The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Foodists

by | May 12, 2014

Photo by 55Laney69

Have you ever searched all over your house for your phone or your keys then realized they were in your pocket (or worse, your hand) the entire time?

Sometimes we are so focused on solving a difficult problem that the simple, obvious solution eludes us. This is how I felt when I discovered the solution to my life-long battle with food and body weight.

Since food caused me so much stress I assumed it was the primary cause of my problems. It took me nearly two decades to realize that since I couldn’t fight it, my only choice was to embrace it.

Now that I’ve spent over six years as a foodist the way I eat and deal with food seems so obviously correct that it feels like commonsense. Still millions of people struggle with these issues daily, searching desperately for a fix that’s right under our noses.

A foodist knows that food is the answer to, not the cause of our health and weight issues. Eating is essential to our survival and our innate drive to do it is too strong to override for long. The solution lies in constructing habits that work with us, not against us, balancing our needs for both health and happiness through food.

While there are many different paths a foodist can take to optimize our healthstyle, the most successful rely on seven core habits that have the biggest impact on our long-term success.

You might notice that none of these depend upon a specific food or nutrient.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Foodists

1. Never diet

Restrictive dieting sabotages your weight loss efforts for several reasons. This is worse than simply not being effective; dieting makes achieving your weight loss goal even harder than it needs to be. To be a successful foodist you need to stop pretending that dieting will ever do you any good and give it up forever.

2. Regular grocery shopping

Bad food decisions (those that aren’t good for you and aren’t worth it) tend to arise from unpreparedness, not from lack of willpower. The sooner you get in the habit of regular grocery shopping so that you always having a better option, the sooner you’ll start seeing progress.

3. Cook at home

I’d never say that getting healthy is impossible if you eat most meals outside the home, but it is certainly more difficult. You don’t need to be a fabulous chef to take control of your food destiny. Successful foodists develop a handful of home court recipes that they can count on to be easy, healthy, and tasty, and use these as the foundation of our healthstyle.

4. 10,000 steps

It’s way too easy to be sedentary in the 21st century, but it’s also pretty darn easy to be active. Even if you can’t always make it to the gym, making an effort to hit 10,000 steps each day is one of the easiest and most enjoyable ways to keep your health and weight in check.

5. Chew thoroughly

As fun as it is to wolf down a massive plate of food without actually tasting anything, slowing down and chewing makes your eating experience even better. Effective foodists cultivate mindfulness when they eat, which ultimately results in eating less and enjoying it more.

6. Value-based decisions

Have you ever wondered why vegetarians never cheat on their diets or why people can fast for weeks in observation of a religious holiday, but you can’t stop eating the stale chips in the office lunch room? Research has shown that people who make value-based food decisions are far more effective at sticking to their goals than people motivated by health alone.

7. Monitor your progress

It’s nearly impossible to solve a problem if you don’t know that the problem exists. When you build habits your brain starts shifting many of your actions to autopilot. This is wonderful, because it makes your healthstyle feel effortless. However, it also leaves you vulnerable to mindless shifts in your habits that have the power to undo weeks or months of progress. Combat this by keeping tabs on yourself and making self-monitoring a regular habit. Use a digital scale, a pedometer and mobile apps to make sure you have all the information you need to make good decisions.

For more tips on how to build a successful healthstyle check out my book Foodist.

Originally published July 8, 2013.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
Get a FREE chapter from my book Foodist
Enter your email to learn how to get healthy & lose weight
without dieting

27 Responses to “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Foodists”

  1. Kate says:

    Just wanted to say thanks. “Discovered” you via your cover story on Experience Life magazine, started reading this site and bought your book.

    Nine pounds gone!

  2. Carla says:

    Great post Darya! I love how you summed up the core concepts to managing one’s Food Life so precisely. I especially like the Regular Grocery Shopping and Value Based Decisions points. These especially work very well for me living a low-fat, high fruit lifestyle. Thank you for a great post!

  3. Alice says:

    A great list, and a number of them are things I practice. I totally agree about cooking at home and regular grocery shopping. I also menu-plan weekly so that I know I have something to make for dinner every night of the week. Sometimes I go off-plan for last minute decisions, but if I know I have a week’s worth of healthy things we can have for dinner, I’m rarely tempted to get take-out. I also try to cook enough for dinner that my hubby & I can have the leftovers for lunch the next day. We love leftovers!

  4. Diana says:

    What would you suggest as value-based decisions for your everyday, non-vegetarian, non-holiday eater?

    • CreLa says:

      “Value based decisions” for food struck me as a fantastic mantra, and I realize that it is the major reason I maintain a healthy diet.

      For me at least, reading up on the tactics of the food industry in relation to public health has given me a firm vendetta against processed foods. Also, reading about the environmental impacts of monoculture crops and pesticide use solidifies my support of local sources and seeking variety in my diet (yay farmers markets).

      • Kathleen says:

        When thinking of a meat based dish, considering the source helps me make a value-based decision, too. The inhumane treatment of animals, filth and unsustainabilty of industrial meat doesn’t work for me.

  5. Joe says:

    I absolutely love your practical tips. Out of curiosity, which way expends more energy (calories), chewing well or breaking down partially chewed food?

