Knowledge and Behavior are two different things

Let me share with you this insightful conversation I once had with a stranger. We were both  at an airport, having some time on our hands before we could board our airplanes. She goes ‘ we all know we shouldn’t be hogging on potato chips. But I do!  As a dietitian do you also feel like it, how do you deal with it?’

Here’s my confession: I love  deep fried food, I always have. Chips, banana fritters made the Indian way, Onion and Cashew Pakodas (haven’t heard ..? go look up) don’t even get me started. I can hog on these any time of the day or night but I don’t.

Up until my mid-twenties I just ate whatever my heart yearned for, so long as it was vegetarian. Around this point, I took a course to learn what it meant to be a counselor. And my mentor there said two things – to be helpful to others and understand them, one needs to understand oneself.

Second one was, writing is a very useful tool to look inwards. So, I got into the habit of keeping a journal. It was a no holds barred kinda writing. It would have all areas of my life running into each other in a way it made sense ONLY to me! From this I’ve dug out four findings about myself over the years, that helps to this day, in managing my ways with many things, definitely around food.

  1.  Am lazy
  2. Love simplicity
  3. Need routines
  4. Am highly motivated to do the right thing

Laziness is a wonderful trait to have if you want to eat healthy. This is what drives me to cook a one-pot meal in a pressure cooker versus deep frying fritters, standing the entire time in front of a hot stove, making it. Rather than fight laziness, I’ve found ways to creatively use it to my advantage. For instance, we keep Cookies or other treats in the top most cupboard, above the refrigerator, in our house. And for extra discouragement, I’ve put our water filter over the step-stool! It takes me a good fifteen minutes PLUS back-breaking hard work  to get to that damn thing that I rarely ever eat what’s up there!! This is such a foolproof method for me, you gotta try to see what I mean.

And if you combined this love for simplicity with laziness, you can get more uses out of the combo. Like, eating salad becomes a breeze. Especially, if you’re the kind who has trouble getting started with a veggie dish but eventually love that you decided upon it. Or you may come up with new ways of substituting elaborate dishes that take only a fraction of the time. For instance, Medjool date stuffed with

For instance, Medjool date stuffed with nuts  makes for a very satisfying dessert. We were served this at a party recently and it vanished off the plate in just minutes. Nobody thought it was stupid or blah! The hostess here definitely came across as someone who embraces her simplicity. We have another couple in our friends circle. And in their house, breakfast for the warmer half of the year is always fruit. Just plain fruit – a bowl of berries or sliced melons or a banana or some fruit.

I’d be totally rattled if I have to figure out a schedule for the basic stuff on a daily basis. Not happening! Mondays and Thursdays, I walk with friends – it is all fixed – time, duration, where we meet, everything. Three days a week we eat some dish made of greens. This is my Indian thing – many of us skip the evening meal on the eleventh day of the moon cycle, four days before the full moon. Many of us have and like our routines but what is key to understand here is that they are not set in stone. If there are some habits you had as part of your routine that aren’t serving you well, they can be changed. Habits do fall off with me too and I put them back from time to time. Recently I’ve re-introduced  the sprouts into my routine.

When you are highly driven to do the right thing, even a slight support from people in your lives can do wonders. And it is even better when we can articulate how we’d like to be supported and delegate. For example, you can ask them to encourage (or discourage) at the right times. Last evening, I wanted to munch on something very badly. My husband was his usual generous self to get up and bring some goodies on a plate. Then I went ‘oh, my mouth is all too sweet and now I want some savories’.

I’ll pause right here. This is where the craziness can use some help. On my own, I tend to forget to get mindful. I am all caught up about the party in my mouth and little else matters. But! If there is a well-meaning person that can recognize the craziness on your behalf and help you get aware, it can be averted. Over years, I’ve come to a point where I need only a slight help and not a whole lot. So, if we’ve company then my husband says a blank-faced ” huh??” and pretends not to have understood me. It’s enough to redirect me to whatever activity on hand. If we’re by ourselves he may suggest that I fetch it for myself.

Going back to the story, he quipped  just in time ‘sure, just go bring it’ – I took the cue and decided to  focus on  the movie instead!  The tricky part here was to see that he was helping me and therefore not get sour about him. Was it purely my motivation to do the right thing, it’s difficult to say for a fact. But in combination with my laziness, it sure worked in my favor.

One month after that airport lounge chat, my new friend Facebooked to say she had figured out one useful finding about herself: how she likes four of everything. She went by the number four as if on a autopilot – four spoons of oil, four cookies with tea, four servings at meals! Next, she decided to pre-cut all the cookies in the jar to a half. She switched the spoon next to the oil jar to a smaller one. And when she baked a pizza next time, she first packed away one half and only served the other, cut into four wedges. She noticed she did not even miss it. And it was a treat to have more left for tomorrow’s lunch, without even trying! I remembered her saying she was a leading Actuary in her town and it all made sense how she had expertly drawn these conclusions.

So, why am I sharing all this with you?

Here’s why – I’d like you to deeply understand one thing – we don’t get healthy by reading a book or getting a masters degree in health sciences. All this add to your knowledge base. It’s like saying, I’ve got bags of food loaded in my pantry. This does NOT mean your hunger is satiated. Right? You gotta put in some effort to translate that knowledge to real action steps which comes down to what we do in tiny increments day after day.

You need to take time to observe yourself for these traits and quirks that drive your behavior so you can modify them in a way that works for you. It is just like acknowledging the motorist tendency to speed at particular points and putting a speed breaker in place. Only, you are responsible for installing your own behavioral controls for certain things in life.

Did you find this useful? Share about one behavior that you’ve happily retained or modified and what was your tool to achieve that?



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