It’s 3pm on an unseasonably hot Tuesday afternoon, and I’m walking into McDonald’s.
I’m running errands with my love who hasn’t eaten lunch yet. Thus, the impromptu stop at the Golden Arches.
He wanted me to wait in the car while he ordered (so that I wouldn’t be “tempted” – I would later learn).
Maybe he thought I would be tempted because there was a time when a trip to McDonald’s meant that, without question, I would be ordering the following:
- Caramel Frappe (medium, with whipped cream)
- Chocolate Chip Cookies (three warm and gooey ones, please)
I had decided that sitting at a table inside the restaurant, rather than eating out of his lap while on the way to Best Buy, was a much better choice. So minutes later I joined him in line at the front counter.
While standing in line, my gaze landed on the plexiglas cookie stand that sits on every McDonald’s front counter – the very same one that had beckoned to me every time I entered.
(Yes, they planned it that way.)
I had had their cookies periodically but over a year and a half ago I began eating them regularly.
I had decided to not only sign up for monthly yoga classes, but had also taken to stopping by the local McDonald’s on my way to class to place the aforementioned order, and then suck down liquid sugar while eating my dietary Achilles Heel – chocolate chip cookies.
After about the third visit to McD’s, I thought to myself:
Better be careful or this will become a habit.
Throw in thoughts like “just this once” while pulling into a McDonald’s parking lot, and you have the makings of a full blown habit.
Which it DID become.
“Going to yoga” was synonymous with a pre-class regimen of a Caramel Frappe and chocolate chip cookies.
(No. The irony is not lost on me.)
This groove deepened when I moved from Los Angeles to Central California and made weekly trips back and forth for 3 months. Our pit stop (in each direction) was always one of two McDonald’s (depending on when our bladder’s started calling).
While I did order a burger and fries periodically, Caramel Frappes and chocolate chip cookies remained the star players, never missing an appearance.
This was my McDonald’s Habit.
It was Pavlovian.
The Golden Arches signaled that a Caramel Frappe and three chocolate chip cookies would soon be going down the hatch.
So back to Tuesday…
As I stood there in line with my eyes aimlessly moving from the kitchen staff, to the parking lot outside, to noticing the differences in this McDonald’s versus other McDonald’s, to the customers who came and went, my gaze landed on the cookie stand.
I stared at them with absolutely no desire to purchase or eat them.
I felt nothing.
There was no pull. No tug. No pangs at all.
It wasn’t a notion.
It wasn’t a desire.
The fact that I didn’t even notice them for several minutes is miraculous.
They were as neutral to me as the napkin holder and stainless steel countertop.
How did I go from My (former) McDonald’s Habit to a completely blasé response?
Since mid-March of this year, I had been steadily practicing entirely new habits:
- Eliminating sugar and processed foods from my diet (yes, with some deviations for “special occasions”)
- Eating only 3 meals daily
- “Committing my food” by writing down (every evening after dinner) what I will eat the following day
By the time I walked into that McDonald’s on Tuesday, I had been following the above three guidelines for over four months.
Therefore, a new non-Caramel Frappe, non-chocolate chip cookie habit had taken hold.
It felt so significant.
Standing in line at McDonald’s, I was able to lift my head from the day-to-day “grind” of “eating on plan” and receive a welcomed wave of self-appreciation for the beauty of a habit I had forged, choice by choice, moment by moment, over the last four month period.
My work had gifted me with the power of a positive habit that made McDonald’s effortless.
I felt strong. Empowered. And amazed at my progress.
What habit could your Current Self build that your Future Self would thank you for?
It’s worth considering.