So you’re ready to make a healthy change? Taking the plunge and “going public” can make your new habit—and sticking with it—a snap.
5 Ways taking a stand supports the healthy new you
1. Reduced brain strain. During the cleanse, I found that by eliminating the option of eating fatty, sugary foods (even healthier picks, like Larabars), I had a lot more mental energy to devote to more important decisions. For example, the answer to, “Am I exhausted enough to justify eating this muffin?” was simply no. With that sort of decision made by default, I could focus on more important things, like work and family and friendships. (And testing recipes for Veggie Quest, of course!)
As it turns out, I’m not alone in this experience. Research has shown that the more decisions we have to make, the worse we get at making decisions.¹ This phenomenon is known as “decision fatigue,” and it saps judgment and willpower. However, by setting basic rules about what to eat, for example, you don’t have to waste mental energy debating whether to “cheat” with that donut, because it’s not on the plan. End of story. So you can use your mental powers for the greater good. (Like pondering what’s going to become of Lady Mary next season on Downton Abbey!)
2. Increased creativity. Just like living on a budget, committing to your change challenges you to think outside the box. Since I wanted to eat lower fat to help with breast pain, I had to figure out how to enjoy the flavors I loved while keeping fat in check. So I tried new recipes, made all kinds of wild substitutions, and found some that really worked. (Stay tuned!) I also committed to drinking a green smoothie every morning, which I’d done only occasionally before. I experimented constantly, sometimes making a different smoothie every day. The results were delicious (minus the one that ended up tasting like a bicycle tire, oops), and now I have some new favorites that I’ll be sharing soon.
3. Automatic accountability. By going public with your commitment, sticking to the plan is easy. Want that cream puff? Good luck, my friend. The walls have ears! Accountability becomes even easier if you’ve recruited a buddy to make the change with you. For example, my mom and I went on the cleanse together, so it was easy to pass up temptation because I knew she was doing the same. (I’d have felt sort of schmucky bailing on the plan while I knew she was sticking to it.)
4. Support from family and friends. While some may try to sabotage your healthy changes—after all, you’re going to be losing weight and feeling fabulous while Debbie Downer is spinning her wheels—most people will want to help you out. By announcing your change, you give those people the opportunity to lift you up and nurture you. Your friends won’t mind going to the same sushi place twice in a row, because you can get brown rice for your veggie rolls there. Your sister will make vegetarian chili instead of the beefy version when you come over for dinner. They feel good; you feel good. Win-win!
5. No hurt feelings or guilt-induced eating. By committing to improve your diet in a specific, public way, without exceptions, you help protect people’s feelings. For instance, if you have a cupcake with Shannon one day when you’re feeling down, but then refuse one of Anna’s muffins the next week when your willpower is intact, woe to you when Shannon and Anna talk! Your commitment is your shield and your strength. You can say no without guilt, and no one gets offended.
Ironic, isn’t it, that making a public commitment (hard!) should actually make life easy? But at least for me, it did—and I think it could do the same for you.
So, what healthy change have you been meaning to make? Leave a comment and let me know. And if you want to make a commitment here and now (A salad every day? Swapping oatmeal for eggs?), I’ll be your cheerleader all the way!
1. Vohs KD et al. Making Choices Impairs Subsequent Self-Control: A Limited-ResourceAccount of Decision Making, Self-Regulation, and Active Initiative. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2008, Vol. 94, No. 5, 883–898.