THIRTY THREE MORE GROOVES
If you use the grooves I’ve introduced so far (you use the three eating tools - Fasting, Burning and Reloading, you follow a yo-yo rhythm of weight loss and you graph your weight everyday) then you’re going to reset your weight for good. Get into a mindless routine, keep your hunger at bay and reward yourself as you go and you’ve got a pretty good recipe for success. So what more do you need?
Nothing. Those are the simple elements that make this diet work. But... Well there is no but, so ‘and’...
And, there are a heap of small actions that will just help it work even easier. They are all about removing friction and gently biasing the process to give your Thoughtful Brain the advantage and to hold Amy at bay. They are just little practical tips. But they are all grounded in the behavioural misjudgements that we tend to make because of our amygdala.
The difference between being driven by our rational decisions or by Amy Brain is like the difference between whether we are thinking about life in ideal situations or life in the real world. Our Thoughtful Brain tends to work best in the idealised situation. In times when we are comfortable, relaxed and happy and have time to think about the things that matter then Thoughtful Brain comes to its best decisions. It’s like the scientist in her Swiss laboratory in an advert for shampoo. Everything is neat and ordered and works as we design it.
Amy Brain comes to the fore whenever we are under a bit of pressure, whenever we have to make a decision. In everyday life, basically. And it’s amazing how easily Amy will side step you and hijack our Thoughtful Brain at any opportunity like this.
But the point for anyone trying to lose weight is that we need every bit of help we can get in beating Amy. The more that we can keep decisions in the realm of Thoughtful Brain, the less we are going to giveaway that we don’t want to.
So, what follows are a bunch of small tips; ‘nudges’ as they are often called in behavioural science, just to prompt us to help keep Thoughtful Brain in gear, and even just to help Amy Brain make better snap decisions, whenever she takes the driver’s seat.
First things first: be prepared. Whatever we can do to commit us to a decision while Thoughtful Brain is still in control, then there’s less chance of Amy sabotaging it later.
1. Buy your food in in advance.
2. Choose what you want to eat when you are feeling relaxed, happy and most of all, completely full.
3. Prepare healthy meals in advance. Cook a day ahead if you can. Pre-prepare tomorrows supper once you have eaten today’s. At least get all the ingredients ready to go.
Don’t give Amy a chance. You know you’ll be raiding the fridge on a Tuesday afternoon so put in your defences first. People have been tested in a similar situation. They all chose a snack in advance for later on in the week. Half of them had chosen fruit. But when snack time came around they were given a last minute opt out. Nearly three quarters of the fruit choosers changed their mind at the last minute and went for the chocolate.
4. Stock up on your Fibre Filled Veg and your Pure Protein. Buy pre-cooked chickens, ham, beef, fish. Get in loads of salad veg for crudités – there’s really no end of what you can eat raw or lightly blanched - go mange tout, haricot vert, endive, fennel.
5. Prepare your Fibre Filled nibbles first. Make sticks from carrots, celery, peppers and leave them in a fresh glass of water in the fridge every day.
6. Pure Protein Snacks can be treats. (Remember you’re saving money by not eating on a Fast Day). Chicken satay sticks, roll-mop herring slices, bbq chicken slices, smoked salmon, ready peeled quails eggs... you’re worth it.
And we can make cheap snacks too. Boil a couple of eggs and leave them in a bowl in the fridge. They'll last a week. Peel one when you’re peckish. Sprinkle some salt, or celery salt onto a saucer and dip your egg in as you nibble it.
Boil a chicken. Make stock. Let the chicken cool and strip all the meat off. Keep it in a tub in the fridge as snacks for a few days.
Keep a properly stocked fridge and you’re half way there.
7. The other side of this equation is to keep the bad stuff out of harms way. In the shop for a start. If you need to keep crisps and biscuits for the kids then put them somewhere you don’t go and let them fend for themselves.
8. Accept eating less. It’s a state of mind. Get used to it. Your appetite will relax.
9. Never take half a biscuit. There is no half biscuit. Either have it and pay the price, or hold back.
10. Tell Amy to think twice about what you are about to eat.
11. Put your fork down when you eat.
12. Make time an ally. Wait a bit.
Leave the peanuts in the bowl a little longer. Even waiting for five minutes will cut down how many you have overall.
