Bad breath and good advice
Yesterday I went on a lunch date with my wife. We picked this new spaghetti restaurant where I had a whole grain “Green Hugger”. A delicious overdose of veggies, herbs and spices. Today I can kill vampires by breathing in their direction.
Before lunch, I’d been to physio. (Short story: my barefoot running stint resulted in painful achilles tendinopathy.) My physiotherapist Koen is a friendly guy who’s big on eating healthy. While electrocuting my ankles, he explained that people should be educated about food:
“They diet for a while, but soon it’s back to eating chips in front of the TV …”
“You need to avoid those glucose spikes … “
“Do you know what aspartame was originally? A pesticide! It kills things!”
Which brings me back to my wife.
Information is not enough
I told Koen that my wife drinks a lot of Coke Zero. He promptly gave me printouts with scientific data about the dangers of aspartame. I thanked him but said that no amount of information has ever changed her mind. Res just likes Coke Zero. Period.
She does not (want to) believe it’s bad for her. It doesn’t help that the scientific research is inconclusive. And she experiences no disadvantages from ingesting aspartame. Therefore she has no intrinsic motivation to avoid it. Unlike me.
It’s very easy for me not to get hooked on diet soda. I tried it a couple of times, hated it and got headaches on both occasions. I don’t need scientific proof. My body protests immediately. Case closed.
If mere information was enough, no one would smoke, everyone would eat healthy and I’d be worshipped by young maidens. But that’s not the world we live in, is it?
Willpower is not enough
Decades ago, I annoyed friends and family by being a hardcore vegetarian.
PETA opened my eyes to the cruelty animals go through just because they’re tasty. I also learned that the simplest and cheapest thing anyone can do to reduce our impact on the planet is to eat less meat.
For 3 years this motivated me to:
- Stop eating meat and fish
- Check labels for hidden animal ingredients
- Be a pain in the ass at weddings, barbecues, family parties, evenings out with friends …
The truth is that it was HARD. I still loved the smell of cooked meat. The thought of smoked salmon made me drool. People gave me flak. Also, back then there weren’t many shops or restaurants that took vegetarians into account. You had to be determined!
One evening I got the new job I wanted. Res and I decided to celebrate. It was getting late and we couldn’t find a restaurant that served vegetarian meals. So I had some fish “just this once”.
Make it easier
So if information and willpower aren’t enough, what does it take then?
Over the years I learned that to change bad habits:
- Get Omnipleasant e-mail updates.
- You do need good information to start with.
- Intrinsic motivation is essential. This is why I don’t drink diet soda but my wife does.
- The influence of our environment can’t be underestimated.
- To make lasting change, you’ll have to make it easier for yourself.
What challenges have you failed at so far? How can you make it easier?