By Dietitian Jill Place
Since I’ve been expanding and revising my GOOD GUT PLAN (soon available for purchase), I’ve been troubled by the fact that I have no gut-healing sure-starters in it. Here’s 10 that I can think of.
And … once this article is finished … it’ll be part of the plan. Because … FIRST … I’m a HUGE believer in the fact that we gotta start somewhere. And … SECOND … once we start … we’re a lot more likely to continue.
So … here are some methods once you’ve “digested” some food, exercise, or any other lifestyle change stuff like an Ebook, Ecourse, or webinar. Methods to get started with any change.
It dawned on me, however, after scribbling the following sure-starters that … instead of these being tips … they’re STEPS! Really simple steps.
So here’s what I’d suggest … do the first three (skip number two if you have a clear idea about how to sure-start) FIRST. Then pick-and-choose from the rest. Or do them all as they’re ALL steps to success.
NUMBER ONE: Sit on it!
Once you finish one of the trainings above (or this one) … take a few days to let it sink in. If you have a journal (you should!) or somewhere on your phone or tablet to write, jot down thoughts as they arise.
Way before tablets, smart phones, and even portable tape recorders (mine then was the size of a wide clutch purse), I was dating a comedy writer who penned jokes for some of the major comedians of the day and later had a hit TV show. Driving in the car, he often would say, “Grab that pen and paper and write this DOWN!”
He obviously was afraid he’d lose a great thought. So don’t let yours slip away ….
Some action to take next may come burbling up (no … I didn’t misspell it) to the surface when you least expect it. But if it doesn’t, do this …
NUMBER TWO: Do this mindfulness process
Mindfulness is not only a great practice to do daily to get you instantly out of the constant, stressful fight-or-flight situation most of us find ourselves in today (and COVID only makes it WORSE!). And into the rest-and-relax in-the-moment state that we should live in most of the time to be mentally healthy.
Here’s a sure-starter shake-up process to figure out where to go next. Read this into your phone or tablet … pausing between …’s. Then find a quiet place to sit, make sure your arms and legs are uncrossed and your back is supported … and turn the recording on …
Notice your breath … where it is in your body … put one hand on your chest and one on your belly and try to push them out with your breath as you breathe in … then slowly let out your breath and notice it … do it again … then again … then breathe normally.
See the word “HEALTH” (or “GUT” or “TOOLBOX” or whatever this process is all about) flashing in front of your eyes … or simply feel what the word means to you. It may be flashing fast or slow … in certain colors … take it all in. Then ask the question, “What am I supposed to learn from (name of program, Ebook, etc.) … sit with it a while … perhaps asking the question again if no answer comes …
Continue in this way until you are satisfied with the answer. Then count from 5 to 1 in your mind … 5 … begin to move your fingers and toes … 4 … stretch the rest of your body … 3 … begin to open your eyes … 2 … open your eyes … 1 … you’re back in the room.
Write down the message you got immediately. Just like I was asked to years ago. And whether or not you got a good idea about what to do next, move on to …
NUMBER THREE: Pick one thing …
So do you have an idea of one thing you’d like to work on? If not … just pick one … any one …
Yes … I said one! Because beginning too many things at the same time … which humans tend to do … can make a sure-starter idea fizzle into nothingness.
The easiest thing to start to do if you’re healing your gut (which is what this is all about … remember?) is to put fermented foods into your life. What foods are we talking about? Remember this advice …?
- THROW IN SOME FERMENTED FOODS, like coconut or cashew yogurt with active cultures, sauerkraut, miso, kombucha, coconut water kefir, or pickled vegetables. These are rich in probiotics. Just a fork- or spoon-ful is often enough.
- THROW IN SOME PREBIOTIC FOODS to feed the probiotics in the fermented foods, like bananas, sweet potatoes, apples, garlic, onions, mushrooms, and asparagus.
If you’d like to do something more difficult, like going Gluten Free, I’d suggest you divide that task into steps. Like … first … replacing your pasta with Gluten Free alternatives … experimenting with some of the ones you can find on shelves in natural food stores or on Amazon.
Then looking into bread alternatives. Then perhaps getting my book, Gluten Free in 5 Days, and delving even deeper.
NUMBER FOUR: Make a plan and SCHEDULE IT!
