Friday, February 22, 2008

Eat healtier, live longer

The Problem With Most Diet Plans
New fad diets in books and magazines and the Internet are a dime a dozen. Some of them are actually pretty decent, but almost all of them have one single flaw that will make it very difficult for anyone to stick to them.

The flaw? They try to get you to change your entire diet at once.

That just doesn’t work for most people. I’ve tried lots of diets, and for the first week, I’m extremely enthusiastic and determined. But such a drastic change in diet is hard to sustain, and soon you give in to temptation and then it falls apart. We’ve all been there.

The Power of Small Changes
The title of this post is misleading, and I’ll admit that. Most people associate a “12-step program” with alcoholics anonymous or similar program, but this post isn’t about those programs at all.

That it is about is making changes to your diet one small step at a time. Baby steps. The miracle of this is that we adjust to these small changes after a couple weeks, until they seem normal and we don’t feel like we’re depriving ourselves of anything.

Take meat for example. Let’s say you wanted to become a vegetarian, and you cut out all meat from your diet completely. You’d feel very deprived, and you might have a very hard time. Most people wouldn’t last very long — maybe a week or two at most — before caving in and eating meat and feeling guilty.

But let’s say instead that you just started with beef. Well, at dinner tonight, you probably wouldn’t notice much because you could have chicken or fish or turkey or pork — all the stuff you might normally eat. After a few weeks, going without beef would seem normal, and you probably wouldn’t miss it much.

Repeat that process for pork, and soon you’ve cut red meat from your diet (assuming you don’t eat much venison or buffalo or otter or whatnot). Then do chicken — this might be a difficult stage for many — and just eat seafood for awhile. After a few weeks of that, though, you’d get used to it. Next step is dropping seafood, and soon you’re a vegetarian who doesn’t miss meat one bit.

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