Why a piece of fruit in your hand will help you to stay on your goal weight FOREVER
Building positive habits is the only way to cheat yourself to the weight that you want to be at.
The reason why diets fail 95% of the time is that people are trying to look for short term solutions:
- Cutting out one particular thing out of the diet (usually either fats or carbohydrates)
- Going on a juice cleanse to drop a size in a week
- Eating only cucumbers and celery for 2 weeks
This works! For a few weeks and maybe months, but then comes the dreaded yoyo-effect. You gain the same weight back – often with a vengeance. Because you fall back into the habits you had before. There are no shortcuts in life, unfortunately.
There is a simple scientific psychological reason for it: Your default mode network kicks back into action. What is the default mode network, you might ask now? It’s your default way of thinking and acting. Your brain gets ingrained with pathways over the years. This is what your brain relies on when it’s on auto-pilot. You don’t have to think about, it’s effortless. Your brain likes it when things are effortless because it can focus on other things instead.
Maybe you can still remember when you learned how to drive. All the buttons, all the peddles, the speedometer, looking over your shoulders, the mirrors, how do you park in reverse again? There is so much stuff is going on at the same time and you need to focus on every single thing in the process. In the beginning, you are overwhelmed, but after a while, you get the hang of it. You don’t need to think about it anymore. Now you just drive from A to B. It’s all in muscle memory. It feels effortless.
This kind of effortlessness happens in your brain all the time. In the way you act, the way you think, and the way you eat. We build these habits over years and years. Once a habit is there, it’s difficult to get rid of it again. That’s why people have such a hard time trying to quit smoking, gambling, or eating junk food. Neurological pathways are carved into your pleasure and reward system. The more often you do something, the stronger this pathway gets. The opposite is also true, however. Your brain is flexible and can change – this is called neuroplasticity. Your brain automatically rewires itself to work as efficient as possible. If you don’t use a certain part of your brain’s network, the connections get weaker and weaker. You may have learned Spanish or French in school but never used it. After a few years, you can hardly remember a single phrase.
The same is true for habits. If you don’t act on them for a longer time, these ingrained pathways in your brain will get weaker and diminish as well. Your default mode network changes, your auto-pilot slowly updates to the new normal.
Science tells us that it takes about 3 weeks to get used to a new habit. And it’s a lot easier to learn a habit than to try to not act on one. Check out my last post to learn more about this: If you use self-control to lose weight you are destined to fail.
If you are hangry you are at risk
Being hungry means that you are vulnerable. Hunger is the signal of your body that you need to eat food NOW. Your body kicks into survival mode, that’s why we are getting hangry. Evolutionary speaking, your lizard brain is a lot stronger than your sophisticated self. For your survival, it’s more important to get food than being polite to other people.
Being hungry is especially detrimental when you are shopping for groceries. If you walk into the supermarket with a hungry stomach you are a lot more likely to buy junk food and impulse products like candy-bars. There has been a lot of scientific research about this and it’s the reason why bakery sections are being placed more prominently in supermarkets. The smell of baked bread makes us hungry. Hungry customer = more sales! Yes, your local supermarket is that sneaky. The people working in their marketing department have read all those books on consumer psychology and of course, are trying to exploit your lizard brain as much as they can. But there is a ridiculously easy way to protect yourself from this. Have a piece of fruit beforehand.
There should be an apple next to your keys
The easiest way to build a habit is to link it to another habit. This makes learning the new habit as effortless as possible for you. Every time you leave the house, you reach for your keys, right? Put your fruit bowl next to your house keys. It may appear odd, but it will help you to build healthier eating habits in an effortless way. Every time you leave the house, you grab your keys and you grab a piece of fruit.
Eating more fruit will become something that is normal for you. It will become a habit to reach for fruit. A new pathway will be ingrained into your brain. At a certain point, it will be weird for your body not to have fruit in reach.
The positive side effects? You get essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals from fruit into your body. On top, you are less prone to snacking on other things, like chocolate bars, cake or chips. It will ensure that you are not hungry and therefore less vulnerable to impulse eating. Your relationship with food changes for the better, because there is less space in your diet for highly processed foods and your bond with healthy unprocessed foods will become stronger.
The best options to take with you on-the-go are unprocessed foods that are convenient to carry and eat. If you are eating fruit and vegetables on-the-go they of course also count in your 5-a-day. The easiest options to take are:
- A handful of berries
- Cherry tomatoes
- Snack cucumbers
- Baby carrots
- Sugar snap peas
Pretty much all fruit and vegetables that you don’t need to cook or prepare are ideal.
It’s not a diet shortcut or quick-fix; it’s a subconscious lifestyle change. It’s probably the easiest health hack you can leverage. If reaching for unprocessed foods like fruit and vegetables becomes your new normal, this will help you to stay on weight for the rest of your life.