My broken window.

20130506 052504 300x225 My broken window.

Welcome to OAKLAND!

The notion of broken windows has been on my mind lately.

Each time I park my car and walk away—Im  convinced when I return it will either not be there or have a broken window.

More than negative thinking or using law of attraction in the wrong manner—it’s felt like a form of self-protection.

This way, if I return and my vehicle hath been, um, (finger quote) altered (unFQ) it’s neither devastating nor shocking—it simply IS.

As a result it immediately snagged my attention when I saw Gretchen Rubin had posted about broken windows.

I dont typically read her blog—myriad reasons—but I had to see what she was chatting about.

  • Did Gretchen live in OAKtown!?
  • Did we share my fear o’the smashed glass!?

I practically dropped my ipad I clicked over in such a rush.

Not surprisingly, her blog addressed a different twist on the broken window focus—-and yet *still* related back to my Oakland experience and our healthy living journeys.

Rubin discussed Broken Window theory in general–an idea with which Id been unfamiliar and one which makes a *ton* of sense.

Basically the broken window theory of policing is once we as a community begin to accept small crimes as part of life—see photo above—more serious crime tends to escalate.

Ever the wise writerwoman, Rubin then paralleled the theory to her life and shared:

My “broken windows” are the particular signs of disorder that make me feel out of control and overwhelmed

This resonated with me immediately.

All of it.

From the fact Im beginning to feel we Oakland Peeps are too blase about (literal) broken windows to the fact when I read her post I had my OWN broken window sitting next to the computer.


photo 25 300x225 My broken window.

scene of the crime.


Ive joked for years about the fact I OWN MY SHIT TRASHTASTIC CONSUMPTION.

I frequently tweet/facebook/yammer in your InRealLife face how I have one Mommy Merlot (AKA Diet Coke) a day needed or not….and it’s always needed.

I dont drink. I dont smoke. I dont eat fast food. Im 99.9% sugar free. I exercise.  Im completely ok with one trashy drink a day.

My broken window?

My sign of YEP. Things are slip sliiiiding down the healthy living slope to sluggish, less healthyville?

When I reach for that second bottle of the day *and* I open it. 

(I’ll admit I frequently reach.  Im tired. Im weak. I often have moments of Oh this would make me feel better!!! & remember it will notWater, movement or a protein rich snack will perk me up.)

When I open my second bottle is when my window breaks & cascading toward less healthy living begins.

I dont frequently read Gretchen’s blog—but Im so glad I stopped and read that afternoon.

Im a firm believer in awareness and being an informed consumer.  Shifting to framing my second diet coke of the day as a broken window has already stopped me from partaking a few times.

There is something far more powerful about asking myself:

Do you really wanna smash that window?  Is it worth it to trigger the downward cascade?

Than merely thinking:

I probably shouldn’t have a second bottle.


Now you.

  • Whats your broken window? What seemingly small act actually serves to SPARK a downward spiral in your healthy living?


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  1. says

    One of the first times my dad let me use his car (to go shopping), it had a broken window when I got out of the shopping mall!!! There were pieces of glass all over the driver’s seat! Had to call the cops and all. Kind of traumatic for a 16 year old.

    To stay within the car analogies, I would say my philosophy is to never leave the window open for too long. And to never open it at all when the weather is not ideal. You risk too much.

    I did leave a crack in a car window (my dad’s again) overnight one time… it had been a nice sunny day and I forgot to roll it up after. The next morning, well, it had snowed A LOT… the driver’s seat was covered in a good thick layer of white sh***!

    Poor dad, when I think of it…

  2. says

    My car has never had a broken window…come to think of it, I’ve never had to deal with a literal broken window. (hoping I’m not jinxing myself here)

    My figurative broken window is sugar. I love me some sugar. Candy, cake, brownies, ice cream, chocolate (milk or white, I don’t care for dark)…you name it, if it is loaded with sugar, I want it. Always.

    My meals are mostly healthy. In general, I cook from scratch, not boxes and we eat a LOT of fresh veggies, but when the kids go to bed and I want a snack, I head for the Hershey Kisses. A few kisses is about 100 calories. Not bad. But then I want a few more. And a few more. Sigh.

