New Year, new energy, I do like the start of the year (there just might be a link to all the time off I had at Christmas and New years).
I was thinking about some ideas for changes you could make if you were thinking of New Years resolutions. And if you think the new year is an arbitrary time of year then, good news! you can also read this blog post at any other time.
- Having decided the ‘rules’ you want to live by: think how mindfully achieving your aims and having a sense of agency is better than, say, the monkey brain enjoyment of a cheap supermarket cake that doesn’t even taste that good.
- Enjoy mindfully planned exceptions. It’s not about never having treats. Plan your exceptions by imagining you are in the future looking back and decide if you think it would make you more or less happy to indulge. Then later actually look back and decide if you were right or not and what you will choose to do if the same choice comes up in the future.
- Be fair on yourself. If you skip lunch and get hungry you will crave snacks and chocolate before you become consciously ‘hungry’ (I certainly do, I get a good 30-60 min phase of thinking about chocolate before I ever feel consciously hungry). If you find yourself eating junk food, think whether the junk food is the problem or if the previous meal was the problem. Look out for yourself. If you were looking after a five year old child you wouldn’t be too busy to get them a proper lunch and you’d get them home in time for a proper supper.
- Swap to full fat milk, yogurt, etc.
The fat will increase satiety in good proportion to the amount of extra calories, leading to more fullness and less need to snack.
- Swap starchy foods for half the amount of fat.
Halve your rice and put a quarter the amount of butter or olive oil on top. The same calories but more delicious and you’ll feel fuller.
Highly processed starchy foods, like bread and cereals, crisps and popcorn and rice, will spike your blood sugar up and the resulting drop will make you feel hungry. Half the amount of fat will have the same calories, will keep you nice and full and will keep your blood sugar on a comfortable, controlled, even keel.
- Alternate every glass of wine with water.If you are out a party and if you like drinking all the time, instead of trying to drink less, substitute what you drink. My favourite is apple-shorle. A little apple juice with sparkling water. The nudge unit (in David Halperns book) has advised for ecigs purely on the basis that a substitution is so much easier than quitting (and ecigs really are so much safer than cigarettes, though that is the lowest bar ever).
- Substitute fizzy drinks with sparkling water with a dash of lemon and/or lime, or even just plain sparkling water. Obviously if I have a choice of sparkling water or coke, my monkey brain will prefer the coke. But you could reframe it as nothing vs a drink. Sparkling water is much more fun than nothing.
- Consider drinking your coffee black, then it’s zero calories, but apparently it still has soluble fibre. Practically good for you, or actually good for you, who knows. Who cares! Coffee is delicious.
- Substitute breakfast cereal with fried eggs, or boiled eggs if time is tight.
Again this gets you away from the highly processed, empty calories in the processed wheat/maize (which is what every single cereal is apart from oats, and swaps in a vitamin rich food with the full range of essential fatty acids and essential amino acids). In case you didn’t get the memo, we’re not worried about dietary cholesterol anymore (I wish there was an actual memo, or people admitting that the old advice was wrong and presenting the reasons for the old advice and the reasons for the new advice. Let me know if you know find that).
- Only eat cakes/chocolate when out with friends, never snack alone.
- Quit all snacks. Eat three meals a day and that’s it.
Saves time and thought. If you can’t go between meals without feeling hungry you are doing your meals wrong.
- Mindfully discuss a desired habit change with a friend.
- Figure out the problem (for example: I have lunch at 12, I work till 7, when I get hungry and there is only vending machine food available and I don’t want to spend time and energy on bringing cooked food in, also I only sometimes get hungry so I can’t bring in perishable food, as it would get wasted).
- Discuss a range of solutions, when the first three ideas aren’t a good fit keep discussing ideas.
- Answer: Ryvita and babybel.
- One day go to the supermarket before supper. The next day eat a really good supper then go to the supermarket. Watch yourself glide paste those donuts on sale, with no difficulty. Everyone always said you shouldn’t shop on an empty stomach but when I did this experiment, pretty much by chance, I was really surprised at how strong an effect it was.
- Only enjoy sweet foods and drinks as a dessert on a full stomach.
Sugary drinks, including orange juice and fruit smoothies, will give you a massive sugar spike. Avoid the spike by only eating sweets on a full stomach.
- Swap white for green
Instead of boiling up pasta, what about boiling some frozen green beans to have with your sauce.
The Swiss food pyramid caps starchy carbs at 3x 30-50g a day (p19). That’s three small slices of bread or three very small helpings of pasta per day. Replace white, nutritionally empty carbs with green vegetables (still 80% carbs which are slow release with some plant protein (not nutritionally complete without complicated mixing and matching, but still useful) and the water-soluble vitamins).
There we go: a few ideas for changing habits and some ideas for what habits you could change. Hope some of them are useful and spark some further ideas of your own. Have a happy year.