The Question to Ask Yourself When You Want to Quit

When a craving strikes, ask yourself one simple question (photo by Jodie Johnson)

One of the hardest parts about sticking to a new healthier lifestyle is the dread that comes from thinking about how far you have to go to accomplish your goals. Whenever I have a big task in front of me, I can’t stop myself from getting overwhelmed by all the work I have to do. I think of all I have to do today, tomorrow, next week, next month, next year…and it paralyzes me. Readers of this blog know I tend to procrastinate once in awhile (or more accurately, all of the time). This is a major source of my procrastination. I think it is also a major reason for why people fail at establishing new habits and accomplishing new goals.

The first day of packing your own lunch instead of ordering Thai food, or turning down the mid-morning doughnut, is easy. But on day two, day three? Your mind starts to wander. You start to think about how you’re going to have to pack your lunch every damn day, which means you’re going to have to plan ahead…go shopping…and then you start thinking “should I buy a real-deal lunch bag or use paper bags? Probably buy one, but which one, maybe I should check out Amazon…gosh there are so many choices. This one is highest rated but Prime shipping is only available for the orange color—can I pull off orange?” Then Karen announces there are plenty of muffins available in the break room and you should get in there before the banana nut is gone (why does she always insist on everyone getting a muffin? Does she own stock in the bakery?) How am I going to tell Karen I don’t want a damn muffin every. single. day. Also, when will my intense cravings go away? And when am I going to be able to have muffins again?

Fine Karen, I’ll split one with you.

You’re spiraling. Stop thinking about how hard it’s going to be tomorrow, or next week, or on your family vacation in April. You can’t tell the future. You can’t know what your cravings will be (have they always been persistent and consistent? Probably not); you can’t say how much energy you’ll have to exercise tomorrow. For all you know, you might be stronger and more committed with each passing day. Thinking about the future—and assuming that healthy eating and exercise will always feel as hard as it does now—is where we derive so much suffering when we’re trying to change.

Here’s what you can do instead:

When the feelings of anxiety overcome you, whispering weakness and doubt, stop and ask yourself, “Can I do it right now?”

Can I ride out this craving just for this moment—this hour?

The vast majority of the time, the answer is going to be yes, you can do it now. If you have to crawl through the day minute by minute, hour by hour—asking yourself “Can I do it now?”—do that. Make it through by staying present and committed to the hour in front of you.

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41 thoughts on “The Question to Ask Yourself When You Want to Quit

  1. Alice

    Thanks for that advise, I’m determined not to quit this time (have been trying for 15years!)and I have waves of thoughts that want me to just say forget it and eat what you want.

    Reply
  2. Mandi

    Staying focused on the “now” instead of the future is really good advice. I’ll keep this in mind as I work on regaining my healthy habits. This is passionate and well-written as always, Andie.

    Reply
  3. Susan D'Angelo

    And- thank you so much for that much needed and very timely inspiration. Just a few hours ago, I was thinking about all those things you wrote about-better get started, so far to go, what’s for lunch, what if I am hungry and I am already worried about going out to dinner on Thursday. But after reading your note, for right now I will just focus on tomorrow. Thanks again. Susan

    Reply
  4. sarah

    Life has been so busy and stressful (hello toddler AND tween-ugh) but what took me almost 40 years to learn was that even if I falter and eat my feelings and indulge…tomorrow i can start fresh. I didn’t undo all my hard work…..taking each day at a time.
    Thank you for acknowledging the overwhelming feelings of change and lifestyle adjustments.
    big hugs

    Reply
  5. Hanro

    Hi Andie,

    I love this advice because you can apply this to any area of your life. I feel this when starting an online business. (I’m sure you felt it too when launching your blog). But it’s damn hard to overcome your own mental barriers.

    I always turn to this quote from Bob Proctor: “Go as far as you can see and when you get there, you will see how you can go further.” But easier said than done right?

    Anyway, keep on keeping on!
    Best
    Hanro

    Reply
  6. Meghan I

    As always great and inspiring words Andie. I have been having a really tough time sticking to eating healthy lately and taking each meal, each day one at a time is beginning to help me out.

    Reply
  7. Garcinia

    Quitting can be, depending on the situation, one of the easiest and one of the hardest things to do. Everyone feels like throwing in the towel at times and struggles to decide whether or not that’s the right choice.

    Reply
  8. Elaine

    Andie Mitchell. You always have a way of saying exactly how I feel and think. Seriously, Karen with the muffins?! She’s the worst!

    Your words reminded me of a great quote I heard from Anna Duggar about a year ago (although it wasn’t about food, I think it still applies). She said to just try and do the next right thing for the next 15 minutes. 15 minutes is so managable it’s crazy. I mean thats less than half of an episode of “19 kids and counting”! Trying to do the next right thing (and not eat a donut) for the next 15 minutes is one of my life goals and usually works out well.

    Thanks for continuing to write and being so wonderful!
    XO

    Reply
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  10. SherylJoyce

    I thought I read somewhere that you are writing a new book – a followup to It Was Me All Along. If so, please keep us updated! Another book please!

    Reply
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  12. marti @fitwithheart

    have you ever read The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson? Based on the philosophy “its the little things that are easy to do and also easy NOT to do that add up to the big things” this is something that has always stuck with me!

    Reply
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  14. Donovan Flack

    How are you so creative? I was reading this for ideas about my own weight loss blog, and I was blown away! I think I need more practice at articulating my words because you just showed me how it is done.

    Reply
  15. Casey

    I was sitting on my couch after dinner, too full, and did a google search for best weight loss blogs 2016. I clicked on yours and read this post. It’s so refreshing to read about the mental struggle , to know I’m not alone in the way my thoughts sabatoge me. I’m thankful to have found you ! I feel encouraged and NOT alone. I see now that my biggest battle will be the one in my own mind.

    Reply
  16. Sarah

    I keep thinking that I’ve always give up in the past and what is going to be different this time? But I just can’t stand being in my body anymore and I can’t seem to give myself the love I need to get through this day by day. Like you say, it’s one craving at a time, one workout at a time, one minute on the treadmill at a time, one day of not eating deserts … In the hopes that one day … one day … I will get to my goal. I keep weighing myself and the scale doesn’t go down. It is very discouraging! And everytime I tell myself to stop weighing myself. Just to believe that this time will be the right time and that one day I will have the body that I want, that I will be able to run and bike like everyone else without getting completely out of breath and wanting to quit. One day … I just can’t give up!

    Reply
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  18. Lindsay

    I think this is great advice. I tried to quit smoking for 20 years and I would get through a couple of days and start thinking “I can’t do this for the rest of my life.” It was so much easier to just smoke than to think of NOT smoking for the rest of my life. I would always hear that I should just take it a day at a time, but honestly, I had to take it at 20 minute intervals at a time. I would think, “I’m fine for right now,” and I would worry about the next craving the next time it came. I’m glad you reminded me that I need to remember this when it comes to eating. I always stress out thinking that I’m going to have to go the rest of my life feeling deprived, instead of realizing that one day I probably won’t feel deprived at all.

    Reply

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