So if i trust my body, but not 100%, what can I do to steer me, in a non restrictive way, to better food choices?
I’m interested in hacks, that is, in quick and unexpected fixes for hard problems.
Mostly what I’m interested in are changes in environment that influence choice. Cass Sunstein in his book Nudge outlines a variety of ways in which structuring choice situations differently leads people to better choices (as judged by their own lights) without making rules that govern behavior. You can read about Sunstein’s libertarian paternalism here.
Here is a great example from that book, one which actually concerns nutritional choices. The study concerned people selecting food from a self serve cafeteria. The intervention was intended to get people to choose more fruits and vegetables without coercive measures. All that researchers did was change the order of the food being selected. Putting fruits and vegetables first meant that people chose them and left less room on their plates and trays for processed alternatives.
What changes in our lives can we make that are ‘nudge’ like? I’m not talking about restrictions. Calorie restricted diets don’t interest me and I’m not convinced they work. Instead, I’m interested in environmental approaches that change the choice scenario.
We were chatting about environmental changes lots at the implicit bias conference I was attending on the weekend. One slogan, used by a social psychologist, caught my ear: automate, don’t ruminate. Make good choices easy and automatic. Setting yourself up to think too much is more likely to lead to failure.
We know this of course from the literature on habit. I’ve written here about how good habits are key to change. So it’s not about harsh rules and struggles, deep thought and massive amounts of will power.
But what sorts of changes might we made regarding nutritional choices?
Precision Nutrition has a number of habits they encourage people to establish. Eating when hungry, eating slowly, eating to 80% full, eating protein, vegetables and healthy fats with every meal, choosing better carbs.
Like the cafeteria example, we might think in terms of eating veggies first. Some people recommend eating vegetable soup before each meal. That sounds tedious to me but I do eat raw chopped veggies before dinner on most days. I don’t eat standing up or while doing something else. Vegetables are an exception to that general rule.
I also try not to bring food into the house I don’t want to eat. John Berardi at PN urges people to clean house and get rid of food that they don’t want to eat. He jokingly says that if you bring food into your house odds are that sooner or later you or someone you love will eat it.
I agree with Tracy that there are no ‘evil’ foods but there are annoying foods that I inevitably eat more of than I would like. It’s not that they’re a great treat. I’m a big fan of delicious treats. These are foods I’d rather not eat but can’t resist if they’re there.
Tracy is skeptical about claims that we’re addicted to certain foods and I agree but at the same time there are foods that seem engineered to get me to eat more than I want.
There’s also a number of tools to help you eat more slowly. The the hapi fork isn’t for me but some people also have success slowing down by eating with their non dominant hand. Others use chopsticks, if that’s not familiar cutlery.
Why eat more slowly? It’s tied to the 80% idea. It takes awhile for our bodies to recognize how much we’ve eaten
Others like to eat using small plates and small forks. The small plates encourage us to take smaller servings and to feel like we’re eating more. The smaller forks just slow you down.
My family jokes about the American cutlery we bought. The spoons are enormous. No one wants to eat using the tablespoons and the teaspoons are just about the right size for cereal, etc.
Dish colours also make a difference in how much you eat. Aiming to eat less? Worst are dishes the same colour as the food you’re eating. Better are plates a different colour than your food. Best of all are blue plates, possibly because no food is that colour.
Read about blue plates here. I own blue plates but I didn’t buy them for that reason.
The only restrictive rule I’m trying to adopt is limiting dessert to twice a week. I’ll let you know how it goes…
Do you have any nutritional hacks or tips that you like? Please share.