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Nudge Yourself Healthy
Part 2 of 2

Jumping rope is something most people can do for a great cardio workout.
Jumping rope is great cardio.

Last week I wrote that people are generally pretty bad at making healthier choices. Doing things that are good for us just isn't in our nature. But it doesn't have to be that way.

The default choice, the thing we've always done is almost always the easiest. Making a change, any change can be challenging. So try introducing things that reduce the resistance to healthier choices in your life.

Don't ban things that are bad for you. Part of life is occasionally enjoying indulgences. Look at a simple change. If you open your refrigerator, you probably have the vegetables and fruit in a drawer at the bottom of the fridge. They're nicely tucked away, difficult to see, and slowly rotting until you toss them out.

Move them. Put what you should be eating, like fresh fruit and vegetables, at eye level. Put the sodas and junk food in the drawers. Every time you open the refrigerator, the first thing you see is the foods you should eat. It takes extra effort to go into the drawer and look for those indulgences you probably don't need. You've just reduced the resistance to healthier choices.

Put fruits, vegetables and other healthier choices at eye level in your refrigerator.

Don't look at things as saving your health. We're not a nation of savers. Instead, if you make the unhealthy choice, see that it costs you something. We're more likely to avoid something if we think it will cause us a loss than if we believe it will benefit us in the future.

That means you should frame poor choices as losses with immediate consequences. You can eat that ice cream, but you lose a few minutes of online time, you have to pay someone money, or you have to do a chore for somebody else.

Plan when you're relaxed, not when you're pressured. During your next meal, make a shopping list of the healthy recipes you're going to cook. If you wait until you're headed to the supermarket, or worse, impulsively grab things while you're shopping, you're likely to buy the tempting things that catch your eye. But making that list while you're enjoying a meal makes the entire process more thoughtful and less prone to being led astray.

Understand that commercials are designed to make you change your behavior in a way that benefits the advertiser, not you. It's impossible to live in the modern world and block every commercial out. Instead, before you act on a commercial you're seeing, ask how it benefits the ADVERTISER.

Are they trying to get you to change brands, consume more or do something bad for you, so they make money? You might still do what they want, but you're more likely to resist their pressure tactics if you learn to identify them.

Choose activities that provide little friction with your current life. Try taking a walk during lunch, meet a friend for an evening bike ride or jump rope before you clean up in the morning. Just 15 minutes can give you an energy boost and condition you for future exercising. Your goal is to get into a fitness mindset and practice until it becomes a habit. You can increase the intensity or branch into more energetic things once you've developed a routine.

Make realistic plans for your physical activities. It's easy to say you want to exercise five days a week, but just showing up for two days is a huge improvement over sitting on the couch. Pack your gym clothes or workout gear in a bag, so it's ready to go when you are. Set the alarm or put the workouts in your calendar and start small.

Finally, try playing instead of exercising. Skip cardio and teach yourself the latest dance craze. Get off the treadmill and play some hopscotch. Learn how to ice skate, rollerblade or ride a skateboard. Choose fun things, so you're excited to do something healthy.

Part 1 2

Reference Links:

The inspiration and some of the information for this article came from Nudge: The Final Edition. It's a book written by Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein.

In the author's words:

A nudge, as we will use the term, is any aspect of the choice architecture that alters people's behavior in a predictable way without forbidding any option or significantly changing their economic incentives. To count as a mere nudge, the intervention must be easy and cheap to avoid. Nudges are not taxes, fines subsidies bans or mandates. Putting the fruit at eye level counts as a nudge. Banning junk food does not.

Not all the suggestions in this two part article are nudges, but they are all based on methods that have helped people make better choices.

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CAUTION: Check with your doctor before
beginning any diet or exercise program.