Do we have a reset button?

For the past month, I’ve been in Sydney, Australia, working with other researchers on a qualitative social science project to understand the experiences of people on very low-energy diets (also called very low-calorie diets).  I’ll be posting in more detail about the study and our results later on, but for now, I’d like to solicit feedback from you, the readers about a topic that came up in the interviews with the participants.

Some of them talked about how going on this diet “hit the reset button” for them with respect to their eating habits.  That is, they reported having the experience of going through a period of severe restriction, and emerging from it able to rethink their eating preferences and patterns in a new way, less encumbered by the habits of their eating past.

Let me say now that I’m not advocating for any particular diet here, very-low-calorie or otherwise.  I’m not saying that this diet actually does what the participants report.

But:  the idea that we could have a “reset button” that can get pushed when we want to clear out old habits (whatever they might be) and start afresh is mighty appealing.

I’ve experienced something like this recently.  In May, I attended a workshop on mindfulness and eating at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in western Massachusetts.  I blogged about it here.  The experience of being away from my home,  from access to my usual foods and behavior patterns around them, was intense and interesting.  One goal I had was to get rid myself of my Diet Coke and artificially-sweetened beverage habit (that has come and gone over many years).  After spending five days not drinking Diet Coke, I came home, feeling ready to tackle that change.  And I did.  And I don’t drink Diet Coke or use artificial sweeteners.  It has not always been easy; I have occasionally craved it, and twice I’ve had a can (for absolute emergency caffeine intake :-).  But I felt like my enforced no-diet-coke period helped me get some perspective and figure out how to substitute other beverages.  In my case, I had delicious iced teas.  I make my own now.  It looks like this:



Of course we’ve all made resolutions for behavior change.  Some of them stick for a while.  Some of them don’t.  Some of them may stick forever.  And they happen for a lot of reasons and under a bunch of different conditions.

It really felt to me like I had somehow found a “reset button” for my beverage habit in May.  And when I’m confronted with beverage options, it feels like that “reset” experience and the way I think about it helps me move in the direction of my newer habits.  But these intuitions are tricky and not always reliable.

I’ll be thinking and writing more about this issue, but for now, I can use some help from you.  Have you had any of these sorts of “reset” experiences?  What were they like? What do you think about them now?  Did they work for you?  I’d love to hear any of your stories.

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