  3. says

    The broken window I’ve been living with for too long now is my snooze button. It’s an obvious sign that I’m not getting enough sleep. And I know my neighborhood has really gone to hell when I go for that afternoon Starbucks.

  4. says

    ohh good metaphor today! No doubt my broken window is david’s food. When i feel good and life is good I can bypass all the cookies and pizza he has in the house, but when I’m stressed i’ll find myself having just one…but one usually leads to 2 and it never makes me actually feel better, it usually makes me feel worse. I’ve noticed it, but haven’t truly stopped to pause and think it through. sigh, I will if you will!

  5. says

    Yes! It applies so much in my life, and i’ve known it for a while. Leaving one thing out on a counter means eventually the whole counter will be piled with crap. Leaving this or that out for “just a minute” means it won’t get put away. Mess is preprogrammed when i let one tiny window break.

    Hope you and Tornado had a great time in the place that rhymes with Schmanaheim, i was thinking of you often over the weekend.

  6. says

    Love the analogy!

    It is a bit of a challenge living in even the “nicest” Oakland neighbohoods–there is always going to be spillover from the more chaotic, hopeless areas where gang warfare and random gunfire is even more of a worry than broken windows. Sadly, that and living right on an earthquake fault were part of why we moved. But there was also so much awesomeness all around that we still miss our old hood! Tradeoffs, sigh.

    Anyway, it’s great the way you’re taking the environmental challenges and used them as a powerful personal growth tool. Now off to replace a few broken panes myself… :)

  7. says

    my broken window is food i don’t usually keep at my house. i don’t keep junk food at my house for a reason so when i’m around it i eat it.. even if it i’m not hungry. argh

  8. Olive says

    I love this idea too, Mizzy.
    I think my broken window is just skipping workouts or moving.
    When I don’t do my active rest days and just sit I find I go weeks without working out.

  9. says

    I hear you! For a long time a had the same issue – Diet Coke. After a sloooow weaning process and the introducing tea into my life that one is gone. Now it’s sleep. I often short chain myself to take advantage of my morning energy despite counseling clients all the time on the importance of 7-8 hours sleep.

  10. says

    My broken window are salt and vinegar chips….I try to say that just a few are fine and then they find their way into my belly more often than I want…or need! I like this analogy perfectly! The more I let some things just slide as “my vice” the more things will come in to join it!!! Thank you as always for amazingly putting it into perspective!!!

  11. says

    We just talked about the Broken Window theory in one of my classes! It always reminds me of how much my environment affects me. We live in a tiny house and clutter builds up easily, and it really affects EVERYTHING – my daily (or not) yoga practice, the food I cook, my mood… I think my broken window is not planning our meals and grocery shopping on the weekend. It really makes a huge difference in so many ways…

  12. says

    I used to eat sweets before I started on my healthy living journey.I know what will happen if I let loose and break thy window into pieces. We are in control. If we lose direction, it’s up to us to find our way back :)

  13. says

    As I’ve read the comments I realize I have a few broken windows:
    The junk food my husband brings into the house. I’m not even tempted by the non-vegan stuff, but sometimes there are corn chips, Oreos, and other things I really don’t even like but in a weak moment…
    My snooze button. I rarely get enough sleep.
    That second glass of wine…

  14. Ida says

    I really like you have a vice, Mizzy.
    I would love to not have ice cream daily, but for me right now a small scoop each day keeps me sane.
    My broken window would be chips.
    When I start those the spiral begins :/

  15. says

    Love this metaphor! You are so wise Miz! My broken window is eating my emotions… I eat when I’m happy, sad, or just bored. I eat when I’m not hungry, and I stuff myself at night for a “nighttime” snack. I know better, but I do it anyway. I need to ask myself what you said “Do you really wanna smash that window? Is it worth it to trigger the downward cascade?”


  16. says

    When I was in med school in Philly, my car was broken into through the small window on the driver’s side. I didn’t replace it for a while, but because the car was checked out now with the easy access, I did leave this sign on the dash :

    “Sorry, low inventory this week!”

    • MIZ says

      I havent fixed mine yet either.
      I think it annoys the husband but I like to think of it as a WARNING!! to other breaker inner people :-)
      someone has been here
      done that
      CARRY ON!
      walk past!

