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, and oily food while only tolerating green leaves and broccoli. Maybe you were even raised in the South (like I was) where they take home-grown, fresh 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.
It can be difficult to switch to a diet style based on fruits, veggies, beans, nuts, and seeds. Living in the land of plenty 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 and on every corner! I spent a good two years inconsistently attempting to eat healthfully before sticking to a diet composed 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.
Enter the unimposing “seed habit.” A seed habit begins when you set 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.
There are two secrets to a successful seed habit:
1. Start small
2. Do it no matter what.
For instance, let’s say you want to get in shape. What if, instead of aiming to work out five days a week at the gym, you started small (secret #1) with 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. Pretty cool, huh?
Now, I can see you rolling your eyes. “What good’s one pushup gonna do me?” Good question. 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 build discipline.
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 probably already have a desire to eat more fruits and vegetables. So let’s assume you don’t mind grapes at all, but, when confronted with the bagel and donut tray in the office kitchenette, you have trouble avoiding the sugary treats. Well, with your new seed habit, those refined carbs aren’t a problem. But first, 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 anything else. Once you’ve eaten your fruit, you’ve met your breakfast goal, so don’t worry about restricting other foods. Let the pecan sticky bun be ok for now. Complete your seed habit every day for a week no matter what, and you’ll be well on your way to crafting a healthy, plant-based breakfast.
For lunch, you can 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 plant-based style of eating, try to include leafy greens in your four ounces of vegetables. It is important to be very clear about your goal so you’ll be able to measure your progress. And if four ounces of fruit or vegetables seems like too much, don’t be afraid to make your seed habit smaller (secret #1).
Y’all, the no-matter-what part (secret #2) is super important. Building a new habit requires repetition. Repetition beneficially changes your brain structure to make it easier for you to continue to develop your new habit.
What happens after a week? If you have been consistent with your daily goals, raise the stakes just a smidgen—keeping it small makes it more likely that you’ll stick with it. And sticking with your seed habit helps insure that those few ounces of fruit and vegetables will mature into an entire eating style based on the most nutrient-rich foods mother earth has to offer.