Fifteen minutes, three days…

779hourglassOver the past couple of months I’ve been doing some radical rethinking of how I eat. Long story short, I suspect that I’ve got something going on with inflammation, and I would like to get to the bottom of it. I won’t try to get you to subscribe to anything I’m reading or experimenting with, as I’m very far from being a health coach, but my personal strategy has two parts: first, to try making a small change here and there and, second, to stick to it long enough that I can notice how I feel.

My tried-and-true strategy of “keeping it small” is working for me. I’ve read in numerous books, for instance, that Americans eat too many grains and it wouldn’t hurt to eat less of them. So I’ve given up eating grains for breakfast (I’ve cut back or eliminated them temporarily at other meals, too, just not so religiously). I did not take this on imagining that I will do it forever, just that maybe I’d try it for a few days, maybe a few weeks…and see what happens. Of course it’s more trouble to fry up veggies and eggs for breakfast than it is to pour a bowl of cereal, but I told myself, “It’s only 15 minutes” (fewer than 15, as it turns out), and so far, so good.

I am also experimenting with keeping sugar out of my mouth — at least anything that is deliberately sugary. The first day or so was the hardest, and I tried telling myself that I wouldn’t eat it just now (even setting my phone timer for 15 minutes on at least one occasion), but I could have it later if I still wanted it. Nope, didn’t want it after all.

Fifteen minutes, three days. Those are the two magic numbers for me.

This experiment began back in November, got interrupted by the holidays, continued only sporadically (an ineffective system for me), and has now gotten back on track. What I find is that an initial, very small commitment (as little as 15 minutes) gets me on track, and if I can keep plodding along, then after the first 3 days my cravings subside. I don’t want sugar if I’m not eating sugar. I was sure that my cereal with almond milk and fruit was the healthiest breakfast I could muster, but after a few days, again, I find that it isn’t that big a deal to get out a frying pan and the olive oil.

It works for writing, too.

If you want to write, then the key is to get started. You can write (or stare at a blank page) for 15 minutes to start with. You can write a list. You can write a table of contents. You can write one sentence. You can write ten sentences, each beginning with If I could write I would write a poem/story/novel/essay about.. Or I want to write about… You could describe a character, or a real person.

If you’re really, really stuck, you could try listing your excuses and responding to them.

CAM00264What I have found in years and years of thinking of myself as a writer — and dealing with the constant interruptions that have come from working at other jobs, going to school, writing stuff (like college papers) that I didn’t want to write, having a family, etc., etc., etc., is that —

  1. no matter how busy I am I can always take a 15 minute break to write, and
  2. on the third or fourth day of committing myself to a course, I break through.

15 minutes. 3 days.

New Year’s Resolutions are over-rated. Don’t resolve to write this year. But try writing for 15 minutes today. And then try it again tomorrow. If you’re not enjoying it by the time you get through a few days, then — by all means — stop.

And if you want to read another blogger’s strategies for making a change, Steve Pavlina suggests what he calls “The 30-Day Trial.”

5 replies
  1. cherielanglois
    cherielanglois says:

    Thanks for this great blog! I was actually just logging on to research anti-inflammatory foods, etc, and I’ll be interested to hear how the diet change works for you.

    • awritersalchemy
      awritersalchemy says:

      I read THE ABASCAL WAY last year, but couldn’t quite bring myself to sign on. Then (on the recommendation of habits guru Gretchen Rubin) I read WHY WE GET FAT, and that sort of set me up for the advice in (the weirdly titled) DR. GUNDRY’S DIET EVOLUTION. All three are about the science, and based on case studies and observation. It’s been interesting to see how well it works on my mental state, as much as on the physical. I know that the whole grain thing is controversial…Anyway, my path so far! (Thanks for the comment.)

  2. Katie
    Katie says:

    I’m taking the 5 week TQI (Abascal) class. I’ve been really diligent this past week and have been able to stop taking my prescription anti-inflammatory. Her plan is pretty radical (my idea of a green vegetable is an olive in my martini) but less pain is good!

    Also want to give a shout out to the 15-minute timer idea. I’ve been using it in my writing practice and I’m up to about 40 minutes a go.


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