How to diet without dieting


A Simpler Time 

Back in our hunter gatherer days, life was simple- Our days followed a particular pattern. The cavemen left the cave every morning leaving the cave women to look after the cave children. They hunted and ate whatever they could find and ran away from tigers while hoping that winter was not going to be their deaths. Today thankfully times are much better. We sit all day and complain about how are coffee barista made a mess of our cappuccino, we complain that our Chinese forgot the rice and we worry about how slow our broadband can be. I joke here here about how "difficult" our lives are but it does raise the point about modern society. In today's society we have an unbelievable amount of information to process and deal with on a daily basis. Whether it's something simple such as picking clothes for the day or something a lot more complex as preparing a speech  for thousands of people. We are faced with so many decisions everyday in comparison to our humble ancestors, there's no wonder we can find ourselves overwhelmed at times.



In 2011 the economist Daniel Kahneman coined the term with how we deal with making decisions we face on a daily basis. There are two systems our brains generally use to operate. These are system one and system two for short. 

System one also called our automatic system makes quickfire decisions without hesitation and carry's out simple processes. It's the system that kicks in as soon as I ask you a "simple" question like 2+2=?

System two is lot a more complex involves slow deliberate thinking and thought processes. You'd start using your system two if I asked you to tell me 34x63 (Without google or your calculator!). 


System two allows us to think through our problems. It kicks in when we decide we are going on a diet and we plan the week ahead for us in terms of going to the gym and whether we decide to skip the take away after work. System two requires things to slow down, with deliberate processes and one really important element- ENERGY!. Left to it's own devices, our brain is lazy and will always want to revert back to system one if it can and choose the easy option. 

With enough focus and and energy our brains can do a great job at deciding to act on important tasks or deciding whether or not to eat that take away. The problem however arises when we are faced with thousands of little decisions each day, "should I wear this, What coffee should I get, where should I eat for lunch, what will I do if my manager catches me going to the toilet for the 5th time today?" Our brains are smart and always try to keep us from doing stupid things so rather than waste energy, we switch to system one. 

Unfortunately System one is incredibly lazy and when left to its own devices can sabotage our diets. It can also be tricked and can cause us to eat a lot more food unknowingly. This was shown in an experiment in a cinema where participants where given stale popcorn in large packs while others were given just regular popcorn in smaller packs. Despite been given stale popcorn, The participants in the study still on average ate more popcorn than the other groups! System one also kicks in when you set your alarm nice and early but as soon as 6am rolls around the snooze button has been hit 5 times. 


A problem with diets

Do you know on average most people would be happy with their body if they could shift between 10-15 pounds of fat. The problem is most people start grand diets when willpower is at its highest. This is because when we make decisions about our future selves they are usually based by how we feel at that particular moment. For instance, have you ever ate a large meal and immediately afterwards say the diet starts now? or just after having a cigarette saying this time you are off them for good. Decisions are almost always affected by how we currently feel so giving up smoking feels a lot more appealing after just having that nicotine fix while that diet seems so much easier after that 3 course meal with triple brownie for dessert. But what happens that fullness wears off and tiredness sets in. We default back to system one and the large stale popcorn is eating without a moments thought 



So what can we do? we know that we are faced we so many decisions each day that being thoughtful and slowing down actions to make the right choice is hard and requires energy. We revert back to system one to make the easy choice for us. This is why we eat larger portions or grab unhealthy food mindlessly after a long days work. This is where nudges can come in and help you diet without dieting.  A nudge can be described as a slight prod or push in a certain direction. 


In terms of diets and health this can make all the difference. Many companies already use nudges to sway you into system one so you automatically buy in to what they are offering. If you've ever signed up to buy something online or for example when you go to get your XL pizza from Dominos you may start noticing their nudges. If you notice while ordering form Dominos that just before you place the order you need to agree to their terms and conditions. Underneath that however there is a box that says tick this if you DO NOT want to receive promotional information.  This is a classic example of how Dominos keeps you in a mindless state while getting you to subscribe to their offers and make repeat purchases. Without stopping and thinking, you are automatically signing up to their emails, it takes deliberate effort to untick which I can guarantee many people would have just left without noticing. 

If it only takes something very simple such as box to not subscribe to something that could potentially be annoying then if we could place nudges within our own lives. We will automatically then make healthier food choices and without thinking can lose weight. If it only takes 10-15 pound to a make people happy with their bodies then making easy changes seems like the best bet instead of needing to rely on incredible amounts of willpower to get you through the days. 


Implementing Nudges 

Now the key to healthy nudges is to make them as foolproof as possible and stick to them. If you've been following my Facebook page then you will have seen I provide plenty of quick tips. These are nudges. They are simple tips that require little to no effort but still push you in the right direction. Below are 17 simple nudges you can implement. I recommend you start with one per week and then once you have performed the nudge for 7 days straight then you can add another. Within 17 weeks then you have added 15 nudges to your lifestyle while not feeling like you've done anything. This will mean you are eating less food and losing more weight. Essentially we are dieting without dieting!!


The Nudge List 

  1. place breakfast on kitchen table before bed 
  2. place alarm outside bed 
  3. place unhealthy food in inconvenient places out of sight 
  4. eat from smaller plate sizes
  5. Drive by the gym on the way home from work (then go in!)
  6. place gym gear in car 
  7. place runners at front door for jogs
  8. Drink water before meals
  9. Eat slowly
  10. Have all ingredients on show before cooking
  11. Drink alcohol from tall glasses
  12. Eat chewing gum while food shopping hungry 
  13. Keep healthy food in plain sight 
  14. Avoid multi-tasking while eating 
  15. Choose marinated/seasoned foods in restaurants rather than fried
  16. place unhealthy cereal in opaque containers and healthy cereal in see through containers 
  17. When eating a meal. Eat 80%. Take a break after eating that amount and see if you are still hungry. 

I have also attached the Nudge list here so you can download and keep track of your Nudges to see are they being implemented. Your goal will be to tick each time you implemented the nudge. Once you implemented it 7x you can move on to the next nudge. Start with whichever you feel is the easiest and then get going. 

So there you go guys. In a nutshell our brain is lazy and wants the easiest option available. If we can use this to our advantage and set up our environment to make healthy food choices without effort then we are really dieting without dieting. 

If you like articles on how simple changes can make a huge difference then you'll love my other articles .if you managed to get to the end of the article  big high five to you, a share and a like also goes a long way.