Tag Archives: fitness

7 Tips To Make It Easier To Have Healthy Eating Habits.

Every Wednesday is Tip Day, or List Day, or Quiz Day.

This Wednesday: 7 tips that make it easier to have healthy eating habits.

Many people were very intrigued by my interview with behavioral scientist Brian Wansink and his ideas. He studies eating behavior and consumer habits, and has a book that just came out: Slim By Design: Mindless Eating Solutions for Everyday Life.

I asked him for some of his top tips, and he gave me these excellent suggestions to “Help your kitchen make you slim.”

  1. Serve vegetables first.
  2. Serve the main dish from the stove or counter, so that to get seconds, you have to stand up and go get more. (This combines the Strategy of Inconvenience, because you can’t just reach out to take more food, and the Strategy of Monitoring, because you can keep track better of how much you’re eating.)
  3. Use dinner plates that are 9-10 wide. We eat less when we use a smaller plate, but American plate sizes have been steadily growing.
  4. Sit at a table, with the TV off. People eat more, without noticing, if they’re watching TV. And if you have to sit at a table to eat, you’ve made it harder to have impulsive snacks.
  5. Keep two or fewer cans of sugary drinks in your fridge.
  6. Keep your kitchen counters organized, not messy. (I was interested to see this one — it confirms my argument about the Strategy of Foundation and the importance of “uncluttering.”)
  7. Keep snack foods in one inconvenient cupboard. (Again, the Strategy of Inconvenience.)

What would be your best tips? I remind myself of one of my Secrets of Adulthood for Habits: It’s easier to change my surroundings than myself. It’s easier to put cookies on a high shelf than to boost my willpower.

I talk about all of these tips in Better Than Before, my forthcoming book about habit change. The most fascinating subject in the world. To pre-order, click here. If you’re inclined to buy the book, I’d really appreciate your pre-order. Pre-orders really matter.

 

“I’ve Cultivated the Habit of Hard Work, Which Is Deeply Satisfying.”

Habits interview: Nina Teicholz.

I’m hard at work on my book about habits, and it focuses on how to change a habit – whatever you want your habit to be. Whether you want to start flossing, stop procrastinating about writing your novel,  get more sleep, spend more time with friends, or however you might want to see change. (If you want to know when the book goes on sale, sign up here.)

Most of us have some habits that we’d like to make or break. A few years ago, I changed my eating habits. For one thing, I used to eat non-fat everything — non-fat yogurt, skim milk, egg-white omelets, turkey burgers — and now, based on the research I’ve read (borne out by my personal experience), I embrace the full-fat version of everything.

Nina Teicholz has written a fascinating book, The Big Fat Surprise, which is a deep look at this question. In this book, which has generated a tremendous amount of discussion since it came out, she explores why we came to believe that the macro-nutrient fat is bad for our health — and why it really isn’t bad for our health. Really. Even saturated fat is fine. It may be hard to believe, I know, but the research is very compelling. The arguments are complex, so I won’t summarize them here, but this heavily researched account takes you through the debate.

By chance, she and I live very near each other, so recently we met for lunch (which included fat).

Gretchen: You’ve done fascinating research. What’s the most significant thing you’ve concluded?

Nina: The research for my book led me to conclude that the saturated fats in meat, cheese and eggs are not bad for health. In fact, they are essential parts of a healthy diet. Also, fat does not make you fat.

What’s a simple habit that consistently makes you happier?

I’ve taken a good hard look at the past year–the result of working like crazy to finish my book–and have to conclude that I have few good habits. I hardly do anything in a routine way and don’t take time for myself. Work and motherhood have stretched me thin. However, I make time to read to my boys every night, which is a wonderful way for us to all be together. I call my mom regularly–that always cheers me up. And I’ve cultivated the habit of hard work, which is deeply satisfying.

Do you have any habits that continually get in the way of your happiness?

Yes, of course. I fail to exercise regularly, rarely sit down to eat properly, and allow myself to obsess about things I can’t change. I have, however, achieved a state of enlightenment about how bad these habits are for me and know that one day, I’ll get my act together.

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Before and After: “When I’d Leave My Office, I Wouldn’t Visit the Restroom.”

I’m writing my next book, Before and After, about how we make and break habits–an issue  very relevant to happiness. Each week, I’ll post a before-and-after story submitted by a reader, about how he or she successfully changed a habit. We can all learn from each other. If you’d like to share your story, contact me here. To hear when the book goes on sale, sign up here.

This week’s story comes from someone who wants to stay anonymous.

I have to say, this is one of the most ingenious strategies I’ve encountered in all my research. It’s a strategy that’s readily available to us all, doesn’t cost anything, easy to implement…

I wanted to establish a regular exercise routine. I have a gym membership and enjoyed working out at the gym close to my home on weekends, but couldn’t manage to get there during the week. Once I got home to change clothes, I never made it to the gym. So I researched gyms close to work and started carrying my gym bag in the car. When I’d leave my office, I wouldn’t visit the restroom. Instead, I would leave with some urgency and need to stop by the gym for relief. That got me in the door. Once I got there, the energy of the place took over, and I would work out before heading for home.

Brilliant! (Obviously, you wouldn’t want to employ this strategy in a way that would stress your body so much as to cause health issues, etc. etc.)

How do you get yourself to exercise? Exercising regularly is definitely one of the most popular of desired habits of the Essential Seven.

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Why Can’t You Exercise Regularly? One Reason: Convenience.

Every Wednesday is List Day, or Tip Day, or Quiz Day.

This Wednesday:  8 reasons why it can feel inconvenient to exercise.

