Add in the good stuff. As much of it as you can. Whenever you can.
There it is, you can skip the rest of this post! Most diets are defined by what you CAN’T eat not what you CAN eat. Vegans are all about not eating meat or dairy or eggs. Paleo’s are about not eating grains or dairy or processed stuff. Raw foodists are all about not eating cooked stuff.
The problem with this kind of thinking is that it fundamental goes against our psychology and what motivates us over the long-term. No doubt, excluding things from your diet can work very well for a while (e.g. not eating fried food, or cutting out all dairy products) – but the mental model that is FAR MORE POWERFUL and SUSTAINABLE over the long-term is one of inclusion not exclusion.
Exclusion is what I’ve already stated: defining a new way of eating based on cutting something out of your diet (meat, dairy, sugar, alcohol, etc.).
Inclusion is focused on adding in the good stuff. Eat more salad. Eat more fresh fruits. Drink more clean water. Don’t worry so much about cutting stuff out. It will happen on its own if you focus on adding in the good stuff.
Here is an example:
Suppose you are trying to lose 10 pounds over the next two months and decide that you want to overhaul your diet. Instead of saying to yourself “I am going to eliminate all the bad food from my diet”…why don’t you say “I am going to eat a big salad at every meal, no matter what.”
Notice that the second statement DOES NOT imply that you can’t eat other stuff. You can still eat your bacon and eggs for breakfast, but you also get to eat your salad. You can have the burger with lunch, but you also get to eat your big salad. You can go out for dinner and have pasta…but you better start the meal with a monster sized healthy salad.
You see…when you add in the good stuff….you slowly – but inevitably – cut out any room for bad stuff to creep in. If you are eating a salad with every meal, how much space are you going to have for sugary/fatty desserts? How much space are you going to have for bacon and eggs! Not much! Over time, you’ll start making the salad the priority and treat everything else as secondary.
Likewise, if you are trying to eliminate coffee. Instead of trying to just go cold turkey, focus on adding in TONS of clean water every day. Keep a log with how much you drink. Make sure you are hydrating over and over. You’ll find that when you are more hydrated you will sleep better, and wake up feeling better. You might even find you need that cup of coffee in the morning anymore. You can also experiment with adding in herbal teas every morning.
So next time you want to make a change in your diet…focus on adding in the good stuff, not just cutting out the bad. It will be more likely you’ll stick with whatever you are trying to do and the long-term progress will be far greater than just relying on excluding things from your diet by sheer force of will.