Learning a new habit isn’t easy. It takes time, and various stages. The goal of any new habit is to get to the “maintenance” phase. That’s the point where everything is clicking. It’s become second nature.
Most people this this is where the journey ends, that this is the goal, the stopping point.
When I was in grad school I had a professor say this to us: at some point in your life, each and every one of your healthy habits will be challenged and you will likely relapse into old patterns.
I was pretty shocked. Every habit will relapse at some point? But she was convincing — the research suggests that any new health habit you acquire is temporary, and at some point, it will fail.
It may be after 5 minutes (like trying to quit smoking), 5 days (a crash diet), 5 months (an exercise program), or 5 years.
It may be after 30 years.
But no habit is safe.
Why is this? Why can we never rest on our newly found laurels? We’ve just spent months or years learning these new habits. We’ve got systems in place. We rely on our routines. Life is good, everything is on autopilot.
That’s the thing about life. It is inherently unpredictable, uncertain. Anyone who tells you otherwise is either lying or a hermit that never leaves the house.
Life changes, all the time. You move. A relationship starts or ends. Jobs, kids, the economy — it all changes.
That’s not to say you can’t get back to maintenance. That process will likely be easier the second time around — you have a history with this habit, and you can probably find your way back. But you will experience a period where it falters and your old habits reemerge.
For me, I find it very hard to believe that my vegan/plant-based diet will ever change. This feels more than just a habit. But maybe even that isn’t 100% safe. I shouldn’t show such hubris.
One habit that is in flux right now, at the moment, is meditation. I have been trying to build this habit for nearly 3 years now.
For a good year or more I was meditating every morning when I awoke and every night before bed, along with some light yoga.
It was a great habit, and lead to some profound personal growth and discovery. It made me a better, happier person.
But even though the research suggests benefit even with as little as five minutes a day, there is something so challenging about…just…stopping. It’s so antithetical to our western, fast paced culture. With the internet always on, we can be always on.
Taking a break to just sit there quietly with your breath and noticing your thoughts, who’s got the time for that?!
Well I did — off and on for 3 years.
But life happens.
For the past few weeks I have been in transition mode, between apartments and possibly moving cities for a new opportunity. While everything that is happening is both exciting and challenging, the uncertainty is stressful.
Of course, this would be likely the most important time for me to be meditating regularly.
Yet the mind goes elsewhere, old habits come back in. Novel life stress causes relapse in habits, and getting lost in Netflix all of a sudden is way more appealing. I spend all day consumed by the anxiety of my thoughts, why would I want to devote 5-10 minutes a day to listening to them even more intently??
So I have not been meditating. I have relapsed. Relapsed into old patterns, old stress-relievers, etc.
I still carry the lessons I learned from when I was in maintenance of this meditation habit. It still has made me a million times better at coping with this life stress. Those lessons are with me.
I share this story not to scare you but to simply share the reality — no habit is safe from relapse. Instead of having that scare you I hope it helps you feel OK when it does happen. It’s normal. Be gentle with yourself when it happens, dust yourself off, and figure out what you need to do to get back to it.
For me, it starts tomorrow!
….wait. I said that I learned the lessons of meditation.
It starts NOW! (Off to meditate!)
Can you picture it? A vegan world? When will it come?
A lot of people ask me this when they find out that I am vegan.
“Do you really think all human beings will give up meat??”
“How will you convince everyone to give up meat?
I think I have an answer:
Make meat unappealing.
Now I know what you’re thinking. You’re probably thinking that’s kind of obvious, and you’re probably thinking I mean increase the awareness over the animal rights, environmental and health disaster that is animal agriculture.
And while I do think all three of those things are incredibly important to educate people about, that’s not what I mean.
Maybe I’ll put it differently: make alternatives the appealing choice.
Yes, I’m talking about fake meat.
Here’s the deal — meat from animals is inefficient. You pretty much can’t argue this. It’s just physics. It’s ecology. Eating higher on the food chain is inherently inefficient. Eating lower on the food chain will always be more efficient.
Why? Because things higher on the food chain require more inputs (water, food, fertilizer, antiobiotics, etc). Those inputs cost money and resources and are thusly inefficient.
