Give Me 5 Minutes a Day and I’ll Revolutionize Your Diet
You probably believe that you need more and better goals.
It’s a lie.
It’s great that you have goals, but when it comes to actually achieving almost anything in your life – including eating optimally and getting in the best shape of your life – goals are not the problem or solution. Let me explain…
Being Great is More than a Goal
I’ve been pretty good at a variety of things in my life – not world-class by any means – but definitely good enough to wonder why I excelled at those activities. As a musician, debater, and ballroom dancer, I was good at a pretty wide range of activities.
Most of the credit goes to my awesome coaches. Richard, Melissa, and Joanne were and undoubtedly still are amazing at teaching how to become great at these activities. And that’s good, because I had no talent whatsoever.
The reason that my coaches were so good, and the reason that I excelled despite a complete lack of talent was not because they constantly worked with me to set goals. None of them really ever did that at all.
What they did was teach me what I needed to do every single day, and they impressed upon me the importance of sticking to it every single day. As a musician, I would work on scales and arpeggios; as a debater, I would rewrite speeches; and as a dancer, I would drill footwork fundamentals. I did these things day after day after day, no matter what else I was working on.
And I got very good very fast because of that focus.
Fitness and Health are Stuck in the Stone Ages
This sounds a little bit funny coming from me, since I believe that evolution is a great starting point for health, nutrition, and fitness.
However, the focus on goal-setting from many personal trainers, nutritionists, and health coaches is misplaced.
What really needs to happen for you to revolutionize your diet is to build daily habits or routines that continually move you in the right direction. There are a variety of ways to do this, but 2 in particular stand out.
I’m going to outline one method below, and I’ll discuss the other (more powerful method) in a later post.
Sticking to Your Diet is Not Rocket Science
As you know from experience, eating the right foods every single day is the basis of being as healthy as possible. If you’re Paleo, then you already know the most nutritious and least toxic foods to eat. The problem is…it’s often hard to actually stick to that simple routine.
There is no completely fool-proof solution, but both scientific studies and also practical experience from millions of people have shown that there are ways to increase your chances. Here’s the first way…
Set a Weekly Plan – Make it a Habit
For the most part, it’s probably hard for you to eat the same dish over and over and over again. Maybe you don’t like it, or maybe you’re traveling or just need to eat out one night. Whatever the reason, meal planning is the best solution to this quandary.
It sounds so simple, and yet hardly anybody actually does this. (Every time someone comes to me and tells me that they “ate badly” today, I immediately ask what they planned to eat, and they almost never even had a plan.)
If you can plan your meals, then you will be far less likely to randomly choose to eat junk.
For the most part, the important thing is just to create the meal plan, but there are a few tricks that make everything work below. Here’s what you need to do:
1. Pick a Trigger. You need to plan your meals every single day, so you should pick something that happens every single day, such as eating dinner, going to bed, or anything else.
Once you’ve picked an appropriate trigger (preferably at nighttime), then set the routine, which is outlined below.
2. Write out the Meal Plan. Sit down at night (after your trigger) and take a look at your schedule for the next day. Then plan out every single meal for that day, taking into account where you will likely be and how much time you’ll have. Be realistic both about your time and also how hungry you’re likely to be.
Seriously? Every Single Meal?
Yes. You don’t necessarily need to cook every meal beforehand (it can help), but you need to know ahead of time exactly what you’re going to eat. And be as specific as possible. If you’re going to be eating at home, decide what you’ll cook or pick up on the way home from work. If you’ve got restaurant reservations, take a look at the menu now and write a note to yourself about what you’re going to order.
Most importantly, if you know that you’re going to be in a place or situation where you’ll have no chance of eating healthy, then decide right now that you’re going to eat unhealthily for that meal. Don’t fool yourself.
There are 2 reasons to write out the meal plan. First, if you write out the daily meal plan, including any times when you’re going to eat unhealthily, then you will largely avoid having to make decisions at time when you’re hungry, tired, or tempted. Your diet will immediately improve.
Secondly, it will be clear and obvious when you deviate from the plan. This is actually the best thing that can happen, because you will quickly become aware of things that cause you to eat badly, which leads to the third part of meal planning:
3. Make Notes on Today’s if You Cheated. Cheating in this scenario is not whenever you ate junk. Cheating is when you deviated from your written meal plan.
At the same time as you’re planning the tomorrow’s meal plan, you also need to note on meal plan for today if you cheated. It doesn’t need to be much, but circle the meal you cheated at, write down what you ate, and a very brief description of the situation you were in (out at a restaurant with friends, travelling on business, etc.).
That’s it. Simple. It’s effective and important, though.
When you plan, you’re doing 2 important things. You’re making a decision when you’re in a better position to think about your future health (rather than your short-term cravings), and you’re making a written commitment to taking a healthy action. There’s good research that the written commitment alone makes you much more likely to stick to it.
Having a meal plan won’t necessarily help you deal with snacking (another topic) but it will start to get your most important meals in order. More importantly, it will help you start noticing where and when you’re most likely and tempted to cheat.
What’s Your Experience?
Have you experimented with meal planning? What problems did you run into and why did you stop, if you did? Has meal planning been a huge success for you? Please let me know in the comments below!