Friday, January 22, 2010

Never Cut What You Can Untie

Did you blink, and then read the title twice? Does it make you wonder where we’re going with this?

We’re headed in a specific direction, but the implications for these six words are far-reaching. Just as they were in the 1700s when Joseph Joubert, a French moralist, first penned them.

How many times do we cut ties, cut people out of our lives, cut our losses, or cut opportunities? “Cutting” can be extreme, sometimes excessive, and often unnecessary. And, here we are at the heart of this matter. Many of us, even unintentionally, cut our opportunities by avoiding problem issues. What if instead, we “untie” those issues?

Think of a knot in a rope. You can cut it and waste the rope, or you can slow down, work with it succeed in working the knot out—and still have the rope. So how do we untie issues? Well, let’s look at choices.

It’s the middle of the afternoon, you want a “pick me up,” and you have a craving for something sweet. You’re used to grabbing a pack of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups out of the vending machine in the break room. But you have a choice. While you don’t have to “cut” peanut butter cups from your life forever, what if you begin to “untie” that habit and substitute a healthier choice? What if you take an apple to work, and mid-afternoon, when the craving hits, substitute the apple for the peanut butter cups? By the end of the week, believe it or not, you’re going to look forward to that apple.

The same is true of soft drinks, fast food and even a sedentary lifestyle. You don’t have to cut TV from your life, but you could substitute a walk for one TV show. You don’t have to cut soft drinks from your diet, but you could substitute water or iced tea for one (or more) sodas. Before you even know it you will find you’ve lost weight and have more energy.

And, you’ll find you’ve “untied” some of those habits you’ve been meaning to cut.

Monday, January 11, 2010

It’s Not a Fair Fight

So, what else is new? But knowing what you’re up against provides a lot of ammunition—and a strategy to bring the playing field into better balance, giving you a fair shot at success.

Dr. David A. Kessler, former head of the Food and Drug Administration, is maybe best known for his efforts to regulate the tobacco industry, and his accusation that cigarette makers intentionally manipulated nicotine content to make their products more addictive. He now points out that the food industry has done much the same—by combining and creating foods in a way that stimulates our desire for more food—and more of the wrong foods.

It’s not so much the individual ingredients says Dr. Kessler. He says it’s the combinations—of fats, sugars and salt that tap into the brain’s reward system, creating a circular loop that stimulates the desire to eat and then leaves us wanting more, even when full. He says food companies “design food for irresistibility” as part of their business plans.

This explains why we think fast food tastes “good.” It may be why it’s so hard to stop with “just one” miniature Snickers bar. Knowing this is important because it means we don’t make these unhealthy food choices because we are “weak,” but in part because we are being over-stimulated by the “design” of the foods we consume. What happens if we use this knowledge to begin to think differently about the foods we eat? What happens if we use this knowledge to begin to take back control of our food choices?

If we are indeed conditioned by the food industry to overeat, then being mindful of this fact and of what we choose to consume to nourish our bodies is up to us. Are you tired of being manipulated? Are you up for a challenge? What do you have to lose?