Mental associations are a very powerful thing. They can at times become like a physical reflex.
A song can take you back to high school.
A smell can take you back to childhood.
A certain food can remind you of your family.
A noise can send you running in fear.
There doesn't need to be any special meaning in the words of the song. The smell doesn't need to be a pleasant one. You don't even need to enjoy the taste of the food. And that noise can be a innocent noise we hear every day.
However, because we associate one of these things with a certain memory or feeling it burns that association into our brain. This can be a good thing or a bad thing. The mental association when someone yells "DUCK!" could save you a bonk on the melon. A song can lift your spirits and motivate you. The sound of someone/thing running behind you at night, will put your senses on high alert.
At times this "reflex" or "autopilot" can leave us scratching our heads. Specifically, when you are having a bad day and you turn to that certain food you have been avoiding because it "doesn't fit in your diet". Almost as if you are defying yourself! And what if it is everyday? If your goals are nutrition or body composition oriented, this is a tough one to beat.
When you hit the point in the day where you are done making decisions and you are on autopilot you start to rely more heavily on those associations or reflex's. You go into "I just want something to feel good" mode.
Everyone has been in the position when they know what they should or should not be eating to achieve their goals. We have walked right past the apples and oranges to the Vanilla Caramel Bear tracks ice cream (not that I have ever done that…).
So how do we make these mental associations work for us?
1. Take the time to enjoy the foods that will help you achieve your goals.
2. Don't beat yourself up if you make a decision that negatively affects your goal. If you NEED that certain food, it may not be worth the fight to avoid it. Instead acknowledge it, work it into your plan, end enjoy the heck out of it! See more about that HERE
3. Get your family, friends, and support group on board!