Don’t let a bad day become a lifestyle – James Clear
Habits are the foundation of our lives. And building healthy habits is absolutely essential to win at this game that we call life. When I am working with clients I look at their daily routines and food diaries, studying carefully for where tweaks and upgrades can be made. But choosing healthy food options when we are living in what is fundamentally a toxic food environment can be hard. What can we do?
Firstly, we need to make our new or improved habit obvious. For example, do you keep forgetting to take your whole-food supplements? Keep them out on the countertop in the kitchen so that you look at them every time you reach for the kettle, for example. Likewise, do you have a blender or a juicer sitting at the back of a cupboard? Get it out on the countertop so that you are constantly reminded to use it. Likewise, if you have a habit that you need to drop, or that you feel no longer serves you, you will more rapidly eliminate it if you make it invisible.
We then need to make the good habit attractive. For example, tie it to a reward. “If I go for a 10 minute run after work (start small if you have never been running before), I will then go home and prepare my healthy evening meal”. This is where changing your peer group can be helpful. Tie your desired new habit in with a group of people where such habits are the norm.
Thirdly, we need to make our new habit easy. For example, if that involves committing to going to the gym on the way home from work, choose a gym that’s located halfway between home and work, or at least one that you don’t have to drive in the opposite direction to get to. If I choose to, I can run to my gym from both home and work, because it’s midway between the two. I am less likely to run there if it’s in the opposite direction. Finally, we need to make the new habit satisfying. Ideally, don’t miss twice – i.e. don’t skip two days in a row.
On the flip side, the four keys to making a bad habit disappear are to make it invisible, make it unattractive, make it difficult, and make it unsatisfying.
So how does this all translate into, for example, upgrading your lifestyle to move towards a mostly living foods diet, if that is your aim? I have touched on making it obvious – have all the tools for that lifestyle to hand – high quality juicer, good blender, lots of sprouting seeds and the jars/growing medium for their cultivation close at hand. I have my automatic sprouter and sprout rack in one area of my kitchen, and they are positioned in an obvious place to remind me to use them. It really only does take 2 minutes to load up the sprouting jars and another 2 to plant up the automatic sprouter for the category 2 sprouts. The thing that initiates your desirable new habit should only take 2 minutes, otherwise it may seem too difficult.
(For information about the six categories of sprouts and their benefits, see my book The Whole Body Solution.) Making the upgraded lifestyle seem attractive is the next hurdle. Take sprouting for example. It’s actually really good fun to see the sprouts growing. That’s a reward in itself, knowing that they are doing your body good.
Making it easy is next. Design your kitchen to ensure that you have everything you need for this good habit to take place, and that nothing can stand in your way. Making it satisfying would be enjoying the fruits of your labour, literally. Imagine the massive spectrum of antioxidants that your body is receiving from the sprouted food! Think about all the nutrients and enzymes that are being delivered in an easy to digest form. If that’s not satisfying, I don’t know what is.
Finally, trying to change too much in one go could lead to problems, and a high drop out rate. So make your habits small and simple initially, and then stack them. One good habit on top of another.
For example here, changing from a processed plant-based diet to a healthy, unprocessed one could progress like this:
Add in a good variety of brightly-coloured vegetables every day, either steamed or ideally raw.
Add in a green juice.
Add in a healthy smoothie with raw, unprocessed protein powder.
Make your own nut milk instead of buying processed ones in a carton.
Use tempeh instead of highly processed meat substitutes.
Add in a good selection of sprouted foods.
And voila – you did it! Notice that I have put the emphasis on adding. Add the good stuff! What happens if we are told we can’t have something? We rebel, because the message is one of deprivation. And we all hate the idea of deprivation don’t we?
Stick with your habits. Make them small and achievable initially. Celebrate the little wins. If you add in 3 good things every month to your lifestyle, within a year you will have made a huge difference. Within 5 years, you may hardly recognise yourself. Just keep going. And celebrate the journey.