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Identify yourself with the person you want to be

In February I started experimenting a bit with losing some weight. My goal is to lose 5 kg until summer. But I know that I can’t change too radically too soon. That always gets me back to where I started. Instead I like to gently nudge myself to adapt a lifestyle which better helps me achieve my goal.

So, in my weight losing experiments I started looking at the things I eat during a day. What of those things are good? What of those things are not so good? I made a little list of these things. As I went through it, I sorted it into things I know will be hard to change and other things where I should try to adapt. Out of this list I created a collection of principles.

For instance, I love chocolate! I love it way too much for my own good. But here is an opportunity where I can adapt a bit. I know that I can’t cut chocolate completely — my life would be miserable without it. A few days in and the craving would be too big. So instead of trying to cut chocolate completely from my life (which I know would end in failure), I tell myself that dark chocolate is okay. I only eat chocolate when it has 70% or more cacao, because it contains less sugar. So that’s the principle — chocolate is fine, but only dark chocolate.

I have limited my choices and start identifying myself as a person who only eats dark chocolate. Good step forward.

Prepare ahead

Everyday somewhere between breakfast and lunch I start getting this big craving. My energy levels drop and I need to snack on something. It’s a big danger zone, because when I’m hungry at work I start eating bad stuff. I will find those chocolate cookies on the office counter, or candy bars, anything I can find in my vicinity.

It’s easy to allow yourself this little treat each day, and rationalize that you were after all hungry, and there was nothing else nearby.

But here’s the trick. If I know each day that I’m having these breakdowns, why don’t I prepare for it? Why don’t I define some principles and help myself along?

In the building of the office where I work there is a cafeteria. And I know that fruit is a good thing. You don’t get fat by eating fruit. The principle?

Every day at 09:00 – buy an apple and a banana.

The apple is for when I start getting hungry around 10:00. The banana is for that second dip that comes in the afternoon, usually around 15:00. In the cafeteria there is this nice cashier, an old lady, very friendly. As I started showing up each day buying my apple and banana I realized that she actually is my accountability partner. And she doesn’t even know it.

But I don’t want to let her down. So I show up every morning, to buy my apple and banana, thanking her for the change, wishing her a nice day, happy to have accomplished my task of preparing the day.

Look for accountability

It’s a small little hack, but it has changed the way I approach eating healthier. The principle is to choose eating fruit instead of cookies and candy. But I have to prepare for it in order to succeed. And in the process I turned the cafeteria lady into my accountability partner.

This whole thing compounds. Eating an apple now and then may not be such a huge deal to your overall health and lifestyle. But exchanging cookies for an apple every day definitely does. It sets you up for winning in the long run.

When you find your set of principles you follow them religiously. You don’t want to break the chain. Keep following the principles you defined and good things will come your way. Changing your life is not about the big turning events, it’s about small everyday decisions that compounds over time. That’s where all the good stuff lies.