I have a confession to make: sometimes I eat frozen food. And one of my favorite meals is Amy’s burritos. If you don’t know what Amy’s is, it’s a company that makes prepackaged vegetarian food that you heat up in the microwave. It’s like Lean Cuisine but, in my opinion, healthier. Except for the fact that it requires no thought or energy whatsoever to prepare.
And that’s what’s wrong with it. Yes, the nutrient quality is lacking, but the really dangerous part about eating frozen meals like this is that if you don’t have to make an effort, it’s really easy to keep eating the same thing over and over again.
My Amy’s burrito fixation is the perfect example of this. I always have them in my freezer in case I’m in a hurry and need something fast. But the more I eat them, the more it seems I don’t feel like making anything else.
When you get in a rut like this, you start to become complacent. Feeling apathetic for too long eventually makes you start saying, “What’s the difference?” and “Why bother?” Then that voice in your head starts telling you that things will never change and that you’ll never be able to get what you want. And so you quit trying . . . and you never do.
The good news is that it’s really easy to snap out of a rut. All it takes is one small change.
Altering your routine even just slightly changes your brain chemistry. Habits and routines are formed when we repeat behaviors over and over until a neural network is established. But making a small change to what you usually do disrupts that network and wakes your brain up, taking you out of your zoned-out state.
Become energized like this gives you a feeling of excitement, and excitement sparks creativity. Then you get new ideas that lead to trying new things. Being open to doing something different increases your chances for success, because then you have more options to choose from — as opposed to trying to cut carbs and drink coffee all day.
And the confidence you get in making your own changes is critical to your success. Because the more capable and in control you feel, the less likely you are to keep trying to diet the weight off.
Ok, so the best way to shake things up is to add something to what you’re already doing. You don’t want to try “not to.” For example, don’t try not to eat chips; instead, eat chips and a handful of blueberries. Adding is always easier than eliminating. Plus, trying not to do something creates resistance, which pushes you to binge if you’re an emotional eater.
Here are some ideas to shake it up, which aren’t just limited to food and exercise. You can shake things up in a small way or in a big way, depending on your level of motivation:
Workouts. Stay on the treadmill 2 or 3 minutes longer than usual, use 10-pound weights instead of your usual 8, or go another block on your walk. That little bit of extra effort breaks the monotony and is really confidence-boosting. Or if you’re feeling ambitious, try a completely new workout — go for a bike ride or do a yoga or barre class.
Food. Add spinach to your leftovers or have some cantaloupe slices with your bacon and eggs. Or if you want to shake it up in a bigger way, go to a gourmet grocery store and get a healthy take-out dinner. If you don’t feel like cooking, at least have something delicious to snap you out of your food rut.
Other. Breaking out of other ruts can help, too. Wear something different. I wear jeans constantly, and the other day I decided to wear a dress. You wouldn’t believe what that did to change my mental state. It affected so many other aspects of my day. Or go bigger: book an overnight trip somewhere to do something different. Explore a new city, walk a trail, or just get a spa treatment at the hotel.
While you’re changing things up, think of other ways to shake it up. Come up with ideas on a walk or while you’re cooking a new meal. And bonus points: write all your ideas down. There’s a ton of evidence that writing things down dramatically increases your chances of success.
It’s the little changes you make over time that make the difference. What never, ever works is making drastic changes in a short amount of time — in other words, dieting. That’s a recipe for certain failure.
So do one small thing today to shake it up. And always remember: small steps, made consistently over time, are the key to staggering long-term results.