  17. says

    My broken window is more the mental state I get in once I have skipped a planned workout. Skipping the next is easier and the one after that even easier. Sticking to my calendar is what I need to do!

  18. says

    I could not imagine where this was going at first & a great read Carla! Lots of that stuff here too & mine – negative self talk.. such is the I am enough campaign. :) Trying to break the cycle after 55 years. I don’t think it will ever be clear but the goal is for much much less & still feel enough. :)

  19. says

    Mine is sugar. Ok in moderation but spirals out of control when I reach for it more often. I know it too. Great post, Miz!

  20. says

    I’ve studied the broken windows theory quite a bit in grad school and it’s really interesting to think of it in terms of our healthy living journey and life in general. I feel like I have a bunch of different broken windows that have all been rearing their ugly heads lately. It usually involves food but have been noticing that it’s been creeping into my exercise/workout mentality too. Or maybe it’s my body telling me that I need to take a break? I don’t know. Think it could go both ways sometimes when we are constantly push push pushing ourselves.

    • MIZ says

      SEE? I need more of you in my life. How had I made it to 43.75 and NEVER HEARD of broken window theory?!

  21. says

    Such an interesting way to look at it. I’d say for me, it’s the occasional sweet treat. Last night I had a pretzel w/ PB that was dipped in dark chocolate. Let the cascade commence…one led to another, and then to another…my broken window! Feeling guilty today, too.

  22. says

    back in college, I had my car broken into two times in twoo weeks. it was around my birthday, it was in my own driveway, and they became the new owners of some mighty fine camping equipment (I had JUST returned home from camping, went inside to shower – less than one hour later? broken window).


    my broken windows include having a full schedule and just wanting to sit around all day in my yoga pants (this generally happens when I am feeling achey – I want to wrap in a big warm blanket), a cluttered kitchen (the “hub” of activity in our house – easily gets to the out of control level…) and I would say the same about yardwork, but I am smart enough to know I will NOT get that done and hired someone long ago ;)

    I love this post – great analogy – great thinking.

  23. says

    My broken window is surely diet soda. It is my vice that I justify but have to totally do without or else I continue to justify putting more chemicals into my body that I know better to do. Thanks for sharing.

  24. says

    I think you’re SO SO good all of the time that a treat here and there is okay – life’s too short to hold out…completely…it’s all about moderation which you’re a pro at ;)

  25. says

    Oh great post and loaded question! For me it is the occasional slip through the drive through. I have a HUGE weak spot for salty fries. The second I eat one, I’m done for the day. Luckily, I think I recover the next day. ;)

  26. says

    First of all, I find it impressive that diet coke is basically your only vice. For me, it’s pretty much anything involving sugar. I (obviously) love baking, and like the DC, one treat a day is totally fine, but when I start grabbing for an other cookie, or have a cookie I baked, then go out to fro yo…it’s totally a downward spiral!

    • Kara says

      That’s what I thought, too.

      Don’t you drink Miz? Or is that not a vice to you?

  27. says

    Baked goods. I have no ability to put the lid back on the cookie jar. The 2nd, 3rd and 4th cookie consumed? Not even aware of having done it….

    I love the broken window analogy.

  28. says

    Umm….I have more than a few – in fact, I’m like a sunroom with all the windows smashed out!
    Not even gonna list all the food and drinks….
    Every time I hear that saying “you can’t outwork a bad diet” I’m pretty sure it is directed at me.
    Maybe, I should pick 1 (or 2) small windows to fix at a time and go from there.
    Great post – putting it in this type of perspective really shows me what I have allowed to happen!

  29. says

    Amazing post. This is so well written, and I’m really impressed. It’s very true that accepting the little things start letting us make worse decisions. I think for me, to relate it to health and fitness, the broken window is ordering a coffee cake and Starbucks for breakfast. I had stopped myself for a while and slowly started allowing it more and more, and lately it has been happening quite frequently. It then leads me into making other bad decisions throughout the day. It’s something I need to stop accepting as okay and start telling myself I’m not allowed to do because of the other things it allows me to do. Thanks for sharing this. It’s a great theory and thought.