    • Darya Rose says:

      It depends on the food. Sometimes chewing increases your absorption of calories (and nutrients), but slowing down, eating less and feeling more satisfied with what you eat is more significant.

  6. Jamie says:

    Great article! I just wanted to tell you that I just finsihed reading your book and I loved it. I’m hoping to convince a couple of my family members to read the book so maybe they will give up their unhealthy “diet” foods.

  7. julie says:

    I need to figure out a value based decision thing to help me avoid the free pretzels and candy bowl of the guy in the next cube, yet still allow me to eat the occasional dark chocolate coconut chew. The others I have a handle on, though I’m still bummed about the cook at home thing. Seems with all this good healthy food in Bay Area, I wouldn’t need to do that, yet I do.

    • Kate says:

      Julie, I recently broke up with the office candy bowl myself.

      One way of thinking that helped me was that I decided to only eat snacks or treats that were truly special and delicious, which meant they were, by definition, not free stuff sitting around in my office, and probably not generic, mass-produced candy at all. (This is exactly in line with Darya’s principles!)

      I also told myself that every time I resisted the siren call of the candy bowl (now I’m kind of over it and don’t get tempted very often), I was leaving candy for colleagues who seemed to want it more than I do.

      I don’t know if any of that helps you, but good luck!

  8. Lindsey says:

    I’ve been a reader of your site for a while and have pretty easily been able to subscribe to most things and have great results. My question is about the 10,000 steps. I do walk a fair bit, but my main mode of transportation is my bicycle. If I’m biking 12+ miles/day on average, would you say that’s comparable to the 10,000 steps?

  9. Paul Risse says:

    Love it :)
    Simple and profound.
    Next time I am at a bookstore I will check out your book.
    Have a great day!!

  10. 10,000 steps! It truly works! And eating at home…. Such simple yet effective tips! :)

  11. RickD88 says:

    Are you sure that 10,000 steps is reasonable?
    The word “mile” comes to us from Latin “mille” meaning “thousand”. The Roman Legions tracked their distance marched by counting: 1000 double steps was a “mille” and that is still very close to a mile.
    10,000 steps is therefore five miles, which for most people would be 75 to 100 minutes of steady walking.
    That seems like a lot.
    I understand that everyone has a lot of miscellaneous little walks in their day, but I’d be surprised if those added up to even one mile.

    • Darya Rose says:

      Yep, it’s about 4.5 miles and takes a bit over an hour. It takes slightly more effort to get there, but it doesn’t feel difficult at all. I average 12-15K.

      • julie says:

        Also, included is walking around the house, from car or bus, etc. I get 8000K steps just in the 8-9 hours I’m at work, as I walk from my desk to the bathroom, to the lab, from one lab to another, around the building, to the kitchen, and it adds up.

  12. Cassie T says:

    I finally got around to watching ‘Food, Inc.’ and I highly recommend it for anyone struggling with habit #7 (value-based decisions)! After learning about the lives of chicken farmers, the manipulation of soybean growers and the subsidies paid to over produce corn, it will be much easier turning down foods I already know I shouldn’t eat! My beloved soymilk will be the hardest to give up, but I’ve already found it easier to turn down junk food knowing the effects of purchasing (and thus supporting) soy and corn based products. Vote with your fork!

  13. caro says:

    It is NOT easy to get in 10,000 steps a day.

    This weekend, I walked to the grocery store, worked out, walked to a nearby neighborhood for a mile-long home tour and put things away in my house in the most inefficient way possible — and never made it over 6,000 steps a day.

  14. Olivia says:

    Hi Darya,
    I clicked the tinyletter subscribe link and it sent me an email saying I was subscribed — I never entered any payment info and didn’t realize it was a paid service. I clicked unsubscribe in the body of the email — is that enough? Am I getting charged somehow? I never signed up through paypal either… confused!!

    Thanks!
    Olivia

  15. Rebecca says:

    Hi Darya,
    As always your healthy habit insight is quite inspiring. Can you talk more about “value-based” decisions? Do you mean informed decisions? That is, because someone knows the nutritional content of the foods they are surrounded by they can make better meal and snack decisions?
    I would love to talk more about this!
    Thanks

    • Darya Rose says:

      Great question. No, intellectual information almost never sways habits. On the other hand, emotional charge certainly does.

      I recommend thinking about foods in terms of your core values and thinking about how a particular food choice aligns with them. For instance, I want to be healthy, but also enjoy food and life. So for me, eating a really special, somewhat unhealthy meal is worth it. Whereas eating take out just because I don’t feel like cooking isn’t. Similarly, it’s easy for me to not eat industrial meat, because of everything I know about how it affects health, the environment and the rights of animals.

      Make sense?

  16. Judith says:

    Caro – there are online or smart phone apps that will help you convert your activities into step equivalents. I wear a Fitbit and can get more steps from a leisurely dog walk than an intensive hour long cardio class. But the Fitbit app and My Fitness Pal app allow me to add in other activities. In fact I have converted from the 10k steps goal to 30 or more active minutes daily. Then I know I am not sauntering through those steps, although I continue to track them.

What do you think?

XHTML: You can use these basic html tags such as <a>, <b> and <i>.

Want a picture next to your comment? Click here to register your email address for a Gravatar you can use on most websites.