Nudge Yourself Healthy
Part 1 of 2
There are many reasons why people exercise, but the two most common are to appear more attractive in their search for a partner or improve their health after a troubling medical diagnosis. They’re both excellent motivators.
What I’m amazed at is how few people use exercise as a way to PREVENT sickness.
A psychologist told me it’s all about what we can see. Exercising to prevent a sickness you don’t have is theoretical. The idea that you might need to do something to deal with problems in the future is abstract. But working out to handle an existing situation is real. Seeing is believing.
Let’s say you’re older and you’ve lost strength. You’re becoming frail. You don’t have to imagine what life would be like if you become frail, you might start exercising to get stronger because you ARE frail. You understand the problems of frailty. Your inability to carry groceries or move heavier things out of your way is immediate and undeniable.
It’s true with most things that cause problems over time. Smokers typically don’t stop smoking to prevent lung cancer, but many quit after lung cancer is diagnosed. Few people eat a healthier diet to prevent heart disease, but quite a few change their diet after a heart attack.
Then there’s the almost mystical belief in luck. We all believe that we’re somehow special, myself included. If nine out of ten people are likely to have something bad happen to them, most people will think they’ll be the lucky one that triumphs.
Unless you’ve won the lottery, there’s little evidence to support this optimism. So if you’re not motivated by looking attractive for a partner or dealing with a medical issue, how do you get excited about getting in shape?
For me, it’s all about making healthier choices easier. One of my strengths is that I have great discipline. I can push my body hard to build muscle in the gym. But I have terrible self-control. It’s difficult for me to say no when tempted with something like junk food, a TV binge or falling down a social media rabbit hole.
Generally, my solution has been to ban things that are bad for me. I tell friends not to drop by with treats or snacks I might binge out on. I practice avoidance. I put digital locks on apps that I can’t stop scrolling through. I’ve asked people in my life to hold me accountable. But that’s not an option for many people.
You might live in a household with several family members or roommates. In that case, temptation may be lurking in the refrigerator, filling the kitchen cabinets or in front of you at every meal. A partner may want you to spend every night being passively entertained without doing anything.
To fight back against this, you need to reduce resistance to healthier choices. Arrange the tasks in your life to make fitness compelling. Here’s what I mean.
Eating healthy food can take a lot of effort. Most of the time, it requires you to spend half an hour or more putting something together, or you can grab some junk food, start watching videos and be full in 10 minutes.
Cooking while listening to Audiobooks.
Let’s combine those two activities. If there’s a show, movie or something you want to watch, schedule it for the same time you cook. Then start preparing a recipe with multiple servings you can freeze or put away for later. There are hundreds of recipes on WeEatFit.com that make freezer-friendly servings of 6, 8, even 10 or more. Cook just three recipes, with eight servings each and in a week, you’ve made 24 easy to reheat healthy meals.
Now you’re doing something you enjoy (watching your show) while also doing something good for you (cooking some healthy meals.) Once you get used to the convenience of reheating healthy meals in minutes, it’ll reinforce the positive behavior.
Part 1 2
The inspiration and some of the information for this article came from Nudge: The Final Edition. It's a book written by Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein.
In the author's words:
A nudge, as we will use the term, is any aspect of the choice architecture that alters people's behavior in a predictable way without forbidding any option or significantly changing their economic incentives. To count as a mere nudge, the intervention must be easy and cheap to avoid. Nudges are not taxes, fines subsidies bans or mandates. Putting the fruit at eye level counts as a nudge. Banning junk food does not.
Not all the suggestions in this two part article are nudges, but they are all based on methods that have helped people make better choices.
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