What is a Warm Turkey Approach?

When checking my blog stats, I noticed that one of you fine folks arrived at my site by searching this title question. When I Google it, I see my blog pops up as the second result!  [Fist raised to the sky] But you have to type the whole sentence. If you just search for “warm turkey”, I am lost in a sea of Thanksgiving tips.

 Following results include “warm pheasant approach to smoking” (fine, go with total poultry replacement to make a point), “staying warm while turkey hunting”, and “Turkey’s warm ties with Iran”.

 The first result is 1991 research article by a UNM-Albuquerque psych professor. The freakishly small world thing about this is that I actually met this guy while at UNM, though we never did discuss warm turkey concepts. Now, I’m not gonna pony up $31.50 for 1991 research, but I do believe in signs. I am embracing the phrase and changing my blog title. Stick around, people, I’ve got some pretty big moves…  

 Warm turkey is gentler than cold turkey. I am not a fan of quick fixes. I don’t think they stick. Of course there are exceptions. My grandma quit smoking one day justlikethat. She smoked for 40 years. She’d shrug, “eh…no big deal”. She was a humble little soul.

 Digging further into Google results, I came across another article on pathological gambling. It suggests that treatment programs with a trial period of controlled gambling work better for those who can’t, or refuse to, completely abstain. A similar approach was also effective for smokers and drinkers. Reduce unhealthy behavior before expecting complete abstinence. Some were able to eventually abstain completely when given the chance to ease into it. In the gambling study, nearly all recoveries were achieved in the “absence of abstinence”.

 Many doctors don’t recommend cold turkey approaches. Cutting something out that your body is accustomed to causes you mental and physical stress. You release all sorts of stress hormones, which prompt you to resume the unhealthy behavior you’re trying to quit in the first place. Vicious cycles suck.     

 For those of us not looking for full-on rehab and clinical interventions (yet), why not apply this premise to your state of wellness? Reduce a behavior that makes you feel crappy. Or guilty. Or bloated. Celebrate the small, subtle differences in how you feel instead of focusing on ohmigod I suck I suck I’m STILL doing this. Determine what you can do, and when. Challenge yourself, yes.  But expect improvements to stick only after you’ve actively worked on them for months. And months. Expect setbacks too. [cue the Debbie Downer music]

 Make those New Year’s resolutions. But instead of declaring “This is the year I’m going to lose weight!”, raise your glass and toast, “This year, I’m going to feel better. I’ll slack off somewhere in late February, get back on track when it starts getting warm out, then do pretty well until the holidays. I’m going to make more healthy choices than unhealthy ones, because two steps forward, one step back still puts me ahead, dammit.” And then you’ll probably have to slam your champagne because everyone else will already be on their second glass.  

 Because really, it doesn’t matter that you drank too much champagne that night. It does matter that you partake in some turkey (might I recommend the warm?) the rest of the year.  



7 thoughts on “What is a Warm Turkey Approach?

  1. Bill Miller says:

    I wrote that 1991 article, which is too old for me to have an electronic reprint to send out. It discussed alternatives to “cold turkey” – stopping suddenly and completely. In our moderation training research we found that many people decided to quit after trying moderation, not because they tried and failed, but because they tried and succeeded, yet found it difficult to maintain and asked themselves, “What’s the point in drinking so little?” The core of the article was to start with people where they are, to work on goals they are willing to pursue.

    • aejohnson says:

      Thanks for visiting Bill!! Working now as a health coach, I find myself helping people set these types of moderate goals. I want to see people enjoy the process of getting healthier rather than approach it as a “should” or another chore. Thanks again for your input!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Googling “What is warm turkey?” is exactly how I found my way to you, today! Very funny,also,because I live in Albuquerque!

    I’ve been looking through your blogs and thoughts and posts and I love it here. And you. The way you think and write.

    I’ll be back to read everything and share and receive but for now I just wanted to say hello…

    • aejohnson says:

      Welcome…and thanks for stopping by! I don’t write as much as I should, but try to put heart into it when I do. Say hello to Alb. for me –

  3. Jason says:

    So is Charlie Sheen on the Hot Turkey approach?

    And Bill Miller as your cohort in googledom…small multiverse.

    Lovin the writing Amy – thanks

    • aejohnson says:

      yay! glad you’re here. Bill, sheesh…always gotta be #1. Charlie Sheen is on the flamin’ peacock plan. See Jason, its better to replace the poultry reference altogether.

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