  30. says

    Great analogy! I try not to be so black and white, and hard on myself. Especially during Birthday/Holiday weekends where I could either enjoy the weekend and sweets or beat myself up! This year I really enjoyed it, and now I’m back in the healthy swing and off to Yoga!

  31. says

    1. I agree with you about the social “broken window” theory when it comes to Oakland. And also wonder where the native “hate for the police” comes in to play. The 2 combined makes for a very sad state.

    2. My own personal “broken windows” which have been broken and unfixed for SO long:

    a. allowing myself to not go to the gym.
    b. sugar.
    c. not walking the dogs (now it’s affecting others’ health!)
    d. a cluttered desktop.
    e. not eating.

    I need to become my own personal SafeLight professional and fix this shit!

  32. says

    No downward spirals for me! If I have negativity in my life, it is always FUEL to better myself!!! My stomach ache right now means that I need a change, I need a break from reality… And I need to… uh, yeah! AHHH HA HA HA HA HA!!

    But that’s exactly what I am doing. I am leaving Los Angeles this weekend, coming back and then leaving 10 days later and then when I come back, leaving again for the 4th of July! I haven’t left Los Angeles in 6 months and I am going BONKERS!

  33. says

    What a wonderful and thought provoking post! Mommy merlot? FUNNY! Not funny when your windows really do get broken. (happened to me a few times) I think my broken window is the skipped walks/workouts. Thanks for this post, have a great day Carla.

  34. says

    It’s good that you make healthy choices in other areas of your life. I’ve recently discovered flavored coffees and enjoy them so much I see them as a treat. I try to make sure I balance out my coffee drinks by making healthy choices throughout the day but I totally understand what you are saying how having one vice can lead to another and another.

  35. says

    Wow. it’s taking me a minute to compose my comment bc this post is so real to me. I have been struggling with not loving the way I look recently, but I keep letting myself go out on weekends and eat/wine drink/have fun. I can’t fix the windows I’m breaking Fri-Sat on Mon-Thur. I need to think back when I first let all those treats be okay and duct tape back up that window!

  36. says

    LOVE this analogy. I can think of so many things! Taking benadryl to sleep at night, adding sweet flavorings to my water, chewing GUM all the time…a daily m&m habit. Tons! TOO many broken windows!

  37. says

    I love this. My broken window, and a lot of peoples, is the thought well I already fell of the wagon today so might as well eat whatever want the rest of the day. I always feel bloated and nasty but I let myself do it anyway. It has gotten better lately but I still have cracks, I just need to be more aware of them :)

  38. cpalen says

    I am in training for a half ironman-so my only broken window would be not enough rest between workouts and allowing myself down time, especially after teaching all day. The only broken windows (metaphorically) I want are some that I will jump THROUGH, obtaining my goals (without a scratch).

  39. says

    I haven’t found any downward spirals for the healthy(-ier) living thing, but I do set the bar kind of low. :) My broken windows seem to be financial these days, but I have duct tape which seems to be holding things together for now,

  40. says

    I love the analogy about the broken window. Mine seems to be letting everything pile up on my desk instead of trying to keep things organized and tidy. As a result it’s always a challenge trying to find anything!

  41. says

    I love this post. So convicting. As someone with a history of bulimia, I have broken many a window. I used to do it like it was my job. Breaking windows seems like the good analogy to the beginning of a binge. I’ve been healthy/sober for the past four years. My broken window: looking critically at photos of myself. Criticizing the shape of my hips or the lack of tone in my arms etc. etc. That criticism opens the door (or window I should say) to a flood of negative self-talk and gets me back into that place of loathing my body, that place that drove me to purge. So when I look at photos I have to first be accepting and gracious.

  42. says

    I have read several articles written by Gretchen and she certainly puts a different perspective on things. Just like most people I would have been really angry at getting my window broken but it’s amazing how you can change your perspective quite easily with a change in thought pattern.

  43. says

    Chewing gum lately is my downward spiral! I chew WAY too much of it. Well more then I would like to on a daily basis, but I sometimes take the baby steps to cut back and cut myself off. My sweet tooth can kind of be an animal too…Just saying.

