Or go for less

From the responsible opposing views department (and Life Hacker) comes suggestions for living healthier without having to give up that lovely tasty fat: Sally on her issues with the low-fat/low-cal idea.

I love her idea trading in your big plates for 7" dinner plates and I too will raise the cheer for spicing up your food.

I disagree with her, though, that diets don't work. Approaches like the Hacker's Diet can really help. She's also got that cute blind spot that those who love active hobbies have; for a lot of us sports don't sound fun and we have to get creative to put down the book or the keyboard and get moving. Walking more was the best way for me to get out of the house & doing things. Find something you actually like that keeps you in motion and start doing it more often.

Snack Swap

Do you routinely snack on things you know are bad for you? What could you have instead?

Look through your cupboards, fridge, and purse or backpack. Pull out the things you'd like to upgrade to a better option.

Make a shopping list based on those better options. Try substituting smaller amounts of more intense flavors for bigger quantities of simpler foods. A wafer thin slice of aged sharp cheddar can be nibbled for more pleasure than a hunk of some orange-dyed bland brick. A 1" square of really good gourmet chocolate can be savored and will linger on the tongue delightfully without lingering on the hips like a Mars Bar, and the darker you go the healthier it gets. Instead of a sugary fruit-flavored drink, how about an actual piece of the fruit and a glass of water?

Now look around for any other shopping items to add to your list. How about some fresh fruit and vegetables? What's in season where you live? Could you cook something good and local tonight? See how you're doing on basic supplies that make it easier to cook at home and pack a lunch.

Check around for any other errands you could do on the way to and from the store – library books to return and grab a movie for this evening while you're there, mm? – then bag the bad snacks to give away and head out to bring the good stuff home.


Today you might have to be putting on fancy clothes in colors you never wear so you can be in a wedding party.

You might be moving heavy boxes into of a truck and cleaning the refrigerator so you can get your deposit back.

You might be working a horrible retail job you hate so you can pay rent in some skanky shared student housing while you finish your thesis.

Or maybe not.

In which case, may I recommend you enjoy that freedom and go play pinball or see a movie or both?

Cut it out

Not quit, but cut out, snip away at, remove bit by bit.

Two things to focus on changing:

1) A mental habit or worry that is eating too much of your energy or time.

2) A project or routine that isn't going anywhere or which distracts you from things you really wish you'd do more on.

Some examples:

– When you start to fret about whether you can get a date or what went wrong with a past one, use this as your reminder to do something else. "Oh, I that's right, I don't get to spend 30 minutes worrying about whether Pat likes me until after I do my stretching routine." Do that other thing and then – if you still remember – decide if spending the next 30 minutes on fretting is really what you want to have lined up next in your day.

Force spending time fretting to be a conscious decision about how to spend time; it will almost always lose out to other options since it makes you feel so silly to be choosing it.

– Want to stop spending hours watching TV and finding the evening gone? First, make sure you watch on your own schedule. Use a PVR like Tivo or even an old VCR to record shows so you aren't chained to the broadcasters' clocks like that guy in Metropolis. Second, always "buy" your TV watching time with equivalent time spent on one of your top two projects. I recommend having a creative thinking project such as writing and one that's more physical which doesn't require much mental energy so that you can make progress in different moods.

Over time, swap time that doesn't reward you for time that does.

Discarding weight

Here's the deal: take in fewer calories than you burn.
Two methods therefore, best in combination: eat less and exercise more.

There is no wiggling out of that principle.

You can eat lower caloric foods in the same quantity or eat high calorie foods in smaller quantities. You can do more intense activity when you do exercise or you can do lower intensity activity for longer and/or more often.

There is no trick about this. No magic formula.

Except – aha! – the same ideas that work for Discardia over time also can apply here. You don't have to change everything all at once, you just have to start changing things in the right direction more often than the wrong.

Running less of a caloric overflow than you do now is still better than no reduction at all. If you can't get yourself down to a caloric deficit right away, at least move in that direction.

Making sure you walk 6000 steps a day instead of 4000 is better than nothing. Aim for 10000, but don't give up if you don't get there right away.

(All this can be adapted for those who need to gain instead of lose weight, of course. Switching to a healthy high calorie substitute for something you currently eat regularly, for example. Or starting to work in higher fat accompaniments to your meals such as nuts, avocados, and cheeses could help tilt the scale the way you want to be heading.)

Re-appreciate your homeland and all its people

Today is a good one to look around with fresh eyes at the country where you live and see again the things you love about it.

Find common ground with your neighbors and with those people you sometimes forget are your neighbors.

For people in the United States, I offer this challenge: Appreciate the differences that make this country so vital and fascinating.

That means embracing the true diversity, bible belt and urban liberals, new immigrants and Daughters of the American Revolution, 5th-generation Spanish-speaking California farmworker and foreign-born governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

It's a wild and frustrating mix, difficult to blend and to understand the other viewpoints, but we don't get to pretend that only the parts we like exist and that the rest could be discarded. Like a person with pleasing & irritating habits, the pieces make the whole that we interact with.

Make the best of it, and I don't mean "lump it", I mean those words very literally: make it the best you can make it.

Seeing Through Clutter

As you practice Discardia you'll probably start to get a sense for how long it will take to get a room to feel comfortable and unchaotic. This is a great talent because it will help you be less stressed over minor clutter and stay focused on implementing deeper changes.

Parents of toddlers* will find this useful in telling the difference between an hour's tidying after the kids are tucked in and bigger changes yet to be made.

Try to work your Discardian habits to the point that you can be comfortable with and trust in a tidal pattern where you know that your routines of decluttering will wash away debris and return you to a calm, peaceful, smoothness.

*Hello to Rinn who posted on a blog called Verbatim about the potential despair induced by little household Tasmanian devils and inspired today's tip. It's fun when people I don't know are learning about Discardia from other people I don't know. Hooray for memes!

Out of Sight, Out of Your Mind to Keep?

Take a quick spin today through at least one of your best spots to store things – the attic, the basement, way back under your bed – and see if you can spot anything that you can now look at and say "Why on earth am I still holding onto that?"

Sell it, give it away, or put it into the bin for the trash/recycling angels to remove from your life.

If you can get into the habit of doing this every month or two, your next move will be much easier (and if you never move again at least your heirs won't be sobbing "What is all this crap?!")