If you’re at all like me, you like food. And if you’re at all like I used to be, you like rich, sugary, salty, oily food while stoically tolerating green leaves and broccoli. Maybe you were even raised in the South (like I was) where they take home-grown, fresh-picked crooked-neck squash and swaddle it in thick batter before plunging it into a roiling skillet of hot crisco. And where Lay’s potato chips are still considered a vegetable.
If you are like me, you’ve found it difficult to switch to a diet style based on fruits, veggies, beans, nuts, and seeds. Living in the land of plenty with a brain hard-wired for deprivation makes it hard to choose salad over sirloin, cherimoya over chocolate, greens over grilled cheese—especially when these high-calorie, highly rewarding foods are to be found any time, on every corner, and everybody’s doing it!
I spent a good two years of off and on and back and forth before attaining some degree of stability in sticking to a diet that consists entirely of health-promoting, disease-fighting foods. Since then, I’ve never looked back, but if I knew what I know now, I’d make the change quite a bit differently.
How to start a good habit
Enter the unimposing seed habit. A seed habit begins with you setting a very small goal for yourself—something requiring so little effort or discipline that you can’t possibly fail. A seed habit, when planted and nourished by your follow-through, will, over time grow into your ultimate goal.
Secrets to seed habits
There are two secrets to a successful seed habit:
1. Start small.
A solid workout routine can start with just one push-up.
For instance, let’s say you want to get in shape. What if, instead of aiming high at an entire gym workout five days a week, you aimed real low (secret #1)—say, one pushup. Yes, you read it right. One pushup. That would be your mini goal. And once you accomplished that one pushup, you would have fulfilled your commitment for that day. Pretty cool, huh?
Now, I can see you rolling your eyes. “What good’s one pushup gonna do me?”
Well, that one little pushup is the seed for your new (future) workout habit. You see, most of us, most of the time, aren’t gonna do just one pushup—you’ll get down there on the floor and do one, and then another and then find yourself a little energized and keep going. But even if that doesn’t happen, this little seed pushup, if completed every day, is the beginning of a habit. Also, by following through every day no matter what on you commitment (secret #2), you slowly build discipline.
How to change your diet with seed habits
But what about food? How can you use the concept of a seed habit to build a nutrient-dense eating style from the standard American diet? Why, one grape at a time, of course!
I’m guessing, though, that if you’ve found this blog, you’ve probably already attained some degree of enjoyment of fruits and veggies. So let’s assume that you don’t mind grapes at all, but, when confronted with the bagel and doughnut tray in the office kitchenette first thing in the morning, you have trouble doing the right thing. Well, with your new seed habit, those deadly refined carbs aren’t a problem.
Make your seed habit very clear
First, though, we have to establish very clearly our seed habit.
One possibility might be: have at least one four ounce serving of fruit, and have it before eating
For lunch, make another small goal—say four ounces of raw, naked vegetables (in other words, no fancy high-calorie sauces). Since you’re working toward a nutrient-rich style of eating, it’s good to include leafy greens in your four ounces of veggies. But the main point is to be very clear about your goal so you’ll know when you’ve met it.