning the kitchen.

Since that first 10 minutes after dinner finished was my cue to eat chocolate, I made a rule to myself that I wouldn’t eat anything, chocolate or otherwise, for a set 15 minutes after dinner finished. Each time dinner finished, I would set a timer for 15 minutes. I was only allowed to consume water in that time. If I still wanted chocolate after the 15 minutes were up, I would allow myself to have it.

The times I skipped chocolate became much more frequent than the times I ate it. The more I skipped it, the more I realized I didn’t really need it.

Recognize the cues and routines around your vice. Don’t find ways to limit the vice, find ways to alter the routine by turning down the volume on or eliminating the cues altogether.

STEP #2: Create Friction Between Your Vice and You

Once we see our vice coming at us (awareness), we can begin to build friction between our vice and us. It’s our goal here to build self-imposed obstacles that make it harder to consume our vice.

The easiest solution is not buying said vice so it’s not in your house or hands to consume. One of the best ways to NOT buy your vice is to realize how much it’s costing you to buy it. Let’s say you buy a sugary $6 coffee each weekday, or pound three $10 bottles of wine each week. That’s $1,560 a year you spend on that one vice.

Another way we can create friction between our vice and us is to change the way we store a vice in our home. Just the act of moving all beer to an outside fridge takes away the daily cue of wanting beer from seeing beer. Displaying wine could have the same effect. Hide your vices so you don’t see them every day. Even if you don’t think they are affecting you, they are.

Grocery stores purposely put the most popular items at eye level. They know they will be the things most commonly reached for. Hide your vices in the back of your pantry or fridge, or store in a lower cabinet that is slightly harder to enter.

STEP #3: Substitute with a Healthier Alternative

The thing with having that beer or glass of wine after that long day of hard work is that it’s never about the booze. It’s about the ritual. It’s about reaching into the fridge and grabbing your Budweiser like it’s a golden trophy. Or pulling out your favorite wine glass and hearing the celebratory pop of the cork displacing itself from your bottle. (Maybe if you are drinking boxed wine from 7-11 through a straw it could be about the booze and you should probably seek professional help.)

I use to have ice cream every night of the week. I know, how can I write advice on habits while I’m spoon deep in Halo Top? Well my habits have changed fortunately and I have a new healthy nightly ritual.

With ice cream, it’s a little bit about that sugar rush and dopamine response, but it’s more so about what it signifies. It’s a ritual that tells me I did a damn good job at daddying today. I tuck my son in, my wife tucks our daughter in, we high five because it goes smoothly every night (sarcasm)… But we feel like we deserve some sugar and/or alcohol once we finally get an adult moment to ourselves at 8pm at night.

The moment I knew something had to change came when I read an entire story to my son, and all I was thinking about was ice cream. I had recited the story from memory without being in the present moment with my son.

Telling myself to not think about ice cream in the nights that followed only made me want it more. Or if I got through one night without it, I just had a serving twice the size the next night. I tried having a little bit while the kids were still up hoping that I would have satisfied my future craving. That failed miserably as well. It felt too gratifying to open the freezer after they were in bed. Cue. Routine. Reward. I could not break the cycle.

So what changed? The routine didn’t necessarily change, just the inputs into that routine.

Instead of reaching for ice cream, my new habit was to have a cup of tea, bone broth, or protein in hot water every night. The protein is the bone broth brand we sell at the gym but comes in chocolate, apple cinnamon, and banana, and all these in hot water are amazing! You can experiment with adding grass-fed butter or stevia to it too. It takes less than two minutes to make. I make life easier too by having a plugin carafe that boils water in under 60 seconds, and a small stick blender to mix the powder.

It’s not enough to say no ice cream every night. To my body that’s like saying, you’re going to have no reward for a hard day’s work. My body will not let that fly. But if I’m recognizing the end of my day with a healthier option each night, my body will learn to love that new celebration and feel better because of it.

Give substitution a try before going the route of subtraction.

STEP #4: Flip the Script

What if you did something completely different in place of your vice? Where you would normally do something that set you back from reaching your goals, you decide to do something that moves you towards your goals.

Let’s say you have a goal of getting your first push-up. So at the time you usually have your vice, you instead knock out 3 sets of ten push-ups from your knees. You get a rush of endorphins from making yourself work a little and forget your vice was even a thing.

I mentioned my 15-minute “timeout” I set for myself away from chocolate after dinner. What really helps that time disappear is taking a walk with my family around the neighborhood. Or I grab my foam roller and roll out or stretch. This could also be a great time you choose to do a salt bath or do some meditation exercises. These are all +1 points into your self-care category for our challenge too!

Your body will begin to thank you as you consistently make these choices that align with your goals versus the vices that hold you back.

The last thing I want you to think about is the story you keep with your vices. If the story goes, “I’m giving up this thing for a week but I can’t wait to have it next Monday because I need it in my life,” this book isn’t going to end well.

Start opening your mind to ways to live without your vice. Question whether your vice has your best interest in mind. Picture your life without your vice and all the great benefits that could come of it.

~Tony Frezza