Plants are lower on the food chain and are more efficient, both from a resource perspective and a cost perspective.
So alternatives (yes, I mean fake meat) outperform meat from animals in cost and environmental efficiency. They also obviously outperform meat from animals from an ethical standpoint. No dead cows means a more ethical burger.
The remaining question: taste.
Well if you haven’t tried fake meat in awhile, they are damn good. I’ve fooled many meat-loving peers of mine with fake meat products. I’ve served them without telling them what it was and they’ve been floored. I’ve asked them “if fake meat tasted identical or better to the real thing would you eat it?” I’ve never had a friend answer anything other than “yes.”
Then there’s this: a vegan burger just won Best Burger in the World.
Note: that didn’t say “Best Veggie Burger in the World.” Meat burgers were in the running, but one made from plants won the day.
So if plants can be cheaper, better for the environment, more humane, more nutritious and tastier???
We may not have to convince anyone to go vegan, we merely have to continue to work to make alternatives win in all these categories. If it’s cheaper and tastes just as good, this will be the end of meat and no one will miss it.
For more meat-free products check out Gardein, Beyond Meat, Tofurky, and many others. If you live in the Minneapolis area you can check out the world’s first Vegan Butcher for artisanal vegan meats and cheeses at The Herbivorous Butcher.
*That burger is 100% vegan. It won Best Burger
A week or two ago I saw a meme on Facebook.
Ok I see lots of memes on Facebook, and to be honest, most are pretty meaningless.
But this one was a quote from the Dalai Lama. He’s a pretty wise man, so I tend to listen to what he has to say.
Take a look:
This meme succinctly describes the hypocrisy of how many modern humans conduct their lives. I’m not here to point any fingers or blame anyone for this imbalance. I merely want to shine a light on it, and suggest that we’ve got it all wrong.
I want to make the plea for health.
We tend to sacrifice a lot of ourselves in the pursuit of attaining more – more money, more status, more clothing, more possessions, etc.
We tend to, as a culture, be over-worked and over-stressed in these pursuits.
We, as the quote suggests, sacrifice our health in the pursuit of wealth, only to, as we get older, use that wealth to try to buy back some health.
As I said, we’ve got this all wrong, and I can prove it.
The future does not exist.
Bear with me for a second here, I am going to get just a bit existential.
The future does not exist. It’s not real. That may or may not sound controversial to you. But it’s hard to argue with.
We can reasonably predict that some future will take place in some way.
Things have continued for however many years we’ve already lived, and with a little luck, we can reasonably assume that we will continue to exist in a relatively similar fashion.
But we have little actual impact on that future. The amount that we control in that future is very very small.
This isn’t to say that we should not work hard or save money. For many life goals, money is essential.
But while the future is and always will be a fantasy, an idea, there is something real that you are experiencing right now.
Can you guess?
It’s… RIGHT NOW.
The present moment is real, it is tangible. You are experiencing it right now, and believe it or not, it’s all you actually have. Even when the future comes you will experience it in the present moment.
So if you are still with me, it stands to reason that we should place more value on what is now than what will be. (Again, I am not saying throw away all planning or forethought toward the future, just stay with me.)
And while a lot of people think that investing in your health is solely for the purposes of attaining more future (increasing the amount of years you have on the planet), the real benefit of health is experienced in the NOW.
This is the only time when you can experience anything!
That, and because health is a present state of being. I am not a healthy 80-year old. I am a healthy 29-year old, and as such I am fit, in shape, and eat a diet that gives me abundant energy in the moment. It makes me feel good today, not 50 years from now!
If I am fortunate the choices I make today can lead to a better reality for myself in 50 years. But that is simply a fantasy, an illusion. Not entirely unimportant to consider, but not where the real benefit of a healthy lifestyle is conferred.
Look, money, hard work, promotions – these are good things for which to strive. But do not sacrifice your health in their pursuit, because this is a truly foolish trade. You trade your wellbeing now (the only time you can experience wellbeing) for potential future wellbeing. Once this future is achieved, you need to trade back the money you got for the health you gave up in the form of expensive drugs and surgeries.
It’s a raw deal.
Invest in your health TODAY, in THIS MOMENT. It is far more valuable than any sum of money you could possibly dream of.
