If you’re at all like me, you like food. And if you’re at all like I used to be, you like rich, sugary, salty, oily food while stoically tolerating green leaves and broccoli.
Maybe you were even raised in the South (like I was) where they take home-grown, fresh-picked crooked-neck squash and swaddle it in thick batter before plunging it into a roiling skillet of hot Crisco. And where Lay’s potato chips are still considered a vegetable.
If you are like me, you’ve found it difficult to switch to a diet style based on fruits, veggies, beans, nuts, and seeds. Living in the land of plenty with a brain hard-wired for deprivation makes it hard to choose salad over sirloin, cherimoya over chocolate, greens over grilled cheese—especially when these high-calorie, highly rewarding foods are to be found any time, on every corner, and everybody’s doing it!
I spent a good two years of off-and-on and back-and-forth before attaining some degree of stability in sticking to a diet that consists entirely of health-promoting, disease-fighting foods.
Since then, I’ve never looked back, but if I knew what I know now, I’d make the change quite a bit differently.
How to eat healthy using seed habits
Enter the unimposing seed habit. A seed habit begins with you setting a very small goal for yourself—something requiring so little effort or discipline that you can’t possibly fail. A seed habit, when planted and nourished by your consistent follow-through will, over time, grow into your ultimate goal.
Secrets to seed habits
There are two secrets to a successful seed habit:
1. Start small
2. Do it no matter what.
For instance, let’s say you want to get in shape. What if, instead of aiming high at an entire gym workout five days a week, you aimed real low (secret #1)—say, one pushup.
Yes, you read it right. One pushup. That would be your mini goal.
And once you accomplished that one pushup, you would have fulfilled your commitment.
Pretty cool, huh?
Now, I can see you rolling your eyes. “What good’s one pushup gonna do me?”
Well, that one little pushup is the seed for your new (future) workout habit. You see, most of us, most of the time, aren’t gonna do just one pushup—you’ll get down there on the floor and do one, and then another and then find yourself a little energized and keep going.
But even if that doesn’t happen, this little seed pushup, if completed every day, is the beginning of a habit. Also, by following through every day no matter what on your commitment (secret #2), you start building discipline.
But what about food? How can you use the concept of a seed habit to build a nutritarian eating style from the standard American diet? Why, one grape at a time, of course!
I’m guessing, though, that if you’ve found this blog, you’ve probably already attained some degree of enjoyment of fruits and veggies. So let’s assume that you don’t mind grapes at all, but, when confronted with the morning bagel and donut tray in the office kitchenette, you have trouble doing the right thing.
Clearly define your seed habit
With your new seed habit, those refined carbs aren’t a problem. First, though, we have to establish very clearly our seed habit.
One possibility might be: have at least one four ounce serving of fruit, and have it before eating anything else.
Therefore, once you’ve eaten your fruit, you’ve met your goal, so don’t worry about restricting other foods. If you still want the toroidal baked goods, have one and enjoy it.
Once you complete your seed habit every day for a week no matter what, it's time to create a new seed habit.
Upping the ante
If you have been 100% successful in following through on your first seed habit, it's time to up the ante a little. For instance, if you've eaten fruit before anything else for breakfast, you might decide to add rolled oats to the menu.
Again, it's important to be very clear on the goal. How about: before eating anything else for breakfast, I'll eat 4 ounces of fruit and a bowl of rolled oats cooked in water (no sweetener, only unsweetened un-milk).
Of course, this means you have to have these foods on hand. So you would prepare your oats and fruit to take to work with you. Then, if faced with some delectable temptation, you'd fulfill your seed habit and then decide if you still want the "forbidden fruit."
For lunch, you could make another small goal—say four ounces of raw, naked vegetables (in other words, no fancy high-calorie sauces). Since you’re working toward a nutrient-rich style of eating, it’s good to include leafy greens in your four ounces of veggies.
But the main point is to be very clear about your goal so you’ll know when you’ve met it. In other words, the goal doesn't have to be 4 ounces of raw veggies--that might be too big of a leap or you. Make it something you know you can achieve no matter what.
Y’all, the no-matter-what part (secret #2) is super important. Building a new habit requires lots of repetition, and that repetition creates beneficial changes in your brain, which make it easier for you to continue to grow your new habit. Again, if four ounces of fruit or veggies is too much, don’t be afraid to make your seed habit smaller (secret #1).
What happens after the first couple of weeks? If you have been entirely consistent with your daily goals, continue raising the stakes just a smidgen—keeping it small makes it more likely that you’ll stick with it. And sticking with your seed habit insures that those few ounces of fruit and raw vegetables will mature into an entire eating style based on the most nutrient-rich foods mother earth has to offer.