If I Don’t Start, I Don’t Have a Problem

I love reading books especially the ones that are filled with pockets of wisdom for everyday living.  Today, I’d like to give you a simple and practical tool from Magic Words – 101 Ways to Talk Your Way Through Life’s Challenges.  Thank you to my good friend, Nisha, who recommended this book to me!

(Magic Words #31)

Betcha can’t eat just one: that old potato chip commercial definitely hits a very deep nerve.  Think Ben & Jerry’s, M&M’s, whipped cream, French fries, triple chocolate-chip cookies…even pickles.

Jeri, a newspaper reporter, was working on an important investigative piece on a labor racketeering project.  Since she was on a tight deadline, she found herself getting takeout lunches from the gourmet shop next door to her office.  For the first week she stuck to her usual turkey sandwich or tuna-from-a can with Diet Dr Pepper, but then she spied a row of large round glass self-service containers of nuts and dried fruits behind the deli area.  Knowing she had a weakness for unsalted cashews, she stayed away.  But one day, just as a special treat, she scooped a handful of jumbo nuts into a plastic bag.  The next day she was back, snapping up some more.

A week later, she was eating cashews for afternoon snacks and popping a few on the subway ride home.  Two months passed, and she’d gain seven pounds plus a couple more from overdosing on morning Danish and wolfing down chunks of Taleggio cheese with an evening glass of wine.

We told her about Dr. Stephen Gullo, a well-known weight control expert who would be able to help her quit the cashew habit.  She made an appointment with him for the following week.

Jeri’s problem is a common one.  Many of us, according to Dr. Gullo, have “trigger foods” that activate a “can’t resist” process.  Potato chips are a great example.  Ice cream, bread, cake, and cookies are all culprits, as is almost anything that contains chocolate.  How do you stop the process?  Dr. Gullo prescribes these magic words: If I don’t start, I don’t have a problem.

Jeri wrote them on a piece of paper, which she Scotch-taped to her change purse.  If she surrendered to her urges and loaded up on cashews, when she reached the checkout counter she’d give them back to the cashier.  If she was at a party and a bowl of nuts came into view, Dr. Gullo advised that she move out of range immediately and repeat the magic words to herself.  At the end of three weeks, Jeri had shed half a dozen pounds and was well on her way to zipping up her Levi’s again.

Dr. Gullo’s magic words also work for problems that don’t involve food.  For instance, it’s easy to start complaining in today’s stressful employment climate – the boss is inaccessible, the hours are excruciating, the pay is unfair, blah, blah, blah.  Complaining begets more complaining and inevitably the boss finds out who started the griping, so it’s bad for the complainer – and for general morale.  A lot of people have a tendency to air grievances around the water cooler.  If you’re one of those who sets up a negative situation, do yourself a favor and say “If I don’t start…” and you and your co-workers will steer clear of a common problem.

Nagging is another prime area where “If you don’t start” has a positive effect.  Unfortunately, women have been stereotyped as naggers, though in many cases they nag for a good reason.  Men nag too.  We think it can easily be stopped by changing the magic words slightly, to “If I don’t start, WE don’t have a problem.”

From nachos to nagging, cashews to complaining, the best approach to stopping something you shouldn’t be doing is not starting in the first place.

-Magic Words – 101 Ways to Talk Your Way Through Life’s Challenges
by Howard Kaminsky & Alexandra Penney (pg. 87-89)

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