What’s your default reaction to a little trouser tightening? Probably a complete overhaul of your diet. Chuck out the junk food. Stock up on salads. Lean protein fills your freezer. You’re all in. Week one is usually a smashing success. You may even drop a few pounds. Success is easy. Week two gets a little tougher because motivation is on the decline. Even if you fight off your old enemies and bad habits, they’re desperate to creep back in.
Often, by the time most people reach week 4 they’re in completely the same position as they were when they first started. It’s the reason New Year’s resolutions have become a punchline for failure. It’s easy to get started but very tough to maintain a level of drive and passion that gets you to your end game. Fortunately, subtle solutions may work better than going all in.
The drip feed approach
Think of changing your diet like running a marathon. Sprint too early and you’ll be left in the dust. You will not get anywhere near thrill of feeling that winners ribbon pressed across your chest. Instead, you’ll get burnt out. Sprint. Walk. Crawl. Stop. There is a simple solution, drip feeding yourself improvements.
A paper in the journal Nature Food, found this was the best solution for you and the planet. They found taking 10% of your daily calories that come from red and processed meats then switching those up for a mix of fruit, vegetables, nuts, legumes was massively effective at improving your health. For the planet, doing this reduced their carbon footprint by one-third. For yourself, it gave people 48 healthy minutes each day. They say eating a hotdog could cost you 36 minutes of healthy life. Eating a serve of nuts will give you back 26 minutes of extra healthy life.
How to get started
Go for the low hanging fruit. This starts with taking stock of the stuff you’re already eating. Make a 3-day food diary where you record everything you eat. Don’t judge. Just record. Now go through that diary and take stock of the things that you know you regularly eat. It could be something like those peanut butter and honey sandwiches you love. Healthy, right? Check the peanut butter’s label instead. It may be the variety that’s loaded with sugars that are harming you. Switch it out for a healthier brand.
In the end you give yourself more minutes of healthy life without sacrificing anything. You’re able to tweak your diet over time and this will make it more sustainable without feeling like you’re missing your favorite item. If you want the long-term blueprint to success, this new research proves it’s achieved by making one small choice at a time.