Or, The Blackjack Diet
I’ve been trying to reduce everything I know about health, and behavior change, and habits, into their simplest possible implementations. Here’s one I’ve been kicking around that’s eating related and I’d love your feedback on it (especially if you think you’d want to try to do it with me).
Rather than counting calories, or macronutrients, or taking pictures, or logging everything, or whatever, have only 1 line in the air that you need to think about.
Question #1: Is the current meal more or less than half plants?
What classifies as plants? Unprocessed whole foods: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds. That’s it.
If it’s more than half plants (by weight, or mass, or just size, however you feel is easiest to judge) then add 1 to your tally.
If it’s less than half plants, then subtract 1 from your tally.
Whenever the tally gets to 10, or -10, or a new week starts and I feel like it, I celebrate and start over. If 10’s too low or too high, pick your own favorite number after some trial and error. I have thought about remembering how many “sets” I win or lose, but that’s not really that necessary unless you want to. More important is that you just keep playing.
Inspired by card counting in Blackjack
I got the idea from a This American Life episode that talked about how to count cards while playing Blackjack. Basically, you sit at a table and whenever the dealer or a player shows a card, you subtract 1 to your tally if it’s a 10, Jack, Queen, King, or Ace, and you add 1 to your tally if it’s a 2 - 9. When the score gets to 8 or so, the table is considered HOT, and it’s a good time to start doubling, or multiplying by 5, your bets.
Why do I think this is a good diet?
The more I read about nutrition, the clearer it is that things like carbs, fat, protein and all of that are not necessary to focus on. What matters more is where those macronutrients are coming from. If they’re coming from whole foods, then you’ll probably never have too many or not enough of them. If they’re coming from processed or other kinds of foods, then you’ll probably get an improper balance of things. Rather than micromanage, think less and just reach for the whole foods whenever you can.
At the same time, there are plenty of reasons why it’s not always convenient or easy to change over night. Don’t worry about getting everything right immediately, just try to make your tally go up.
The whole point is to think less about the details, and forgive yourself for things in the short term. Focus on the long game, while making the present moment enjoyable.
- Keep track in your head if that’s easiest. Or, download a simple tally-keeper app (search for “tally” in the App Store of your choice). I like the ALS Counter iPhone App (shown above).
- Keep track of drinks too along the same lines. Instead of half plants, go for half water in a given sitting.
- Give yourself a cheat day (like Saturday or Sunday) where you don’t change the tally at all.