  44. Sarah MomRunningonEmpty says

    I love the broken window analogy. And even more, I love that it made me re-evaluate! I would definitely say that giving up diet coke was far harder than giving up my nightly glass of wine and even harder to maintain. The diet coke just looks harmless… And with zero calories! Chocolate is my other broken window. The effort it takes to say NO to it practically burns more calories than taking a small taste. (My bulls*** excuses even sounds bulls*** to me)

  45. twinshappen says

    My broken window is chai tea. Not the tea bag kind, the yummy powder mixed with dairy and lots of sugar kind. I don’t drink coffee, I gave up Diet Coke (and pretty much all soda except the very occasional root beer)a few years ago, and I try to stick to 1500 calories a day, so I really don’t eat sweets all that much. I allow myself 1-2 cups per day (at 140 calories a cup), and after I had my girls, I allowed myself 2-3, or 4, or sometimes more. Yikes! I have scaled back now, but there are days when I want a third, and there are days when I have the third. Now I have a name for this! This is my broken window, and I will try to make myself stop and think: is it really worth the unhealthiness, going over my calorie budget, and the shame that I will feel?

  46. says

    Loved reading you post.

    My broken window use to be red wine. We had a deep love affair together. But as I got older I’ve fallen out of love. Now I have the rare one night stand.

  47. says

    I think my broken window is chocolate. I always promise myself that I will not crave for these irresistible sweeties but I can’t get it out of my head. It’s totally a downward spiral in my healthy living. When I eat it, I have this mix emotion and in the end, I felt guilty for not making much effort to resist it. Sigh :-(

  48. says

    I think my broken window is “idle hands”; I always have to be doing something. I think for the most part, I’ve gone to eating whatever was around: snacks mostly, but occasionally making a small meal. I’m learning to do other things with my time (write, knock out some pushups, clean, etc). Anything that isn’t consuming. I’ve also replaced a lot of the food in our place with “paleo” foods, so it’s not processed, which has been nice too.

  49. says

    WhaT a profound post. I have so many broken windows and diet coke is very much include. I give it up for months and then get stressed, have one or several and that goes on for weeks. Until I finally quit again.

  50. Sarah says

    I’ve thought about this for a bit and wanted to thank you. I shattered my window today, but at least I’m aware.

  51. says

    Very good post and it really made me stop and think. I have my own broken windows- eating anything out of a bag instead of pouring a serving – it just indicates a free for all! Skipping my morning walk – I feel better when I start the day with exercise and it makes me not want to undo that effort by eating badly. There are more but two is enough to share for now.

  52. says

    Great analogy! My broken window has to be peanut butter or Nutella. You open the jar looking to eat only 1 small spoon full, then next thing you know the jar is half empty :)

    Maybe not that bad, but it’s pretty addicting. The best thing I found to do is simply not to buy these “addicting” foods. Simply leave them out of my cupboard & I won’t be tempted.

  53. says

    You’re reaching for a second bottle because you’re flat-out ADDICTED to aspartame. It’s a highly addictive neuro-toxin and I’ve had clients detox from DRUGS easier than they have aspartame! It can take weeks to get out of your system and months for your brain to recover.

    Sugar-free, gluten-free, organic, etc — none of that will matter if you get cancer from all that daily aspartame. :(

  54. says

    I wrote about my ‘broken window’ in my non-diet blog as when I read Gretchen’s post it was at a time when I felt like things were unravelling a bit.

  55. says

    Wow – that really turned out to be a different post than I was expecting.
    I thought it was going to be the idea of thinking bad things and making them happen. Which is another thing I’m not sure of.
    We all have the need to be tested and having a line we don’t want to cross and having one small bad thing a day is _I believe) a necessary evil. My greatest challenge is keeping it to one thing.

  56. says

    It’s good to reflect once in a while. I think my broken windows are diet coke and ice cream. I’m doing everything I can to avoid these all-time temptations.

  57. Becky says

    I love this post….I know I am several days late in reading this, but I am glad I went back and read it. Thanks for making me figure out my ‘broken windows.’

  58. says

    Reality bites every time. It’s really interesting how little things mirror our life in general. It also reminds me of how much my environment affects me. It can be a battle in our minds when we try to end habits for the better. However, with goals in mind, we can push ourselves to move forward.