The easiest way to look, perform and feel better is to break old habits and make new ones. And the easiest way to do that is to do simple things that take effort to reverse. So go to the kitchen and destroy (or dismantle, or give away) your toaster. There’s nothing you can do with a toaster that you can’t do with a grill. It just takes a bit longer, and it’s a bit more messing about. You can’t, for example, whack the bread in and leave it, come back when it’s popped and instantly slot in another brace of slices. You need to look after it, and that means that you’re less likely to make toast. Toast is delicious but essentially bad for you, so this is definitely a good thing.
Other habit-setting tips that actually work and are easy? Oh, I’ve got loads:
Lie To Yourself
You’re probably already excellent at this: see every time you’ve said you’ll start a diet, workout plan or productivity regime ‘next week.’ All you need to do is tweak the process so it works in your favour. For instance, when you’re hankering for a pizza/bucket of Reece’s Pieces/drink, just tell yourself ‘I’ll have it on Friday/Saturday/in a couple of days, when I really deserve it.’ You can actually have it then if you want, but I find that by the time it gets to Friday/whenever, I’m not in the mood for booze and sweets any more. I’ve been putting off having a tub of Ben & Jerry’s for about six months at this point. Studies back this up: ‘Not now, but later’ is a much more effective way to talk yourself off a dietary ledge than ‘Never, ever again.’
Keep Things Out Of Sight
This is the sort of tip you read all the time and think ‘Pfft, I’m not that weak-willed’, but having tried it, it absolutely works for me. Having a packet of doughnuts in or out of my eyeline – even if the doughnuts are otherwise exactly the same distance away – can be the difference between me eating an entire packet of doughnuts and not eating any doughnuts at all. I have almost no self-discipline, but you don’t really need self-discipline: that’s why Odysseus tied himself to a mast. I don’t have a mast, so I hide the doughnuts.
Don’t Have Bad Things In The House
Again, this sounds idiotically simple, but it works. If you don’t have bad things, you don’t eat them. And if you do have bad things, at least make them tricky to access. JC Santana – trainer of MMA fighters and founder of the Institute of Human Performance, once told me that he keeps rye bread in his freezer because, ‘It’s like having a gun in the house, but keeping it unloaded and locking it in a safe. I need to make an effort to use it, so it gives me time to calm down.’ A corollary to this is that you shouldn’t do a big shop hungry: it sends you mad.
The big lesson? All those stupid dietary tweaks you read about work: the secret is to try a few of them and see which work for you.
HOMEWORK: Pick one dietary change that would work for you: drink more water, eat more protein, stop eating crisps, whatever. Work out how to do it. Do it this week.