THE BLOG
01/12/2015 06:08 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

How to Handle the 'Fondue Effect'

Ahhh... fondue. What a delicious, fun, gooey metaphor for a mistake we all make in life.

If you've never indulged in fondue, it's basically a meal where you take little bits of solid things and dunk them into various kinds of liquid things. Little bits of bread go into cheese sauce... little bits of meat go into savory sauce... little bits of pastry go into chocolate sauce.

It all sounds innocent enough. After all, how much damage could a bunch of little bits do?

If you find yourself agreeing with this assumption, I ask you this: Why is it that so many people start out their fondue meal looking like this:

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And finish up looking like this:

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It's because of what I call the fondue effect.

I learned this lesson the hard way, after more than one post-fondue, bloated, uncomfortable night's sleep.

The problem has to with those seemingly innocent but quite deceptive little bits. Those bits lure us in throughout the meal, even as we grow fuller and fuller. They call to us as we look at another dripping morsel. Then another.

Don't worry, they say, it's just one more little bit. It won't make a difference.

And so we indulge. And we indulge again.

And we realize, too late, that those little bits quickly add up...and become a big problem.

We experience the fondue effect all the time:

  • We work an extra 20 minutes at the office, telling ourselves it won't make a difference because, really, it's just a little bit of time. Then we do it again. And again. And soon we find we know nothing about how our kid is doing in school.
  • We go out to lunch with friends at the office, telling ourselves it won't make a difference because, really, it's not that expensive. And then we do it again. And again. And then our monthly credit card statement goes up $250.
  • We talk negatively about our bad hair day or our recent screw-up to others, telling ourselves it won't make any difference because, really, it's all just good fun. And then we do it again. And again. And then we find we feel pretty crappy about ourselves all of the time.

The fondue effect can wreak havoc on our relationships... on our health... on our savings accounts. And it's all due to those little bits.

Now, to be fair, engaging in something that isn't good for us every now and again isn't an issue. And sometimes the fondue effect can actually work in our favor -- where we add something positive into our lives a little at a time and get great results.

But.

It's important to know the other, darker side of the story... how we can convince ourselves to indulge in something that's not good for us by telling ourselves that it's small or a one-time thing. And then we tell ourselves the same story over and over, indulging again and again.

The good news is that counteracting the fondue effect is possible. Behold, a few strategies...

  • First, face the truth about whatever you're doing that isn't great for you. Know that little bits add up in the blink of an eye.
  • Have a game plan ahead of time. Know what you'll tell yourself and what potential consequences you'll envision to keep yourself from over-indulging.
  • And when those consequences happen every now and then, do not beat yourself up. Simply know that the fondue effect has gotten the best of you for the moment, and that now is the perfect time to put an end to it.

Yes, life is for the living. And fondue can be awesome when the time is right. The trick is just remembering how those little bits can add up... and knowing how to keep them from doing so.

And, sometimes, it's about knowing when you need to just skip the bits altogether... and go for a bigger, better option.

Just so you know exactly what you're getting into.

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This week...

Understand the fondue effect. Know how those little bits can add up to big problems in your life. Stop convincing yourselves that they don't make a difference.

And know that, for the most part, your life will be better without them.
photo credit: Jiuck via photopin cc