Shape Your Path

In the book Switch, Chip and Dan Heath describe our behaviours and habits as being like a person riding an elephant.

  • The rider is the “thinky-brain” of logic and reason. The rider tries to control the elephant, and succeeds… for a while.
  • The elephant — massive, strong, and powerful — is the primal, emotional brain that will eventually get the best of the rider, especially as the rider tires.
  • The path on which the elephant walks is the environment that constrains the elephant’s actions — often without the elephant even realizing it.

Your environment includes your:

  • social environment — the people we know, social interactions, etc.
    cultural environment — cultural “rules” and expectations, etc. (and as you’ll remember, “culture” can be many things)
  • intellectual environment — the ideas and beliefs that circulate around us, the intellectual stimulation (or otherwise) that we get, etc.
  • physical environment — our homes and workplaces, the geography of our lives, etc.

Mindless eating and our environment

Experiments like this (yes, it was a real experiment!) have shown us that our environment affects our eating habits more than we’d think.

For instance, a series of experiments, formal and informal shows that:

  • We eat more from bigger dishes than smaller ones. And if the bowl is endlessly refilled, we’ll just keep on truckin’.
  • We eat more from candy dishes that are close to us than dishes that are a few meters away.
  • We’re more likely to stop for a snack if we enter our homes through the kitchen door rather than the front door.
  • We pace our eating speed to other people. If we eat with fast, hearty eaters, that’s what we’ll become, too.

In fact, changing the environment is one of the best ways to change, because it requires only a one-time investment from the rider. Then the path takes over and quietly pushes the elephant along. Neither the elephant nor the rider have to do any more work.

Today, as part of your daily practice, stay aware of what you’re seeing, doing, and experiencing.

Look around your home and workplace and see if you can spot the cues that shape your behavior, thoughts, feelings, and routines.

At Precision Nutrition we refer to Dr. Berardi’s First Law:

“If a food is in your house or possession, either you, someone you love, or someone you marginally tolerate, will eventually eat it”.

In other words, only keep things that you should consume.

And don’t rely on “willpower” or “motivation” to help you if there’s a delicious treat calling you from the cupboard.

This doesn’t make you bad, stupid, or lazy.

In fact, most of you are exerting tremendous willpower all day long: getting up to go to work; dressing in uncomfortable clothes instead of pajamas; not insulting our partners during an argument despite that zinger being a totally sweet burn, and so forth.

The aftermath of Halloween

Speaking of sweet treats calling you from the cupboard; Is anybody gonna be challenged managing chocolate and candy today after yesterday’s Halloween festivities?
Here are some tips to manage your sugar intake:

  • Set a limit. Decide how many pieces you will permit yourself and stick to it!
  • Ditch the chocolate cocaine in the next few days. I used to throw out a little bit everyday so the kids wouldn’t notice. Then after 2-3 days, I get them to pick a few of their favourite pieces, the rest went int he garbage.
  • Hide the candy. Studies show you’ll eat more if the candy dish is in reach as opposed to being stashed in the cupboard.

Feel free to share some tricks that you use to manage your intake.

source: Precision Nutrition Level 2 Course Material