McDonald’s and I have had an interesting relationship over the years. I love McDonald’s and have had a tendency to lose self-control around it. At first it was infrequent during late-night study sessions with friends, entirely on impulse. Then it stopped being so infrequent.
I moved to Montreal after I graduated University and found myself in a new (big) city with few friends. My evenings after work were spent alone in those first few months. I didn’t have a lot of energy to meet new people at the end of a long day. So I watched Big Bang Theory instead. During this time, I had moved right across the street from a McDonald’s. The mouth-watering scent of salty fries were carried on in the warm September breeze across the street and into my bedroom window.
I was doomed.
It didn’t take long for me to realize I could get a Jr. Chicken Meal for under $5. Sure, a peanut butter sandwich cost me roughly $0.50 but it wasn’t as satisfying as those fries, that Coke, and that slightly-spiced chicken.
I started going weekly. Then I started going when I was lonely. It was probably the second time I went under those conditions that I knew what was happening. I would sense my loneliness (which would usually arrive around dinner time) and then I would think, “McDonald’s is comforting, it reminds me of happy times as a family.” I ate it for comfort.
I knew exactly what I was doing and I knew it was physically and emotionally unhealthy. We aren’t meant to cope with loneliness through food.
Then, I started going three times a week. I tried to have self-control but any time I was hungry there was a McDonald’s right there to greet me. “Look! I’m so cheap! I’m full of fat and salt and your brain is wired to love me!” I didn’t resist because I didn’t want to. I was being comforted.
After a few months of this, through the encouragement of friends I cut out McDonald’s for a whole month. It took all the will-power I could muster coupled with the support of friends and even acquaintances on Facebook and Twitter.
Fast-forward a year and a half. The above photo is of me. I got engaged and my McDonald’s was replaced by a real man. Don’t worry, I fully understand the awkward truth of that statement.
So what happened with McDonald’s? I discovered a wheat intolerance so McDonald’s is more or less out of the picture. And my husband? At first all the lonely feelings were gone, but once our honeymoon stage was over and it was the dead of winter those feelings of loneliness returned that I had while addicted to McDonalds even if much less intense than before.
As you can see, my behaviour has changed but I haven’t entirely. The presence of my husband in my life has replaced my attachment to McDonalds. But for everything my husband is to me and as much as I love him, I am still someone who has lonely moments and someone who desires comfort.
I’ve been thinking about how people change lately. More specifically about the difference between changing our behaviour and changing all-together (see my conclusions here).
For you, McDonalds may not be a coping mechanism but we all have some coping mechanism we turn to when under stress which can actually control our lives.
I want to hear your thoughts: How do we change habits that seem unbreakable?