13. Never finish your plate.
14. Better still – don’t letting the temptation sit on your plate in the first place. Especially in a restaurant or café. Hold the fries. Or, if you’re going to have a couple then ask for a plate to ditch the rest on and get them to take it away. Yes it’s creating a fuss, but we can’t resist temptation when it’s that close.
15. Don’t eat in the car, it still counts!
16. Don’t eat while you’re watching TV. And if you’re watching TV, don’t keep on grazing. Go to the kitchen, have the bag of crisps. Then go back to the sofa. Or take up knitting instead, that keeps your hands busy! Oh, and try popcorn not crisps.
17, 18, 19. Eat slowly, take smaller bites, chew more and put your cutlery down between each mouthful. It’s boring childhood advice, or it’s trendy mindfulness, but it makes a difference. Maybe even 88 calories per meal alone.
20. Create positive rituals. Like always drink a litre of water before you ever have a wine or a beer.
You can even make drinking water feel more enjoyable. Try this instead of your first glass of white wine on a Friday night… Make it fizzy water, there just seems a bit more substance to it. Grab a favourite glass, a big heavy one. Take out loads of ice, (and remake some more for next time), and fill the glass. Cut a slice of lemon or lime, squeeze a little into the glass, run it round the rim and drop it in. And finally fill the glass till it’s nearly bubbling over.
It’s still just a glass of water, but while I’m making and drinking that water I’m not drinking beer, so that’s one bottle saved already. And then the distance it has given me lets me move away from the need for a beer. I’m not so thirsty for a start. And I’ve had time to think – do I really need a beer? And maybe if I liked that sparkling water enough I might have another one. So then, perhaps just a glass of wine later on? And perhaps that’ll happen, perhaps it won’t. Perhaps I’ll be good and stick on the water.
21. Pimp the basics. Keep tap water in a bottle in the fridge. It's much nicer cold. Or slice some cucumber into a jug of water and keep that in the fridge. Or add lemon wedges.
22. Get yourself some smaller plates. Even just one a special‘plate for me’. It’ll make a huge difference. Typical plates today hold around 1,600. A 1950s plate was likely to be just 9 inches wide - roughly 800 calories. Get yourself a 9 inch plate.
23. Always have something super-healthy in the fridge, it make the ordinary-healthy stuff seem more appealing.
If I open the fridge to find a Pepperami and some plain chicken breast I’d instinctively go for a nibble of the high-calorie Pepperami. But if the choice is chicken or cucumber I’d take the chicken quite happily. So give that lovely fillet of hot smoked salmon a chance and don’t put it up against the lasagne. Put it up against the cabbage.
24. Make healthy food even more appealing. Cruditees don’t have to be raw. Roast your cauliflower or broccoli florets and add some salt. Still keep them cold in the fridge.
Make sure you open your fridge to find carrot batons, celery sticks, mushrooms, spring onions, slices of red pepper, mouth-sized cherry tomatoes… Whatever you fancy from the Burn and Fast zones. The more you have, the more appealing it will be. And the greater variety you have, the more likely you’ll be to eat it.
25. And spruce it up with a little rose harissa for a dip. Or even some humus. Or a few shakes of celery salt in a saucer.
26. Make sure you positively have a healthy (Pure Protien/High Fibre) snack in the late afternoon/early evenng. Get the stuff out of the fridge. It’s the most dangerous time of the day: you’re just in from work or giving the children their supper, but your own meal is still hours away. It’s the longest stretch we make ourselves endure between meals.
27. For main meals keep them simple. Variety stimulates the appetite. Don’t be afraid of just a one or two colours on your plate on Fast Days. Just a bowl of sliced steak and some baby spinach leaves in balsamic vinegar.
28. Keep your defences up when you’re with others. We humans can’t help copying. It’s ok to drink slower and eat less.
29. Make sure your partner is supportive. If they are prising open the Twiglets and uncorking a cold bottle of Sauvignon at six o’clock every evening it’s not going to help you terribly much.
30. If you can find someone to diet with, then do try it together. A joint commitment is likely to provide the strongest and most effective bonds.
31. Do tell the people who care about you what you’re doing and ask for their support.
32. Take photos of yourself - before, every week, and after... You don't have to show anyone but it's great to compare how you're physically changing.
33. Tell me how you’re doing. C’mon!!