I don’t know about you but if I don’t have a plan, I just don’t do it! So perhaps YOUR plan would be to have a fermented food (yogurt) with some Paleo granola and fruit (a banana for a prebiotic fix?). for an afternoon snack every day.
Put it on your calendar in BIG BOLD LETTERS! EVERY DAY FOR A WEEK! After that week, you may find that that you’d like to vary it up a little … perhaps a glass of kombucha or a forkful of sauerkraut instead.
If 2pm doesn’t work … try other times or with a meal. But you HAVE to schedule it for a while or else it won’t work.
Actually, this is only a good plan if it’s something simple like scheduling a forkful of sauerkraut every day. For more complicated things, please …
NUMBER FIVE: Do a health self-experiment
I wrote this series of articles on health self-experiments … a specific structure to see if a certain lifestyle change works for you … so go to Finishing YOUR Health Self-Experiment as it has links for the other articles plus a free worksheet for setting it up.
Doing a health self-experiment has many advantages … the first being that you only try something for a short period of time. So there’s no long-term commitment and no failure involved … you’re just trying it.
Second … you get to break down a change into “always”, “sometimes”, and “never”. For example, if you want to use the fermented food example you”ll “always” have one fermented food a day at 2pm and “sometimes” have it at another time but “never” miss a day.
Third, it’s measurable … so you can check off on your calendar when you have one and see that the end of the experiment how well you followed it. I’m for 90% or so … never perfect.
And last … it ENDS! Experiments should only be for a finite period of time. At the end of that time period, you can re-evaluate whether you want to continue. Or modify it. Or scrap the whole thing and begin something new.
NUMBER SIX: Clean out and restock your kitchen
This strategy was coined “environmental control” when the first real book about real change, Changing for Good, came out 25 years ago. The whole idea behind it is that you take out of your environment what might stand in the way of you succeeding in your chosen change.
For those of you making eating changes, that means getting out of the house stuff that might keep you from sticking to your plan or health self-experiment. Like regular pasta and bread.
And then bringing in stuff to support your plan. Like lots of yogurt and bananas.
And then bringing in stuff to support your plan. Like Gluten Free substitutes. Oh … and don’t forget lots of yogurt and bananas.
So do some strategizing. Experiment have an end-date? Store the stuff you took out of your cupboards in another part of the house or the garage.
One of my weight-loss clients actually had her husband put a padlock on the cupboard that held his goodies! But you don’t have to go that far ….
NUMBER SEVEN: Pick a date and START!
Nothing’s going to change until you take ACTION … and expect it to be imperfect because you’re learning. So just start.
Pick a specific date and start when you get up that day. Because … if you F-K up … tomorrow is another day.
NUMBER EIGHT: Just go on!
I’ve never seen perfect action right out of the starting gate. The first time I sang in public, the music all fell off the piano. So I learned to tape it together.
You learning-curve limp through a new thing. Expect that.
So you F’ed up. I don’t know anyone that doesn’t the first few times.
The trick is to just forgive the faux-pas and move on. You can resume your plan at the next meal (harder if you’re just starting out … but it gets better) or the following day.
Aim for 90% perfect. Or less. And forgive yourself …
NUMBER NINE: Track your progress
This is really easy if you set up a health self-experiment as a measure of success is built into its structure. But however you plan this, figure out a way to track whether you did or didn’t do the behavior.
For example, put an “x” or a “check” next to the fermented food you’ve scheduled daily. Or, if you’re taking pictures of everything you eat … check at the end of the day to make sure that you got them all.
The way you track your progress depends upon the plan or experiment design that you set up for yourself. And is so important for doing the last sure-starter …
NUMBER TEN: Re-evaluate and course-correct
I’ve boated many places as part of a world-respected sailing club. And had almost finished a navigation course with them when we took off for Catalina island for the annual New Year’s bash (huge among L.A. sailors).
I had gotten sick the next day (too much party-cake?). So when we sailed home, I elected instead to navigate so I could stay below to recuperate.
Well, we had quite a time of it … backtracking to pick up a stray dinghy and then again to help another of our boats in distress. All the while course-correcting to get home on time.
Three of the guys came below to help … I kicked them out. And ended up sighting our harbor breakwater within 10 minutes of my ETA.
So when you’re starting a new thing it’s crucial to re-evaluate often. As stray dinghys will often drift in. That’s why it’s important to track your progress.
And course-correct if necessary. You will. Often.