Opinion

How to be a smart cookie about food | Ann Oxrieder

If you’re like most people, now that January is coming to an end, so is your commitment to your New Year’s resolution. I’m referring to the one to lose weight.

I’ve heard that most diet resolutions last until Valentine’s Day, probably because on that day the smell of chocolate overpowers all other rational dietary decisions.

This shouldn’t surprise any of us. What’s the difference between Dec. 31 and Jan. 1?  It’s not as if the change of date marks a significant transition in most of our lives. The areas of our lives that would be nice to change — without exerting too much effort — often land on our lists of resolutions.

Since Valentine’s Day has not yet arrived, don’t give up. I have a book to recommend: “The Power of Habit,” by Charles Duhigg.

It addresses the stacks of research reports that show what’s most effective in changing the habits of individuals, corporations, non-profits, and sports teams.

Duhigg refers to “keystone” habits, which have “the power to start a chain reaction.” The keystone habit for weight loss is keeping a food journal.

National Institute of Health researchers tested this out with a group of 1,600 obese people, whom they instructed to write down, just one day a week, what they ate. In time, without any urging, the study’s subjects started recording this information more often, and keeping track eventually became a habit.

From there, some started using their journals to plan meals, identify patterns in their eating and make other lifestyle changes, demonstrating that “keystone habits start a process that over time, transforms everything.” (Anyone who’s ever joined Weight Watchers knows how effective recording food intake can be.)

You may be in the 55 percent of the population, who like me, didn’t make a resolution this year. Instead, I gave myself permission to go forward as always, doing what I feel passionate about and ignoring everything else. However, I confess that after reading about keystone habits, I decided to give food journaling a try. I’ve discovered the best way to handle any potential conflicts as I face the temptation to reach for the Trader Joe’s package is to write “one cookie” in my journal first.

 

Ann Oxrieder has lived in Bellevue for 35 years. She retired after 25 years as an administrator in the Bellevue School District and now blogs about retirement at http://stillalife.wordpress.com/.

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