Has someone finally convinced you that you should live a healthier life? Well, if you've opened an article with that title, it's probably the most interesting thing for you, isn't it?
I'm guessing that you have already found various tips on how to do this on the wide web or in the pages of a healthy lifestyle magazine. And when you found it, you made a plan...
If you've followed the usual tips well, your plan looks like this:
- Stop eating (or eat less) meat in your life,
- AND no more snacking at night,
- AND drink 7 glasses of water a day,
- AND meditate for 30 minutes every morning,
- AND run fifteen laps around the house every day...
“Ah... My plan is similar. And you find problems here?!'
Problem: such a plan will NOT work. Just not because these goals are bad. 1
It's like New Year's resolutions: you make it through the first week, accidentally eat a hamburger at the beginning of the second week, accidentally forget to drink water at the end, and by the third week you can't even *insert lame excuse* run anymore.
As a result: it will be good if you have made at least some progress after a month. It's more likely that he won't either, and you'll go back to what you were doing before.
So what to do then? Not living healthy?
Well, I'm not saying that it's better to do nothing at all. 2 I'm just saying that if you really want to change your life, you're doing it wrong.
Let me tell you about one of my heroes - Leo Babauta. In just a few years, this father of six lost more than 30 kg of excess weight, quit smoking, got rid of debt, went vegan, ran mountain ultramarathons and turned his blog into one of the most read in the world...
How did he do it?
- Well, it's simple - he moved towards each new change in small, small steps.
- And took advantage Architectures of choice a technique I'll talk about in a moment.
So what is the easy and sure way to start a healthier life?
If you read the introduction to this text (and you did, didn't you?), you should already understand where I'm going - if you want to successfully change your eating habits, start small steps.
"Small changes do not cause great difficulties for people." - Brian Wansink, Cornell University researcher
Which steps are best for you depends on what you are aiming for. Want to drink more water? Start with half a glass a day. Want to eat less meat? Make one meal every day without it. And so on.
If you've never had a problem with eating more greens (or whatever you consider healthy), you won't have a problem with these simple challenges...
But what if fruits and vegetables make you panic? Or laziness or stubborn family members prevent you from adding greens to the food you are preparing? Or if you want to give up potato chips, cookies and other junk food all at the same time?
You can do as Leo Babauta did (or other healthy people) - replace those snacks you chew at work, in front of the TV, while browsing Facebook or reading this article with healthier alternatives.
...And so, step by step, teach yourself that healthy food is not such a scary and unattainable thing.
Because admit it - you will hardly give up snacks. Prolonged work, days when you didn't have time to eat breakfast, flights in the middle of the night, or unexpected football (or basketball) championships - all this leads to limits where the desire to sleep is lost. And if you're already snacking, it's better to do it in a healthy way.
How to replace unhealthy snacks with healthy ones?
In order to replace snacks with healthier alternatives, two questions arise:
- What to replace potato chips, chocolates, chocolate muffins, beer or ice cream?
- And how to make me eat new snacks and not look for the old ones?
Let's try to answer it.
1) What to replace unhealthy snacks with?
Here are some ideas for replacing not-so-healthy snacks:
- Chocolate cookies -> Oat, rice and similar cookies
- Muffins with unclear toppings -> Various fruits
- Potato chips -> Popcorn (just avoid the butter)
- Ice cream -> Frozen yogurt
- Sweets -> Frozen grapes (also suitable instead of ice cream!)
- Fried bread or french fries -> Roasted zucchini
- Cheap chocolates -> High cocoa chocolates
- Buns -> Carrot sticks
...And loads of other options with smoothies, nuts, dried apples and so on. Of course, I can't list everything - I'm just giving sample ideas.
Instead, one extremely detailed and high-quality article about diets and their components was written by Agnius from Debesy: "5 Simple Steps to Lose Weight Fast".
The most important thing is that the new snack should be tasty for you. Because if you don't hate the taste of pears (or they start a hurricane in your stomach), you won't be eating them for long.
What exactly to choose is up to you. And believe me, the alternatives I listed are only a small part of the options. When you visit your nearest store, you will find hundreds of varieties of fruits and vegetables that you may not even have heard of, let alone tasted. So, I don't recommend sticking to apples and oranges alone. 😉
If eating fruits and vegetables is unusual for you, you can set yourself a simple challenge - eat at least one fruit (or a handful of small ones) every day. You can try different snacks every day until you find your favorite. If you're really lucky, you'll be able to increase the limit to a staggering two units per day. Or more. 3
2) How do I make sure I eat healthy snacks and not look for unhealthy ones?
