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Come Off Cruise Control: Question Your Habits

by Lisa on April 30, 2012

This is a totally random topic, mostly because I didn’t do anything except work today. I’ll call it:

Don’t Always Rely on Cruise Control

We spend so much of our lives on cruise control. This is mostly good. After all, you’d not want to have to put lots of thought and effort into things like brushing your teeth or driving to work. It’s helpful to make things into habits, so we can do them without thinking. We get ourselves started—we make to do lists, we set our alarms, pack our lunches, schedule time at the gym. But we don’t question many things that are habits. If we really took a moment to ask ourselves, “Why am I doing this right now?” or “Is this the best thing for me to do?” we’d often realize that rather than blazing our own paths, we’re just bustling along with the status quo.

It’s glaringly apparent with things like the way the Standard American eats—-corn subsidies, hydrogenated oils, and processed food, anyone? Why do people eat this stuff? Because it’s there. And it’s normal. And everybody is doing it.

I’ve never really been normal. I’m not even sure what it means, but I had another fabulous conversation with two people today that reminded me of the process I’ve been through to actually be glad I’m not normal. I still struggle sometimes with wondering what people will think if I live a certain way or make certain decisions. I wonder if my choices will make me look vulnerable or like I’m not getting what I want in life (because what I want isn’t normal, but no one knows that). I’m much better about this than I used to be–I never tried to fit in, but I did find myself in situations where I’d ask myself, “What am I doing? Is this fun? This is not fun. How do I get out of here?”

I’m super glad I’m in my 30′s now, and that I have enough of my own personality to have figured out my values and goals, and that I’m not (totally) afraid to just be who I am. At the same time, I continue to uncover things about myself that don’t make sense, and I catch myself just blending in because it’s easier.

I’ve always been guilty of this—I don’t tell people about my accomplishments when they ask. I minimize what I’m doing, and I agree with people in conversation about things I don’t really have an opinion about. I have done things like let people think I was in college when I was working at an Air Force Base Fitness center, just because it was easier (and it didn’t really matter what the old guys working out thought anyway).

My first and best success with being outward about something that makes me different is that I don’t fall in line when it comes to food anymore. That used to always be a barrier for me (and I know it is with my clients). Being bullied, or just tempted, or using social settings as justification for not sticking to my food guns…it happened all the time, and now it doesn’t. I don’t eat grains. I’m not telling you not to, but I don’t. I don’t eat sugar. Or beans. So there. I’m happy about it, and I’m using it to help me be more outward about other things too. Food is my gateway drug to not hiding who I am in other areas too.

I’m wondering…do you do this? Do you hide parts of yourself to other people if those things make you look different? I’m a go-with-the-flow kind of person, and I’m often just agreeable in conversation because I want the other person to feel good about themselves. But I need a balance of voicing how I really feel and am too.

Please comment…and tell me something (or more than one thing!) that makes you different than the status quo.

I’ll start. I was valedictorian of my high school class. I had the highest GPA in my Master’s program, and I read research for fun. But I’ve always secretly believed that I’m not really that smart—I just got so lucky early on to slide through a couple hard  classes at school (proclaimed to be that by my sister and her friends), and somehow the universe keeps making it happen. I also love to go to bed early. I watch Little House on the Prairie (still), and I think I might have been Anne of Green Gables in a past life (even though she’s fictional). I cry at every single episode of Private Practice. And Parenthood. When I was 5 or 6, I told my Mom I never wanted to have kids because there is too much of a chance of dying. She told me that doesn’t happen, but 20 years later, it happened to my sister. I hesitate to bring children into the world because (1) I’d be crazy about the way they eat, and (2) the world seems hard and maybe I should just focus on making lives better of people who are already here. At the same time, I worry that not having kids reflects on my worthiness as a human being, and might mean I’ll end up completely alone when I’m 80. I have to stop myself from always focusing on acquiring the next thing—I want to just be happy about where I am in every moment.

Being honest with myself, and coming off cruise control has really helped me do that.