Right now, I’m editing my next book, Before and After, an examination of the most interesting subject in the world: how we make and break habits. (My editor is reading the draft for the first time right now, in fact, so wish me luck.)

In the book, I identify multiple strategies that we can use to make it easier to foster good habits. One of the most familiar, and most effective, is the simple, straightforward, powerful Strategy of Convenience. And its counterpart, the Strategy of Inconvenience.

We’re far more likely to do something if it’s convenient, and far less likely to do something if it’s inconvenient, to an astounding degree. For instance, in one cafeteria, when an ice-cream cooler’s lid was left open, thirty percent of diners bought ice cream, but when diners had to open the lid, only fourteen percent bought ice cream, even though the ice cream was visible in both situations. People take less food when using tongs, instead of spoons, as serving utensils.

We can use this tendency to help strengthen our habits.

One habit that many people want to form? Regular exercise. And when they explain why they find it difficult, they often point to inconvenience.

I’ve found that it’s very helpful to think very hard about exactly why exercise seems inconvenient. Instead of just thinking, “Oh, it’s such a pain, I can never get to the gym,” really think it through. Identify the problem. Often, by identifying the problem, you identify solutions — which may be easier than you expect.

It’s a pain to pack up the gear when I’m leaving the house in the morning

It takes too much time to work out

It’s a pain to drive and park there

It’s a pain to secure my place in a popular class or to wait my turn on equipment

I don’t know how to use the equipment or do the exercises

It takes too much time to get there

I don’t want to sweat and mess up my hair

I always forget something I need

Identify the problem, find the solution. High-intensity work-outs take very little time. Many forms of exercise don’t work up a sweat. A friend told me, “Even though my gym has multiple branches, I found it very inconvenient. I finally realized that sometimes I’d go to the gym from home, sometimes from work, sometimes from my girlfriend’s apartment, so I never had what I needed. I bought multiple sets of everything—deodorant, shoes, a giant bag of cheap socks. I have what I need, so I don’t have an excuse to skip.” (Not an under-buyer, clearly.)

Justifications based on convenience may also be loopholes, so it’s helpful to use the Strategy of Looph0le-Spotting. (How I love loopholes! They’re so funny.) It may also be helpful to consider this list of questions, to understand how to shape your habits better.

Note: for Obligers, the problem may not actually be convenience, but accountability. Obligers do well to figure out ways to build in the external accountability that’s key for them.

If you’re thinking, “Gretchen, your book about habits sounds so fascinating! When can I get my hands on it?” well, sign up here, and I’ll email to let you know when the book goes on sale.

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“I Call That Voice the ‘Obnoxious Roommate Living in My Head.'”

Happiness interview: Arianna Huffington.

I’ve followed Arianna Huffington’s fascinating career for years, and for several years I cross-posted my blog material on the site she launched, The Huffington Post, but it was only last week that I got the chance to meet her face to face.

We were both speaking at a conference here in New York City, and got a chance to talk afterward. I was very interested to hear what she had to say during her presentation, because I’d gotten my hands on her new book Thrive: the Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder.

For someone who thinks about happiness and habits all day long, of course, a book with this title is irresistible. It’s full of insights, examples, and research about how to “thrive” — how to live a life that reflects your values — and why it matters.

I was very eager to hear what she had to say specifically about habits and happiness.

Gretchen: What’s a simple habit that consistently makes you happier?

Arianna: I have made a habit of integrating certain practices into my day — meditation, exercise, walking — but conscious breathing is the habit I can return to hundreds of times a day, in an instant. A conscious focus on breathing helps me introduce pauses into my daily life, brings me back into the moment, and helps me transcend upsets and setbacks.

What’s something you know now about forming healthy habits that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?

I now know more — much more about the importance of sleep. Get enough sleep and you will be more productive, more effective, and better able to enjoy your life. Today, this is my number one healthy habit. When I was 18, not so much! [I so agree with this point; if you need tips for getting more sleep, look here.]

Do you have any habits that continually get in the way of your happiness?

Looking at my phones — plural. Yes, I carry three BlackBerries and an iPhone (though an iPhone with a keyboard!).

Would you describe yourself as an Upholder, a Questioner, a Rebel, or an Obliger?

I’m a total Obliger — or perhaps a recovering Obliger! I’ve always struggled to meet expectations I’ve imposed on myself. I call that voice my obnoxious roommate living in my head. That’s the voice that will keep you from living out your dreams for the rest of your life. I try to silence this inner obnoxious roommate by remembering the words of the French writer Montaigne: “There were many terrible things in my life, but most of them never happened.”

Have you ever made a flash change, where you changed a major habit very suddenly, as a consequence of reading a book, a conversation with a friend, a milestone birthday, a health scare, etc.?

My flash change came on the morning of April 6, 2007. I was lying on the floor of my home office in a pool of blood. On my way down, my head had hit the corner of my desk, cutting my eye and breaking my cheekbone. I had collapsed from exhaustion and lack of sleep. In the wake of my collapse, I found myself going from doctor to doctor, from brain MRI to CAT scan to echocardiogram, to find out if there was any underlying medical problem beyond exhaustion. There wasn’t, but doctors’ waiting rooms, it turns out, were good places for me to ask myself a lot of questions about the kind of life I was living.

This was a classic wake-up call. Looking back on my life, I had other times when I should have woken up but didn’t. This time I really did and made many changes in the way I live my life, including adopting daily practices to keep me on track— and out of doctors’ waiting rooms. The result is a more fulfilling life, one that gives me breathing spaces and a deeper perspective.

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