How’s the new protein habit going? How do you like using your palm as a reference to a serving size? Pretty cool trick, right?!
Just a reminder.. So far, the nutritional habits we are focusing on are:
-Eating Without Distractions
-Eating to 80% Full
-Eating One Serving of Protein with Each Meal
Today, we’re going to talk about..
“How to Ride an Elephant!”
Elephants might be beautiful, noble creatures of God. But, they are highly emotional; and weighing in anywhere between 2-7 tonnes, I would not want to be in their way if they are not happy.
In the book Switch, authors Chip and Dan Heath describe human behavior and cognition 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.
Picture yourself riding an elephant down a long path. Everything is going well. You think, “cool, I’ve got this under control. We’re going to ride straight to destination x, stop there for the night, let Joe (the elephant) get some water and food at these check points, and we should arrive at our final destination by mid afternoon on Saturday.”
Everything is going according to plan, until some pesky little hyenas start coming around. At first its no big deal. “Surely they will just go away soon,” you think. Well guess what, you’re wrong. More and more hyenas start showing up. Aparrently these guys have not eaten in weeks and their brains are fueled by rabie infested blood that makes them think they can actually take the elephant down. Now Joe starts to get a little anxious. You’re having a little trouble keeping him calm and heading forward. He begins to veer off track. The hyenas start snipping at his ankles and all hell breaks loose. Joe makes a dart off trail in an effort to loose these little sh*t heads! You, as the rider are completely under the control of a freaked out, 13,000 pound elephant who hasn’t been fed all day.
That brilliant plan your statistically thinking brain had made is now shot to crap.
Sound fimiliar?? Often times, especially when it comes to our health, we might set out with great intentions and a solid plan of attack. But when our emotional brain is rattled by the inevitable stresses of life, we lose control and throw our plans out the window.
So, how do we keep our elephant brain at ease?
We can’t control what life throws at us. But we can control the systems that we have in place before shit hits the fan (aka our path/environment).
Our environments can affect or change us without our awareness.
If we can make changes to our environment (aka shape the path) that keep our emotional, elephant-brain at ease, we can change behavior almost seamlessly. Sweet!
Obviously, we can’t change everything about our environment. But we can change many environmental elements to “shape our path” towards change and growth.
We’re strongly influenced by cues and stimuli from the people, things, and overall environment around us.
This is particularly true when it comes to food and eating, which are governed by very primal circuits, deep within our brains.
I know, I think it too: “I’m smarter than that! I make my own decisions!”
Well, we’re wrong.
Every one of us makes about 250 food decisions a day (Coffee or tea? PB and J or Ham and Cheese? Should I finish this sandwich?).
Most decisions we can’t explain. We just… make them.
In fact, research shows that most of our food decisions have nothing to do with hunger, but are actually determined by what and who are around us, along with our habits and familiar routines.
Ever wonder why certain foods are so darn appealing?
They’re designed to be, whether it’s due to how they look or smell, their enticing packaging, where or who you eat the food with (or if you eat them alone), and because advertisers remind you of them constantly. (That’s a whole other rabbit hole we could go down!)
If we can change our environment,
we can change our body.
The good news is that we can change our habits by changing their environment.
And we don’t have to join a monastery or evict our family — even small changes to our environment can make a big difference.
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.
This week, 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.
What path do you take to and from work? Is that drive thru way too tempting?
What path do you take when you arrive home? Is there a way to avoid coming in straight thru the kitchen? Or at least moving that cookie jar off the beaten trail?
With whom do you interact with most of the time? Are they supporting you and your efforts of improving your health?
What distractions and attractions are around you? That little red notification grab your attention way too often?
What is your physical environment like (the lighting, the smell, the space? Is it neat or cluttered?)
What are your cabinets and fridge stocked with? Could you shape that environment to avoid some of those hyenas?!
Where do you spend most of your time at home? What is that physical space like? Do you have a favorite chair that might not be treating your back too great?
Do you feel like you might spend a little too much time parked in front of the television screen? Is canceling your cable or Netflix subscription a possibility? Or maybe just moving the TV to a “not so convenient” place to sit could be an option? LOL
You get the idea.
Just look around you today and notice as many cues that are not in line with your goals as possible.
See if you can find one small way to shape the path for yourself today so that you make a desired change.