I’ve quoted this from an article on Self-promotion on Crazy Sexy Life, and I loved this line:

“I’ve got what I’ve got, which is a lot. If that warms your cockles, let’s talk. If not, my engine is running, and I trust that your tribe is waiting for you elsewhere. meep meep.”

What about you? 

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  • http://www.thefitnessdish.com/ Laury

    Wow. Thank you for opening up with us on this post. I really enjoyed reading it, Lisa! I like getting to know you better, and I can resonate with a lot of what you say. I often will let people think certain things because it’s easier. Or agree with things I don’t have much of an opinion on. I do it all the time.  I am too a  go with the flow person, but I tend to hide parts of myself that stand out. My mom always taught me, from a very young age to be a leader, not a follower.   To be myself, and not to be afraid of it. However, my mom was not like that when she was young. She was shy and more afraid of being outspoken, or herself (she’s the opposite now!) I remember she would make elaborate crazy costumes form me and my brother as a kid.  Like do us all up while other kids had those plastic face costumes from Woolworths. I remember feeling out of place in the AMAZING costume she made me one year, and wishing I just had the (tacky) ones like my friends. Growing up, I wanted to be different, my own person,  but at the same time felt self conscious.

    I love how matter of fact you are with your eating, and how much your stick to your lifestyle “Food is my gateway drug to not hiding who I am in other areas too”–love that.

    I am stressing out so much over Ella’s eating. From birth until now I have had complete control. Breast milk is most of her nutrition, and I make 100% of her food. She turns 1 on Friday and now I need to start worrying about putting my foot down with relatives that want to give her crap. About hurting someones feelings when they cook cheap chicken from a factory farm loaded with hormones and I don’t want her eating it. Or Non-organic eggs, sugar, food coloring, etc. It’s really freaking me out. How can I be a great mom…without being THAT mom that “deprives” her child? I know my daughter will be anything BUT with all the yummy home made treats I will make her…but she will be a “kid” and have friends, and be around people who will have her out at the mall and grab her something that is part of their SAD.  I just feel like her diet is so clean, and her digestive tract is so fragile I don’t want anyone to contaminate it…ever! It’s scary. I am not going to be a freak about it, and realize in the future when she goes to birthday parties I am not going to say “no you can’t have that store-bought cake drenched in red, blue and green food coloring, loaded with HFCS and trans fats”- so what do  you do??

    Sorry…I just wrote you a novel. I should be writing a mini paper on endocrine disruptor but I am procrastinating with you on here instead ;-)

  • http://merigoesround.com/ meri

    It can be scary to tell a lot of people about something you are just trying out- I find it helps though. I was afraid to tell people I was trying to be published, but once I told people they would ask me about it and it kept me working and going, instead of hiding from it.

  • http://www.1970kikiproject.wordpress.com/ cathy@1970kikiproject

    thanks for the thought-provoking post, lisa, and also for sharing openly about “your philosophy of life,” to be really deep about today’s discussion!
    i so agree that it takes getting into your 30s to get more comfortable with getting off cruise control and not been afraid to forge your own path…i found that, too.
    how am i different? well, i went thru uni for five years to be a french teacher, taught for 3 years…and then moved on. now i work in retail full-time, i likely make less than half of what i could as a teacher, but i am truly happy with how i spend my working days. if i had stayed on cruise control, i would have stayed teaching because that is what was “expected.”
    for years, i was very concerned with the “what will people think” and i remember desperately wanting to fit in, in high school. as we get older, that naturally becomes less important, i do feel. it’s a confidence thing.
    thanks again for sharing your own examples today!

  • claybaboons

    You so often make me think.  I’m also happy to be in my 30s.  Despite the youth obsession in our culture (or maybe BECAUSE of it), I feel much happier and confident now that I’m not quite so young as I once was.  I find that my life circumstances are making me question who I really am, but I’m not afraid of the question the way I might have been before.

    And now for a completely unrelated question: I know that fresh juice beats pasteurized juice from the grocery store times a million.  But what about frozen fruit from the grocery store?  Is it comparable to fresh fruit in terms of health benefits?

