An Identity Model Implementation of Eating

As I said before I’ve already started this informally. I don’t allow any “unclean” food into my kitchen and I do a pantry check every day to make sure I have enough clean staples in my fridge so that I can make a few snacks and meals. In case anyone is curious they are:

-ground beef
-canned tomato
-”picas” - chorizo, deli meat, olives, maybe cheese

Yesterday Lydia and I were completed depleted - her because of a particularly heavy work schedule, me because of bad sleep and an intense HIIT. We were both completely giving each other permission to cheat - “let’s just order some pizza” and comments like that. We were suffering from “decision fatigue” and trying to decide was just becoming painful. Usually that means we’re ordering in - and not anything clean.

What happened was nothing short of miraculous - we made Om Nom Paleo’s “Garbage Stir-fry” (which I know sounds horrible, but is really good, filling, and easy to make when you’re in a pinch).

I’m not joking about the “miracle” part of that last sentence. I was ego-depleted, which, according to all of Baumeister’s experiments, results in lack of self-control. Together things get worse. I wrote about the problem of “Syncing with Significant Others” which I feel causes something similar to habit dissonance, drastically magnifying problems in the decision making process. Furthermore, there was no habit in place, no implementation intention, no gamification or quantification of self going on.

But that counterintuitively small habit of doing pantry checks meant we had the ingredients. And we had this general feeling of knowing that we shouldn’t cheat. It almost made it so that it was easier to just eat clean. I have to analyze this more, but the salient point for this post is that pantry checking has already paid off.

So I made a list of small habits that pull from the pool of Identity-centric formations I posted in my recent post, “Towards an Identity Model of Habits: Part III”:

-Recording everything that goes into my mouth
-Not bringing cheat items into the house for cooking
-daily pantry check
-calorie counting
-ritual of the same meal or snack once a day
-tea ritual with recording food for the day
-grocery store trip
-Some kind of paleo primal certification
-joining a clean eating club in my city
-joining a virtual version of the above and taking part in the community
-weekly meal planning session
-daily meal planning
-after x number of drinks we auto ask for check
- or order a water between every drink
-flash challenges - bread flash challenge
-no drink flash challenge
-recording what you spend on food
-travel protocol
-going out protocol
-connoisseurship checklist

That’s just a rough list…I think since these are small I can do two at one time and be safe.

Properly (Re)Implementing and Eating Habit

“What do you wanna eat?”
“Idunno, what do you wanna eat?”

And so the conversation goes. I number of studies have shown that decision making of any kind tends to drain willpower. It’s called Decision Fatigue and John Tierney (who co-wrote THE book on Willpower with Roy Baumeister, “Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength”  has an excellent article on it in the New York Times:

“Do You Suffer From Decision Fatigue?”

Personally I have lately found this to be incredibly true. It just exhausted me because it would continue on and on, and it was a daily occurrence. So my current attempt at re-implementation an eating plan isn’t so much about getting eating down - it was about preventing this fatigue.

When I first started recording my “good eating” habit it was almost 2 years ago when I was in Brazil. I had, almost by happenstance, started eating really well. Why not record it? 

A couple of reasons. I never actually did any of the techniques that encourage automaticity. No TinyHabit, no mental contrasting or implementation intention. And although it lasted for quite a while, it inevitably imploded. Automaticity just wasn’t occurring.

This really came to my attention with my rowing habit which continues to have amazing automaticity. I believe this is because of a very precise if-then protocol. When looking at the two habits side by side it makes complete sense that eating wasn’t happening. The initial formation of my eating habit had failure built into it.

Here’s what my plan looks like so far:
1. I have an eating schedule. I know exactly what I’m going to eat on which day so I don’t have to make any decisions. 
2. The first meal of the day is bookended and based on a habit chain. I have my morning chain of habits. As soon as I’m done with my meditation, I eat no matter if I’m hungry or not. That’s my implementation intention.
3. My first meal is what I consider “clean” - that’s my TinyHabit.
4. All meals are a combination of cooking and take out. Another element of my TinyHabit
5. The greatest pitfall of eating clean is, for me, having stuff to cook. I also have grocery trips scheduled. This is a part of my mental contrasting.
6. Mastering the automaticity of that first meal is my first shelf. Trying to figure out a set if-then protocol for my second meal is a challenge - it appears to be a floating habit - sometime after my chain of habits, yet far before sleep…I’m currently at a loss on how to anchor an implementation intention, but that would be my second step. My third would be to make that second eating time utterly clean. My third would be to schedule clean refeeds. All of this is my plan to push for mastery. It also sets up what actions are defined as success.

I’ve only been doing this for a few days and haven’t started recording it. I think of it as a test run. I have several other questions I need to hammer out - how does this react to travel? I haven’t yet gotten into a routine of going to the grocery store automatically - should this be separately recorded? What about eating for the sheer pleasure - is this too strict? I definitely want to include exceptions for special meals - a connoisseurship card.

However, I already feel this immense sense of relief not having to go through the rigamarole of deciding.