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Blogs

One Small Change

Contributing writer Joe Kita dares to make one little, healthy change every month. Past experiments include giving up caffeine, napping daily, and stretching like it's your job.

One Small Change

Shake Up Your Routine to Keep Your Mind Sharp

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I don’t usually go around quoting Martha Stewart, but her response to the question “What is your motto?” in a recent issue of Vanity Fair seems particularly applicable to how I spent my summer vacation.

“When you are through changing,” she said, “you are through.”

For the last month I’ve been at war with habit. Each day I’ve tried to take one of my many ingrained routines and do it slightly differently. Here were some of the most entertaining:

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Tags: Focus, Attitude, Energy, Leisure Time

One Small Change

Is Your Workout on Autopilot?

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If you’re trying to be a more consistent free-throw shooter, putter, pitcher, field-goal kicker, tennis server or you name it, then you probably believe that you need to practice that skill repeatedly. Turns out you’re half right, according to Douglas Newburg, Ph.D. Although he’s a sports psychologist, he isn’t afraid to challenge the dictums of his profession. One of the biggest is that routine enhances performance. While it’s important to establish a mental and muscle memory of a key repetitive skill, he argues that it’s only beneficial to a point.

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Tags: Focus, Goals, Attitude, Sports Performance

One Small Change

6 Easy Ways to Make Any Workout Less Routine

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My baseball team is heading into the playoffs in a few weeks, and our manager suggested we get new caps—blue ones instead of the red ones we’ve been wearing all season. Look sharp, play sharp, was his reasoning.

Well, you would’ve thought he’d suggested banning Aleve (hey, this is a 45-and-over league). The response was swift and negative: You don’t mess with what’s working.

You probably see examples of this Hamster Wheel all the time: Guys on the same machine at the gym every morning, or women who defend the same spot in yoga or Zumba as if it's their personal Alamo. While habits are great if they get you exercising regularly, your muscles and mind are quick adaptors and all routines, over time, stop working and often become counterproductive.

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Tags: Attitude, Motivation, Planning, Energy

One Small Change

When Habits Are a Bad Habit

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Nearly four years ago I left a job that I had worked at for more than two decades. I grew tired of the routine and wanted to travel and pursue other creative opportunities. So I became a freelance writer/editor and took to working out of my home. But last week I was invited back to the company where I’d spent nearly half my life to fill in during summer-vacation season. It was the first time I’d been back fulltime in an office environment since December 31, 2006. I was returning to my long-established routine of waking up, shaving, showering, getting dressed, commuting, sitting in a cubicle, eating in the cafeteria, etc. And two things happened that both amazed and frightened me:

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Tags: Work, Focus, Energy, Longevity, Health

One Small Change

Train Your Brain

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Beneath your skin is a web of interconnected tissue called fascia. This three-dimensional sheath encompasses your entire body. But with age and disuse it tightens and dries out, producing aches, injuries and the classic, hunched-over, old-person look. I suspect a similar thing happens in our brains, if only metaphorically speaking. With age and disuse, its once-vibrant web of interconnectivity becomes tired and slow to spark, producing dullness, distance, and even depression. Just as inactivity and routine kills the body, habit dooms the brain.

Since you’re on this site, you likely understand how important it is to vary your workouts and keep progressing to keep your muscles challenged and your body fit. But what would happen if we became just as diligent about pulling our minds off the plateaus they settle upon by regularly changing their experience?

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Tags: Focus, Attitude, Longevity, Health

One Small Change

Switch to Small Plates

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A month ago when I committed to eating every meal from 10-inch plates or 6-inch bowls, I was skeptical. Although there’s a significant body of research showing that downsizing dinnerware promotes portion control and weight loss, it seemed gimmicky.

But I stuck with it and, before long, the experiment gained momentum. My smaller dinnerware led to smaller silverware, which led to smaller glassware, which ultimately culminated in trying to eat drive-thru fast food in a SmartCar. In the end, I weighed in 4 pounds lighter for the month without having changed any other aspect of my diet. That’s right, I didn’t reduce fat, cut carbs, or swear off sweets. I simply used smaller implements to eat.

In the 25 years I’ve been reporting on health, this is one of the easiest, most effective small changes I’ve ever encountered for weight loss. In fact, I’m not going back. Everybody else in my house is doing it, and our big plates and bowls have now been relegated to the same cabinet as the Ginsu knife, Slap Chop, Fry Daddy, and other long-discarded kitchen items.

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Tags: Health, Eating Out, Weight Loss, Calories, Food, Home

One Small Change

Is Your Car Making You Fat?

Joe Kita

This month began innocently enough with me downsizing my dinnerware from 12- to 10-inch plates. I had so much success with that one small change, I tried shrinking my silverware next, which also worked great. I was eating less without noticing it, and I had lost 3 pounds without any other dietary adjustments.

So last week I bought a Ford F-150 Super Crew pickup and while rolling through a fast-food drive-thru noticed I have enough room in the thing to host Thanksgiving. It has six enormous cup-holders, a large center console that can double as a table, and enough dashboard space to lay out an entire buffet. The truck is actually bigger than my dining room, and it provides more eating space than trendy New York restaurants.

All of which got me thinking about whether our cars might be making us fat. Everyone assumes that vehicle size has increased over the years in response to the increasing size of Americans, but what if big cars are the cause rather than the result of the tires around our guts? What if big cars subconsciously encourage drive-thru dining and super-sizing?

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Tags: Health, Eating Out, Weight Loss, Calories, Fat, Food

One Small Change

Smaller Spoon, Slimmer Body

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I just got back from a four-day retreat in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. It was held on an idyllic organic farm, where each day for lunch we were served food so fresh and plentiful that I’m going to have to back away from the keyboard right now because I don’t want to risk drooling on it.

But in the face of this tempting harvest, I stood strong. In keeping with my One Small Change vow, I ate only from 10-inch plates and 6-inch bowls. I explained to the hostess that I was trying to determine if a month of downsizing my dinnerware, while making no other dietary changes, could help me slow my eating and control my weight. And although it pained me to take so little from the daily buffet, the strategy worked: I ate less. And my scale attests: So far this month, I’m down 3 pounds.

So why, I got to thinking, should I stop here? If smaller dinnerware can produce such noteworthy results, why not switch to smaller utensils and glasses as well? Brian Wansink, Ph.D., a Cornell University professor and the author of Mindless Eating, has researched both.

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Tags: Health, Dessert, Weight Loss, Food

One Small Change

Can You Eat Sensibly at a Buffet?

Joe Kita

This month I’ve resolved to consume all my meals from smaller plates and bowls in an attempt to slow my eating, be more mindful of food, and eventually become the master of my weight. In my last blog post, I presented the convincing research behind this simple strategy. Now you’re about to see it in action.

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Tags: Eating Out, Weight Loss, Calories, Food

One Small Change

Downsize Your Dinnerware

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Some entertaining yet insightful research was published recently about the Biblical Last Supper. Brothers (as in fraternal, not Franciscan) Brian Wansink, Ph.D. of Cornell University and Craig Wansink, Ph.D. of Virginia Wesleyan College analyzed 52 of the best-known artistic renderings of Jesus’ final meal. They discovered that the plate and portion sizes portrayed had grown significantly over the last 1,000 years. Bread portions in the paintings increased 23 percent, plate sizes 66 percent, and entree dimensions 69 percent. Apparently, the artists were subconsciously reacting to the expanding plenty on their own tables. All of which illustrates the hell we’re in when it comes to controlling food intake. Even God and His apostles are eating more than they realize.

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Tags: Dinner, Eating Out, Snacks, Cooking, Metabolism, Calories, Food

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