  • claybaboons

    You’re kind of my hero in that way!  I’m still a teacher, but since leaving public school I’m definitely making less than half the salary that I once was.  And i do find myself explaining my choices sometimes.  But it comes down to the fact that teaching in public schools didn’t make me happy.  I was unhappy for eight years.  And for what?  For money?  Because it’s easier to stay where you are rather than make a change?  Anyway, I’m glad this change was forced on me, and I’m so glad that I chose to turn down a public school teaching job and accept the lower-paying one instead.

  • Gina (Candid RD)

    Such a wonderful post. I think everyone needs to read this.  Coming off “cruise control” is not only important for keeping you social and changing things up a bit, but it’s good for your brain!  I am guilty of being on cruise control way too often. Thanks for the reminder to switch things up a bit.

  • Thehealthyapron

    This is so true! I wouldn’t say I’m dishonest about the way I am…I’m a dietitian and I have a healthy living blog for pete’s sake. However, when I’m out and about I DO down play my health values in order not to get caught up in a heated argument about why I should or should not be doing something. Great topic!

  • Heather (Where’s the Beach)

    Great post! I think it’s so easy to fall into cruise control with so many aspects of life. Sometimes it’s ok, but not when you become complacent. 

  • http://thehealthybeehive.com/ Jane

    Interesting post.  I think it is way too easy to be on cruise control, a routine is much easier than changing things up.  Thanks for your honesty and open-ness!  I will say it is very interesting hearing your thoughts on having kids!

  • http://www.DiningAndDishing.com/ Dining Dishing

    Very thoughtful post Lisa! I think that is the problem with many of our behaviors, we just do them because that’s how it seems to be done. I think it’s great that you are so in touch with your own beliefs and are not afraid to stick to your guns. I am a work in progress right now!

  • http://eatdrinkbreathesweat.com/ Jess

    Man, I dig your perspective and your true and utter honesty in all things. Like you, I’ve always had that fear of being “different” or perceived as “weird” for doing things that wasn’t the same as everyone else (“but mom, everyone is doing it!”). I distinctly remember hiding the fact that as a kid, I loved food, all kinds of foods, even the cafeteria food (we weren’t well-off as kids, it was just my mom and the three of us, so we got free meals at school) – so I’d openly pretend I hated what was for school lunch and I’d pick around at it, “only” eating it because I was hungry. Now, I make no apologies about who I am or where I came from. I’m proud of my differeces, and I’m so glad you are too. It’s so good to question habits and routines, making sure our intentions are there, and i’ts not just becaues “everyone else is doing it.” PS. I LOVED Anne of Green Gables as a kid! LOVED!!!

  • http://www.thrive-style.com/ Lisakthrives

    I’m so glad I’m friends with both of you :-)

    Yay for not being in our 20′s anymore!!!!

  • http://thehealthybeehive.com/ Jane

    So I just had to tell you — I was talking to my hubby about the areas I’m struggling in … and he said he thinks a change of pace is what I need right now .. and I thought of your post!  I definitely need to come off cruise control and I think he has some ideas for helping me do that. I get stuck in the “I don’t have time” and “I’m too tired” …. And I had a guy at work ask me for help making some healthier choices in regards to food ..  although if he listens to me will be a different story :)   Thank you for your motivation!!! 

  • http://blissfulbritt.com/ Brittany

    I’ve had to take myself off of cruise control to adapt to a relationship recently. I had to learn that it was time to think about someone else and not just myself..not necessarily related to food, but it was something drastic for me! 

  • Leigh

    How fun is it to go with the flow? I tell people (when ASKED) what I think, why I do what I do, why I eat what I eat. I don’t talk in a “I’m smarter than you” or “I’m right you are wrong” kind of way. As far as kids… check out VHEMT.com (the voluntary human extinction movement) OH I know this is a horrible name for a website, but if you have a sense of humor read about their ‘biology and breeding” and they have seriously great information. OH and keep up the good work, I’m headed to the store to get coconut flour to make your flat bread! I wish you had a section on your site just for your recipes.  

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