American College of Nutrition Certified Nutrition Specialist | Author | Professor of Nutrition


Five Second Rule

I am a natural procrastinator. I also keep my life very full, so this is not working out so well for me. For help I turned to a psychologist friend, who told me about the 5-second rule. Not the “food can stay on the floor for 5 seconds before it gets dirty” rule – which is not true at all. Those little buggers jump on good food fast. No, this is the “start within 5 seconds of getting the idea rule.”  brain maze

It only takes five seconds for our lazy brain to talk us out of doing something. Five seconds to talk us out of putting on our walking shoes and getting out the door. Five seconds to talk us out of washing those salad greens so they are ready for the week. Five seconds to talk us out of making a quick meal plan before going to the grocery store.

So we have five seconds to take action before we hear “I’ll do it later” or “I don’t have time” or “that sounds hard” or “what if I don’t like it”- you get the idea. Five seconds to get started, and then the good feelings start to take over and we are proud of ourselves.

We all have long range goals, this idea of what we want our life to look like. Creating this life for ourselves often involves postponing a small pleasure now for a big pleasure later. Which is hard for most of us. That little bit of discomfort can often lead to a lot of goodness.

Its not easy, but it does get easier with practice. We can train our brains to make this more automatic.

Those people who seem to get everything done and have it all under control? They take action on a good idea right away, finish and move on to the next thing. They don’t give their brain a chance to talk them out of doing what they know will benefit them. The positive payoff has, over time, made taking quick action easier because their brains know a reward is coming.

The good news is we can all get better at taking action. When we wash the salad greens, spin them dry and put them in a baggie with a paper towel it may seem like a pain at the time. The payoff comes when you have fresh, easy salads during the week and feel good getting your greens.

When you are taking a few minutes to make a meal plan and grocery list it may seem like wasted time, but when you get through the week not having to grab takeout its a great feeling. Physically, mentally and financially you come out way ahead.

Deciding on a new, healthier meal option when you order, instead of the usual greasy burger, can feel hard. The payoff comes when you find you actually like the healthier food and feel good after a meal instead of heavy and stuffed.

Taking a walk and feeling energized are way better in the long run than sitting on the couch playing an electronic game.

This is what I am working on this month. Taking action quickly when the healthy urge hits, and reaping the benefits of not talking myself out of doing those good things.

If you’ve been thinking of getting started on a healthier eating plan but talked yourself out of it, hit reply and lets get the ball rolling. You will feel great once you take that action.


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