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August 26, 2013

Lisa Madras: Bad habits don’t define you, but they do help explain you

NEW CASTLE — What bad habits do you want to break?

Oh, dear me! Where do I even start? I think my bad habits have become so prevalent in my life that I don't even see them as habits anymore — they're just my life.

Of course, we all have at least one habit that takes center stage in our lives, usually because it's the most destructive to the quality of our lives.  And while I have more bad habits than I'd care to admit even to myself, my number one player has to be my love affair with food.

Food, glorious food! I wake up in the morning wondering what I'm going to eat first, and go to bed at night already anticipating the next day's bounty. Yeah, I'm afraid it's a little more of an obsession than a bad habit.

What makes it worse is that I'm a fairly well-educated person. I know pretty much everything there is to know about food and nutrition and what you should and shouldn't be eating. But I have to tell you — there just isn't one factoid about obesity or diabetes or cancer that can keep me from making a tomato and mayonnaise sandwich when my tummy says "feed me!"

It verges on pathetic, really.

Trust me when I say I know all there is to know about shame. The mustard stains on my jammies tell the story even better than I can.

Maybe your bad habit is nail-biting, or smoking, or texting while driving. Maybe it's taking your bad day out on your kids, or watching too much TV, or cheating on your spouse, or constantly feeling sorry for yourself. Our demons wear many masks, and they're very good at helping us hide the truth from ourselves.

I know that I overeat to fill a hole inside myself. I've figured out that much. Now comes even more questions. Why do you have that bad habit?  When did it start? Where did it come from? Most important, what issue do you need to address to make it stop?

Our bad habits aren't WHO we are, even though it may seem that way to us and to the outside world. They're merely a symptom of something that's wrong inside ourselves.

So the question, "What bad habits do you want to break?" turns out to be much less important than the question, "What inside of you needs to be fixed?"

Find the answer to the second, and you've found the cure for the first.


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