* This is part of a year-long series called “52 Weeks to Eating better than Ever”. Click on the side bar for more information and to read the previous essays.
You only have so much free will. If you conserve it, and use it properly, you will eat better and be healthier. If you reduce the number of decisions you must make when it comes to eating healthy, you will automatically make better choices.
You may be wondering what I’m talking about when I use the term “free will”. By free will, I mean your ability to freely choose an action. This may not be something you’ve thought much about and may surprise you, but there are many people who believe you, as a human being, don’t have any free will to choose anything, and then there also those who overestimate how much you do have or can reasonably access in each day. Both are errors and poor strategies for a good and healthy life. Throwing in the towel on free will, or on the other end of the spectrum, trying to exercise too much free will daily can doom your eating.
You do have free will and thus the ability to make choices, but you only have so much, because choices require mental energy and focus, and most of the things you do are done automatically and without thinking.
- Biological determinists believe humans are simply acting on their evolutionary and biological desires, and that the decisions we think we’re freely making are not free decisions. I believe they are wrong and that we do have free will.
- Many people who do believe in free will are unaware of the thought processes or the lack thereof behind own decisions, and the way they use their free will, and are so tied into meeting immediate desires like hunger that they rarely take time to consider the consequences. Awareness is the first step for these people.
- Some people think through things too much, trying to call on too much free will in too many ways, which creates stress, anxiety, temptations, poor decisions and an excess of demands and mental confusion. This is the person who jumps from one eating program to another without ever sticking to one and seeing the results they want.
- A balanced and reasonable view on free will is to say that we do indeed have it, but we only have so much, so we need to be careful to conserve it by simplifying things and reducing the number of decisions we make so that we ‘automatically’ make good decisions without thinking.
If you were a gambling addict trying to stop blowing your money at casinos, wouldn’t it be wise to make a rule to not go into casinos? For a gambling addict to go into a casino and not gamblewould require a massive amount of free will, and thus discipline, which is incredibly taxing on the mind and willpower. It’s better to just not go in to a casino at all. The same with shopping if you’re a shopaholic, strip clubs if you like strippers, social media addictions, and so on. Create some rules, and stick by them so you don’t have to use as much free will. Food can be approached the same way:
- Have several routine go-to meals you eat repeatedly. These are some of mine:
Turkey sandwich with an apple and iced tea.
Chicken breast, broccoli, and grapes.
Whole grain pasta with olive oil, a salad, and yogurt for desert.
Sardines, salad, and brown rice.
Quinoa with olives, tomato salad, and skim milk.
Oatmeal, 1-2 eggs, and a banana.
Almonds and a protein fruit smoothie.
Tuna salad, whole grain crackers, sauerkraut, and celery.
Small steak, sweet potato, and spinach.
Whole grain toast, protein fruit smoothie.
- Get rid of junk food in your house, so you don’t have to use free will to avoid this stuff.
- Stay out of fast food restaurants, so you aren’t tempted to opt for the fried foods.
- Only go out to eat on special occasions, so you don’t eat a heavy and expensive meal.
- Eliminate fried food, except on rare occasions.
- Let your friends and family knowyou are trying to eat healthy and that you need their help, that way they don’t tempt you but rather will support you.
- Meals you need to prepare quickly should have the same structure repeatedly, and often even the same thing over and over again- protein, vegetables and / or fruit, & low glycemic, low sugar carbohydrate.
These “rules of thumb” add up to make your life so much easier by reducing how much you must think about eating right. One reason every diet works in some way for some period is because you are limited on a diet to eating certain strict things. Dieting “works” while you’re doing it because it reduces choices, and reduces your free will load. People lose weight and lose body fat on the South Beach, Atkins, Zone, Weight Watchers, and You Name It diets, and high carb diets, low carb diets, high protein diets, low fat diets, high fat diets and every other type of diet because there is structure to the program, which limits intake and reduces the expenditure of precious free will.
Keep it simple. Have a plan and stick to it. Reduce the number of decisions you’re making, and you will free up willpower to succeed in eating better than ever.
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