How To Start Eating Better Right Now (Takes 10 Seconds)
I’m a failure when I try to be perfect. I neglected this website, this blog, my business for almost a year cause I was trying to be perfect. I was so overwhelmed that I had to do ALL THE THINGS, and make everything pretty and perfect… that I ended up doing nada.
I heard once that if you want to achieve a certain success, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel, you just find someone who’s already successful in that area, and do what they did.
One of my favorite stories ever is of Richard Branson. You know, the multi billionaire. He’s in the airport one day waiting to get on a flight to the British Virgin Islands. He’s hype.
But womp womp, his flight is cancelled. “They didn’t have enough passengers to warrant the flight, so they cancelled the flight”.
Sometimes when I hear a story, I like to think of what I would’ve done in that situation. I mean, it’s pretty mundane. I would have accepted that eh, things happen. Spoke to the airline about my refund, and booked the next flight out. Bada bing bada bang.
But what does Richard do? “I hired a plane, borrowed a blackboard, and as a joke, I wrote 'Virgin Airlines' on the top of the blackboard, $39 one way to BVI. I went out to round up all the passengers who had been bumped, and I filled up my first plane.”
Virgin Airlines started right there, and is now only one of the hundreds of businesses Richard went on to create. None of which he was technically prepared or trained for.
What stands out to me the most about is this story, is that Richard knew nothing about the airline business. But he started an airline anyway. Who does that? Someone who’s not obsessed with being perfect. Someone who understands that they don’t know much about something, but they know enough to get started. And instead of taking months or (like me) years, to take any action on that knowledge, for fear of making a mistake or of it not turning out in the ideal way he imagined it, he took action on it right away.
He started with what he had, and learned and tweaked and made it perfect along the way.
The curse of perfection.
We tend to wear perfectionism as almost a badge of honor. Especially women. We label it as something we’re really proud of.
You know how a lot of people in job interviews, when they’re asked what their weaknesses are, they’ll say ‘I’m a perfectionist’. Cause then they can try to flip it as a strength? Nope. Perfectionism is a straight up weakness.
Now when it comes to whether that shelf is tilted or straight, or if my bulletin board is perfectly centered and the words are equally spaced… I’m gonna be a perfectionist. I don’t give a crap if it’s a weakness, that board better be straight and centered, or it will drive me crazy.
But here’s the thing, when perfectionism is holding me back from seeing actual progress, now I care. Now, something needs to change.
Lemme give a little disclaimer. There are amazing, inspirational, slightly annoying people in this world, who can change their habits almost overnight. They can wake up one day and decide that they’re gonna start going to the gym, and then proceed to consistently go to said gym for the next 25 years. They just say they want to do something, and they do it. They go from being a person who never goes to gym and has saggy man boobs and a flabby gut, to being super jacked with quads that can’t fit in their skinny jeans.
(If you’re wondering whether you’re one of these wonderful people, just take an honest look at your past behavior.) From my experience, most people can’t make a drastic change like that and keep it up forever. And for people like me, who are lazy and busy (honestly I’m mostly just lazy), going from that one extreme to the other seems out of reach.
The 10 Second Habit: Thinking along a continuum.
On one end of the continuum you have the absolute worst choice you can make, and on the other end you have the absolute best choice. The 10 second habit involves taking your current choice and placing it along that continuum, remembering that you have options between where you are now and that ‘absolute best choice’. Then ask yourself: How can I make this current choice/meal a little bit better?
So imagine this. You’re used to eating a Big Mac and large fries everyday for lunch. You’ve been doing it for years. You eat pretty healthy at home, but lunch is different cause you’re rushed for time and want to get something you’ll enjoy. You know this isn’t the best habit, and you could lose weight and be healthier if you brought your own lunches from home. Here are two ways you can go about making that change.
Week 1: Decide you need to meal prep all your lunches.
Week 2: Look up meal prep recipes on Pinterest and get tons of great ideas.
Week 3: Get meal prep inspiration from Instagram and Youtube.
Week 4: Buy those cute meal prepping containers and wait for shipping.
Week 5: Schedule time in your week to meal prep, and decide to start fresh on Monday.
By the end of the 5 weeks, you’re still in planning mode and it feels like you’ve made progress, but in reality, you’re still in the same spot.
Not so perfect Amy
Week 1: Today instead of ordering your usual, you ask yourself “how can I make it a little bit better?” You order a big mac, but with small fries (you usually struggle to finish them anyway).
Week 2: You remember hearing somewhere that drinking water while eating can help you slow down and you get fuller on less food. You add a glass (or plastic cup) of water to your lunch everyday.
Week 3: You start to crave a fresher option than your big mac, so this week you change your order to the grilled chicken sandwich. On Friday, you bring in leftover roasted potatoes you had for dinner last night, so you skip the fries.
Week 4: On Wednesday’s you decide to walk with your coworker to the new salad bar, and grab a chicken salad with your favorite fresh toppings.
Week 5: You notice that your pants are looser and your ankles are less swollen than usual. This week, you bring your leftover dinner to lunch on Monday and Friday.
5 weeks in, and you’ve lost 5 pounds and you didn’t feel like you were even trying to. You’ve also gotten a lot closer to prepping your lunches without it being a burden.
A habit is more likely to stick, and be easier to follow, if there are very few barriers to its completion. The more barriers, the less likely you are to do it. Being a perfectionist ruins this because it usually places lots of barriers to success under the guise of starting out prepared and well informed.
I’ve found that thinking on a continuum is the easiest way to move forward with your goals with the least amount of resistance.
I’ll be honest with you, in the beginning, it does feel small. And for someone who wants to lose weight or see changes LIKE RIGHT NOW, it can seem silly or annoying to have to start so tiny. Like you’ll never get to your big goal if you keep inching your way to the top. But I promise you, every single step you make in the right direction, will come with it’s own joys and feelings of achievement.
And it will be constant evidence, right there in your face, that you can change. And once you start to realize that and start to believe it, you see the snowball effect take place. Soon you find yourself having the opportunity to eat at McDonald’s, but you can’t stop craving that chicken salad from your deli’s salad bar. Like actually preferring fresh, whole foods over your usual processed ones. Who am I? I’m craving a salad?!
It’s a great feeling.
The wonderful thing about this approach is that you begin to enjoy the journey. It becomes a game where you challenge yourself to make your most unhealthy meal, just a little bit better. You make changes using the information and the tools you have right now. Plus, all your nutrition knowledge is now going to use! You become so focused on that, that you stop worrying about losing the 5 or 50 pounds, and one day, boom, you hit your goal, and were stress free the entire time.
How to take action now.
The next time you’re making a food choice ask yourself, “How can I make this choice a little bit better?” Imagine the continuum in your head, and practice using it when making food decisions.
Comment below: What meal do you tend to eat that could use an overhaul? What’s one small way you can make that meal just a little bit better?
P.S. Do you have a friend who’s hella smart, but always tries to get everything just right? Send this to her as a friendly reminder that she has what she needs, and she can channel her inner Richard Branson and take that step forward.