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We can commit to making a small change in life, such as not eating sweet snacks between the time you get home from work and dinner time. We can write it down, cross our heart, and announce it to others. We can really, really mean it. But fast forward two days. It is been a hard day at work; you finished a 45 minute commute; you are drained, and you know frozen Snickers bar is waiting in the far inside right corner of the freezer door. It is easy to break your cross-the-heart commitment. Afterall, today is an exception – it was a tough day and, come to think of it, you did not have a very big breakfast. Your plan of the year has just been thwarted by the tyranny of the moment. And the moment – this one exceptional moment – wins almost every time.
Sometimes that inner voice actually whispers to us, “I know I said I’m not going to eat out of vending machines at work, “But today’s different, it’s been a tough day,” or “I know I still have to do my sit-ups today, but it’s late and I’ll do them early tomorrow.” I know I should have had only one glass of wine but this is really a great dinner and a really good wine.”
There is only one thing that is strong enough to defeat the tyranny of the moment.
Experts in behavioral modification say it takes about 28 days – one month – to break an old habit and to replace it with an good one. That is, if you can stop biting your fingernails for only 28 days, the next 28 days will be much, much easier because you will be over-the-hump. You might still get, I suppose, fingernail cravings, but the patterns and the associations that led you to bite-em-off in the past would have been changed.
The same is true with food.
(from the book Mindless Eating, p. 217)