Before you read this article (and you will be reading this article), I thought I would toss you a favorite snack recipe that I have been obsessed with lately. This is basically a bribe so you will read on. Now for the food:
Date-Walnut-Goat Cheese Bites
- 3-5 pitted dates (Medjool are more expensive but amazing, but any kind will do)
- Raw walnuts (halves or pieces, doesn’t matter)
- Goat cheese (my favorite is Cypress Grove’s Purple Haze)
- Optional: for a fancier version, drizzle with some balsamic reduction (pretty easy to make) and green onions.
Pile one ingredient on top of another, put into mouth and savor every minute, and enjoy while you read the following:
One way health and wellness practitioners choose to communicate how their clients or the public should meet health goals is through list-based articles. Headlines proclaiming “5 Ways to Kick Sugar”, or “10 Best Superfoods to Eat Now” fill our inboxes. These articles can be inspiring, fun and easy to read. Sometimes we even get free recipes out of them, and the feeling that we are getting free advice. True, I would rather read these articles than other mainstream news sometimes. But let’s really examine if these lists are truly useful.
#1) The lists are too long. I have seen healthy snack lists of 50+ snacks. Having a variety of choices for people to grab a few favorites from can be ok, but too often we are overwhelmed by the steps we feel we need to take to get healthy, stop eating sugar, lose weight or get back in shape.
#2) Get Real! List-based articles make me feel bad about myself. They seem to shout, “This is so easy, anyone could do it just by reading this article.” I almost feel justified in thinking I have taken steps to change my health just by reading the list and saying to myself, “Obviously…more blueberries! Antioxidants! Duh!” What do we actually act upon after reading these articles? How do we make any of these ambiguous to do’s part of our live’s, and how do we manage building them into routines, being careful and realistic not to get down on ourselves when we fall out of love with blueberries after eating 2 crates of them a day?
#3) Lack of Context. A writer for the Harvard Business School blog weighed in on why to do lists aren’t very helpful, which we can easily turn around to apply to such health to do’s. Daniel Markovitz says, ” to-do lists don’t provide sufficient context for the tasks to help you determine what you should work on. All tasks look the same on paper — three or four words on a line.” So nothing becomes a priority – it’s all just a bit lump of to do’s that can overwhelm us and bring us back to square one.
Maybe we could try the following:
#1) Be more specific and encourage intention. I would love to see more specific instructions, for example, suggesting we pick a magic number of selected snacks to try…like 3-5. This way, we could get the ingredients in one shopping trip, have on hand over 5-7 days and work them into our routines, adding more snacks in when we get comfortable with the first few. One reason is “The paradox of choice. Barry Schwartz and Sheena Iyengar explored the problems created by having too many choices. Schwartz points out that increasing the number of choices we have actually increases our negative emotions because our sense of opportunity cost increases. In complementary research, Iyengar has shown that our brains can only handle about seven options before we’re overwhelmed. It’s easier for us to make decisions and act when there are fewer choices from which to choose. Looking at the 58 items on your to-do list will either paralyze you or send you into default mode: checking email for an hour instead of doing real work.”
#2) Bring on the action items. One at a time. A favorite blogger and writer (not to mention neuroscientist) Darya Rose outlines in her book, Foodist, how we put unrealistic expectations on our plates when working towards getting back into a routine, like getting back in shape. Instead of an article saying, “Just do it. Now! And everything will be wine and roses,” we could outline reasonable expectations and assumptions. Getting into a new routine or habit can be uncomfortable and can bring about some unexpected emotions. But if we are patient, take the good with the bad, resolve that we will be uncomfortable or even vulnerable while trying out something new, that’s where the magic will happen.
#3) We Aren’t All Cut From the Same Cloth. Bioindividuality is key – we are all different. Some of us are very visual, have longer attention spans than the next person, have different jobs, family and support networks, friend networks, responsibilities or ways we handle stress. One size doesn’t fit all, and not one way of communicating action items or to do’s will work for everyone.
For more views on why lists aren’t always helpful, check this out.