Anne Thorndike, a researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital, graduated in 2012 six months of research. Their effect - thousands of people started to eat healthier... Although they didn't put a single bit of effort and effort into it; without prompting at all.
Thorndike suggested changing the environment and food layout of the hospital's canteen - refilling the sweet drink vending machines with water bottles, as well as adding additional refrigerators full of water.
Here's what the cafeteria looked like before and after the changes:
...And all this had an effect. Quite impressive, to be honest - during the next 3 months, sugary drinks were sold 11.4% less, and water - 25.8% more. Similar changes occurred after changing food choices to less meat and more vegetables.
The most interesting thing is that all this happened, although no one told the visitors about the changes, did not show them, and did not even stick posters saying "Eat healthy - live long" on the walls.
It is common to think that getting into a habit requires a lot of strength, patience and motivation. But this is not necessary if you can change the environment in such a way that it is easiest to stick to the new habit.
It is played Choice architecture.
And you can apply it in your life. I also tried the choice architecture adaptation two months ago, while eating healthier food. Here's how I fared...
The Architecture of Choices and My Healthier Food Challenge!
My challenge hypothesis was this: if a bowl of fruit is placed at my desk, where I spend most of my time, I will eat it. Instead of going all over the house to the kitchen for cookies.
If you want to try the Architecture of Choices, you should also choose a place that you can see at least most of the day. Or put healthy food where you can definitely see it - for example, wrap it in transparent film in the refrigerator, and unhealthy food in opaque.
Simply put - healthy food should look better.
I set the challenge for two weeks, during which the bowl of apples was placed in different places in the room. Here's a diagram where I marked the bowl locations and the angles between the light sources after drawing the plan of my study:
It's a shame I didn't get around to testing all the locations more reliably over the course of two weeks (that is, keeping the bowl for more than three days at a time), but here's what happened when I kept it in each of these locations:
- Not bad. Although the bowl was standing between the light source and the computer screen, it did not distract. Three apples in three days.
- Worse. In fact, I almost didn't notice the bowl on the far edge of the table. One apple eaten in two days.
- No no no. When placed on a lower table by the table, I saw the bowl only when entering the room and before going to bed. Not a single apple.
- It's also not good - I ate one apple after putting the treat in the drawer. However, it is probably worth appreciating that this happened simply because of the unusualness of the place.
- Quite tolerable - I ate three apples in two days while standing on a prominent corner of the table. It's true that productivity has decreased, because I usually hate it when something gets put in there.
- Nothing good again. Here the bowl was placed on an open shelf at the edge of the table. I didn't see anything, I didn't eat anything.
- Well, it gets better. It was placed on the edge of a closet shelf. You could see him entering and leaving the room. It would not be a bad place if I had a job where I would have to walk more often. Two apples in two days.
- Dream on, Daniel. Finally, I tried keeping the bowl where it usually is, in the kitchen. Not one apple, two servings of ice cream and three cookies. All are taken after walking away with an apple, but forgetting about it on the way. 🙁
...The conclusion is simple - the better the bowl was visible, the more apples I ate or at least wanted to eat them.
Of course, my research was not the most accurate in the world and I do not pretend to be a CERN scientist - I only held the bowl of fruit for a short time, moved it from one place to another myself, and what to mention that... Well, I didn't want apples at all...
...This was a bit of a disappointing mistake on my part, as I ate as many walnuts in the kitchen as usual. I guess if I had loaded the bowl with something tastier than boring apples, 5 i would have eaten more of them.
But regardless, the challenge confirmed what I had hoped for - I ate more fruit than I would have eaten before. By making even such a small change in the environment, achieving the goal became infinitely easier.
Solution: Small steps method + Choice architecture
It is foolish to think that by making five changes at once, you will achieve them all. As silly as it is to think that starting a healthier life is difficult...
In fact, if you know how to do it, it becomes insanely easy. You just need to use it Small steps method and Architectures of choice principle. Simple. 🙂
And I have a request for you: If you think this article was worth paying attention to, share it with your friends and acquaintances who not only want to change their habits, but also want to do it easier than those around them. I believe you will do them a favor.
And if you have any comments, suggestions or questions related to this article - I'm waiting for them in the comments below!