Categorized | Health

Change Your Environment to Change Your Behavior – Diet in Taiwan II

Posted on 05 June 2012 by Austin Yoder

Diet in Taiwan

- Fresh produce is cheap in Taiwan

Sometimes all you need to do to effect a change in your behavior is make one small tiny change – to alter the environment you’re in very slightly, or to rephrase the way you write your to-do list.

I’ve started up my photo food diary again recently. I had been struggling to figure out a healthy breakfast alternative to Baozi – a delicious rice bun filled with pork.  I had been slow to make an change to my breakfast routine because Baozi are super convenient to pick up on the way out the door in the morning, relatively healthy (high in protein, and rice flour in Baozi is better than wheat or white toast), and are fairly delicious. I’ve been wanting to switch over to a grain-less breakfast for about two weeks, and one of my friends called me on it.

I had this statement written on my to-do list for about two weeks:

“Come up with healthier breakfast alternative.”

Eating Baozi is not unhealthy. I wanted to come up with an alternative because I am in the process of drastically reducing / eliminating grains from my diet, except on cheat days.

See anything that could be improved about the way I wrote the to-do?

I had been talking about changing my breakfast for around two weeks. A friend of mine called me out on the fact that I had been talking about making a change to my behavior for half a month, but still hadn’t actually done anything about it.

Having (real) friends that will call you out when you talk about making a change to your behavior for an extended period of time without actually changing your behavior is a true blessing.

I rewrote my to-do as:

“Buy fresh produce to keep in fridge.”

There was no real barrier to me changing my behavior at play here – just the simple fact that I hadn’t been grocery shopping in a while.

I went grocery shopping and picked up all of the following fresh and locally sourced produce for NTD 300. USD $10 on the nose. The same food in a Whole Foods in the US would probably have cost me $50 – $60.

  • Two different kinds of fresh greens
  • Two giant fresh mangoes
  • Two bags of golden needle mushrooms
  • Three fresh tomatoes
  • Large bag of fresh garlic cloves
  • Bag of chili peppers
  • 8 brown farm fresh chicken eggs

This is enough fresh produce to last me 3 – 4 meals.

This morning I had hard boiled eggs, mango, and a handful of almonds for breakfast. No grains. Very healthy, very tasty. As soon as I had the right ingredients for a healthier breakfast sitting in my fridge, there was no longer any barrier.

The to-do of “Come up with healthier breakfast alternative” is ambiguous, and direction-less. With this phrasing there’s a mental barrier at play that I have to overcome. Maybe I have to do research, maybe I have to do some reading, at the very least I have to sit down and think about something, then decide what the next action is. Mental resistance.

The to-do of “Buy fresh produce to keep in fridge” is unambiguous and direct, and as soon as it’s accomplished I’ve removed any barriers in place preventing me from making a simple healthy breakfast. No mental resistance about sitting down for 5 – 10 minutes to plan out a better alternative – just the simple act of walking into the kitchen and turning on the stove to make breakfast.

Sometimes all it takes to move forward is a small change in the way you phrase things, a small alteration to your environment.

Icing on the cake: being surrounded by people who will help you focus and work on what you need to do to move forward.

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Tool of the Day:

I’ve been using a new productivity tool lately that’s pretty cool. A simple and lightweight to-do list that you might want to check out if you use to-dos in your personal life or for work – Workflowy.

Question of the Day:

Ever made a small change to your environment to that’s helped you to alter your behavior?