Now I don’t follow UFC in any way, but I still know who Conor McGregor is. His personality is larger than life. His tattooed bulk frame, Irish accent, and machismo attitude epitomizes the sport of competitive fighting.
McGregor had a fight last weekend against Nate Diaz. Going into this battle, McGregor was undefeated in UFC fights.
He was the Ronda Rousey of male UFC fighters. No one expected him to lose.
But he did.
I don’t really care, since I don’t follow the sport. Sure I know him and his personality well, simply from being a sports fan, but the fact that he lost doesn’t mean a thing.
Except for one fact: Nate Diaz is
vegan a plant-based athlete, following a mostly raw vegan diet.
A vegan just took down the world’s most accomplished and feared fighter.
Why does this matter?
This probably doesn’t matter to most of you reading this. You probably don’t follow UFC, don’t know who these people are, don’t care.
But you know who does?
The male roommate of one of my friends, who has no real knowledge of or interest in the vegan diet. About all he knows is that vegans supposedly suffer in their search for protein in their measly leaves they eat.
But as we sat around talking about how both of us are vegan and loving it, and trying to open his mind to it, I casually threw out this fact: “you know the guy who just beat Conor McGregor is vegan…”
His ears perked up. I had his attention. This stood out to him.
So no, the result of this UFC fight is not very important to my life. But is is very important to the vegan movement. Not because Nate Diaz needs to be an ambassador for the lifestyle. But because his accomplishments can speak to a demographic that other vegans simply can’t.
The strongest man in the world just got beat by a vegan. Deal with it.
If you follow current health trends online — subscribe to a blog, follow a nutrition “expert” on social media, etc — you may feel like there is a ridiculous amount of conflicting evidence pointing one way or another on diet advice.
There’s the classic divide between paleo and vegan, but then there’s low-carb, low-fat, high-fat, Zone, South Beach, etc.
There’s a lot to be confused about.
Or so it would seem…
The reality is there is far more consensus on what we should be eating than you probably realize. Why might you not know this?
Controversy sells books.
The next study showing a previously heralded food is bad for you will be music to the ears of book publishers. They can’t wait to sell you the next greatest thing in to the diet crazed public.
Don’t buy the hype. Literally. Save your money.
Healthy eating is simple, and a few weeks ago leaders from all walks of nutrition, paleo advocates and vegan plant-based advocates alike, all met to discuss common ground.
And while many topics were discussed, this is where they landed:
“The foods that define a healthy diet include abundant fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, legumes and minimal amounts of refined starch, sugar and red meat, especially keeping processed red meat intake low.”
Nothing too inflammatory there. Honestly nothing that would make for a New York Times Bestseller.
And that’s how you know it’s true.
All leading experts agree — paleos and vegans — that our diets need to be centered around whole plant foods and not animal or processed foods! It’s really that simple.
They went on to also agree on another key, interesting point:
“Food insecurity cannot be solved without sustainable food systems. Inattention to sustainability is willful disregard for the quality and quantity of food available to the next generation, i.e., our own children.”
And even a paleo die hard, Boyd Eaton, stated: “Red meat is incompatible with environmental health in a sustainable world. We need a diet that equals the nutrition of our Paleo ancestors, but is sustainable.”
The message is clear and simple, and still, to this day, best summed up by Michael Pollan’s seven simple words: “Eat Food. Not Too Much. Mostly Plants.”
If you’d like to read more about this meeting of the minds, as well as see who was on the panel, check out the write up by Forks Over Knives.
Dietary advice these days is just too complicated. There’s literally thousands of different “miracle diets” online and in best-selling books. And the worst part is you can routinely find polar opposite advice being sold as the miracle answer.
Well, I’ve got my own miracle answer, but unlike the others out there, I’m not selling anything and my answer is super super simple. Like, really simple.
If you want to lose weight and get healthy just do this one thing:
Do you know how much salt you eat everyday? I didn’t. I also didn’t know how it was affecting my body. So I gave it up for one week. Here are the results.
Check out the American Heart Association recommendation on salt: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/HealthyEating/Nutrition/About-Sodium-Salt_UCM_463416_Article.jsp#.Vry361MrJhE