It’s what you don’t do that has the greatest impact on your health...

If you only learn one thing and make one habit change or adaptation it should be to stop doing what harms you. Easier said than done though, right?

What you stop eating has a bigger impact on your health than what you start eating. All the cauliflower, spinach and broccoli in the world will not heal you if you still fill your body with food that harms you such as pizza, potato chips, McDonald’s Big Mac’s, sodas, too much booze or too much (refined) sugary treats.  

All that good food is totally meaningless if you continue to bombard your body with those things that you know are bringing you harm. So, before you start to introduce new healthy habits/foods into your regimen, let’s clean out a few bad ones.

BTW, this rule applies to everything in your life (all the four HealthStyle Pillars) - quit doing things that drain your energy and performance capability, whether it is your mental health, your emotional vitality or your relationships. Stop doing the things that damage these aspects of your life with the foods you are eating.

The good news is, with a bit of introspection and honesty you can start this right now, today, this minute and start feeling the benefits of the good choices you are making.  

Here is a pretty simple exercise to help figure out what it is you can stop eating. The trick is to not think too hard about it.  As you go through this, just list out the foods. Don’t try to solve what you will replace it with, what pain you will be in when you stop and don’t eat or drink it. Just list it out.

This means you need to take a very honest and serious look at your health and eating habits and be real with yourself (meaning being brutally honest). For this to work, do the following:

  1. List out all the things you know you should stop eating. List them out even if you know you will not stop or cannot give that item up. 
  2. Next, rank them in order of what is most damaging to your health, with #1 being the most damaging, even if you have zero intention of stopping your consumption of this food.
  3. Do another ranking next to each food listed and the current ranking you just did; this time, rank the items in order of the item you’re most likely to stop consuming, with #1 being the most likely.
  4. What are the parallels; do you have any in the top five that are on both ranking lists?

That is the place to start.  If you did not have any of the same foods in the top five ranking, you will need to make a compromise and honestly agree with yourself what you can re-rank because you know it will absolutely bring you greater health.

Here is a sample list of foods to stop consuming and how to rank them. This will give you an idea of how to list and rank your own food or beverages. From the list below, you have 4 items that rank in the top 5 of both ranking lists and therefore could start eliminating: they are soda, M&M’s, Wine every night (make it just weekends), or shots on the weekend.  

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Now that you have your list of what you can stop eating or drinking (hopefully one or two, more is even better), for the first few days you will want to pick just one from your list.  It doesn’t have to be the most damaging, just pick one you can honestly commit to. You can think about what you might eat or drink in it it's place. Let’s say you picked soda to stop drinking. Some options to swap in its place might be sparkling water (with or without fresh juice squeezed in), or iced tea, or fresh juice, or (decaf) coffee. We completely understand any choice for a substitute will not feel satisfying at first, but pick the one that feels the most doable.

After a few really solid days of success (it’s ok if you slip and consume the item you chose to give up once or twice in the first 2-4 days while you are trying to quit it), it is time to add one more item you can stop eating or drinking. Again, work on this one for 2-4 days, without slipping. The goal is to get to a point where you just stop eating and drinking these foods/beverages all together. The result will put you in a great place to bring in new foods/beverages and habits that will boost your health!  

Photo by  Annie Spratt  

Photo by Annie Spratt