Give up giving things up with The Stacking Plan
The problem with deciding to eat and live healthfully is that it implies having to give things up and go without. It suggests having to exercise virtues we may not be well-endowed with, such as resolve, and willpower. We might be able to follow a diet or regime for a while, but usually, before long, we’re not following it – we’re trailing far behind as it vanishes into the distance. And yet another hurdle is that giving things up often makes us want them more, which makes the whole exercise counter-productive. Sally Beare introduces her Stacking Plan.
The idea with The Stacking Plan is that, instead of giving things up, you add things in. The aim is to make it as easy as possible to incorporate the eating and lifestyle habits which our bodies and minds thrive on, without having to ‘diet’ or make any radical overhauls. You simply ‘stack on’ the good habits, one at a time, at a relaxed pace, until they are all in place. ‘Naughty’ habits such as brownies, pies, or wine are perfectly allowable, but because they get eclipsed by the rest, they don’t get out of control.
The Stacking Plan comprises ten good eating habits and four main lifestyle elements. Each week you add in just one good eating habit, having whatever you like the rest of the time. If all you normally eat is bananas, for example, or pork pies, or fudge, that’s fine, you can carry on doing so - just make sure you take on that week’s habit as well. When you are ready, you also add in any lifestyle habits you feel you could benefit from and enjoy doing.
Where there’s no willpower, there’s a way
I have found that this method works especially well for people who want to be healthier or lose weight, but who claim to have no willpower or don’t know where or when to start. People find it empowering to incorporate elements in bite-sized manageable chunks. There is also no guilt involved when you are stacking things on, rather than taking them away.
In the book, I chart the course of two of my Stacking Planners, Ollie and Claire. Ollie, 35, is young and exercises regularly, and yet he was overweight, had high cholesterol, was fatigued and had difficulty controlling his cravings for stodgy and sugary foods. He wanted to make changes, but didn’t know how to. Claire, 43, had low immunity, constipation, possible IBS, a heart murmur, was worried about colon cancer, and wanted to lose weight. She felt that she was ‘an emotional eater’, eating a lot of ‘rubbish’, especially late at night. Although she wanted to turn things around, she struggled with it.
After trying The Stacking Plan, Ollie discovered he had lost a stone, and he then lost two more over the next year. His cholesterol dropped from 7.5 to 5.4, his doctor let him off taking statins, he felt healthy and energised, and when he exercised he found he had a much faster recovery time. Ollie liked following The Plan because, as he said, ‘you feel like you are making changes rather than sacrifices. I will continue with it because it just feels pretty normal to me now, not restrictive in any way.’
Claire surprised herself by stopping craving ‘rubbish’ early on during the Plan. At the end of the ten weeks, in January, she had lost some ‘tummy fat’, was using her inhaler less than usual, had much more energy, and felt ‘a lot more level than I usually would coming through Christmas.’ Her good new habits had been painlessly integrated into her daily life. She said: ‘because you stack it on, it’s more achievable than cutting things out. This way I’m the boss, not my eating habits.’
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