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In this episode, Laura-Jane The Rawtarian shares the concept of "decision-free living" and how implementing a simple rule can help you make better food decisions every single day with way less mental effort.
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Welcome to Episode #32 of The Raw Food Podcast. I am your host, Laura-Jane, the Rawtarian, and in this episode we’re going to be talking all about decision-free living. We’re going to start just by talking about the general concept and what it means, and then near the end of the episode we’re going to go over how this applies to food and how decision-free living can help you make good food choices everyday. Stay tuned, and I will be back with you shortly.
DECISION-FREE LIVING: THE CONCEPT
Thank you so much for joining me on another episode of the Raw Food Podcast. As always, I am so happy to be here with you and sharing what I’ve learned about raw food and about making healthy choices and healthy habits. I love sharing tidbits that I learned that help me so that you can apply them in your own life as well. So as you heard in the beginning of this podcast, I mentioned the basic concept of decision-free living. Now of course we still have to make a lot of decisions everyday in our lives, but any time we can eliminate a decision it is a good thing because it can help accelerate you. Sometimes having a framework for your decision-making can help you make good choices.
I first heard about this concept of decision-free living probably about six months ago. I was watching a video that was really not about food at all, but somebody mentioned how they had been doing a smoothie challenge and that they liked it because it was decision-free living. Now I know I’m going on a little bit of a tangent here before I’ve even explained what it is. It’s basically the concept that if you can release yourself from some decisions in your day, that can help you make better choices. I actually was looking into this a little bit before I hit record here, and I read a statistic that said we make about 35,000 decisions every single day. Of course some of those are huge decisions; some of those are minor decisions like “What should I eat?”, “What time should I get up?”, “What should I wear?”, “What should I say?” You can imagine - there’s 35,000 of them on average every single day. Of course our brain is spending a lot of time trying to figure out what decision is best for us and also weighing those competing goals.
EXAMPLES OF DECISION-FREE LIVING
Let’s talk about health for a second here: we could eat something healthy because we know it’s good for us, or maybe we could eat a bag of chips because we know it’s going to taste great and we’re craving it. So our brain both actively and unconsciously is crunching a lot trying to figure out what to do for ourselves during the day. It’s funny - I’m going to give you a little example here about my own life, and I didn’t realize how much decision making was happening. My husband and I live in a small town. We usually drive to the bigger city maybe on a Friday night and we do a bunch of things - maybe we go to a movie and we go out to eat, and maybe we get a tea afterward somewhere, and that kind of thing. But one day, I decided that we were going to go out together and I was going to plan the whole date, and we weren’t going to discuss “Where should we go?”, “What should we do?” We had the most fabulous time, and I couldn’t believe contrasting that to our usual banter about “Where should we eat?”, “I want to go here.” There were so many decisions, I noticed, even in a very basic way in terms of my date night, that it was really nice to not have to discuss. At the outset, at the beginning of our “date,” I said, “I’m making all these decisions. I’ve planned this out. Don’t fight me on any of these things.” And he was like, “Cool, this is great. Let’s do it.” And it completely transformed our evening.
Now, another example is before I became the Rawtarian, I worked for the federal government doing some online web stuff, and it was a federal government agency where we wore uniforms. I thought it was kind of a crazy thing that I had to wear a uniform, and it was not the most flattering uniform. But it completely sped up my day so much when I had to go to work back when I was working there, because in the morning, I didn’t have to think about it. It was awesome to not have to worry about what to wear. It made my mornings way easier - not as flattering on the physical realm, but definitely way easier.
DECISIONS ABOUT HEALTHY EATING
So that’s a couple of examples of implementing tiny parts of decision-free living. But of course, what are we here to talk about today? It’s raw food and making healthy food choices. Before I even knew about the idea of trying to eliminate some decisions from your life, without even knowing it, when I went raw in 2009, I pretty much implemented decision-free living for myself when it came to food, because I told myself that for thirty days I was going to only eat raw food. That was a rule; it was only one thing I had to think about. What happened to me, basically, was when I would think about, “Okay, it’s morning. What am I going to eat?” I didn’t have to weigh all kinds of really hard decisions. I just had to think to myself, “Is this raw, or is this not raw?” You still had to make a decision - and there are some things that are a little bit of a slippery slope (in a future episode I hope to record something that talks about that: what is raw and what is not - but that’s for a future episode). So, for me, I didn’t realize it, but that was one of the big keys to my success because I knew that even if, for say, dinner, I didn’t want to have a healthy salad - I just wanted to have a raw brownie and a whole bunch of fruit - I knew that I was allowed to do that because it was raw. I didn’t have to feel bad or good or make a hard choice. So for me, using this idea of decision-free living was actually very helpful to me because I knew that I didn’t have to weigh those very difficult choices, like I said at the beginning. Let’s say you’re at work and someone has a donut. If you don’t have an easy rule like “Is it raw? Yes or no?” then you get into that murky part of your brain where it’s like, “Oh my gosh, that looks so good, and everyone else is having one, and I had a green smoothie for breakfast today, so I can probably have this donut and…” sort of on and on we go.
Now there’s probably two camps in the raw vegan world - well there’s many - but some people say, “You must go raw, and you cannot eat anything not raw,” or “You must be vegan, and you must stay on that path and do not divert from that path.” So there’s the people who say, “100 percent, all the way,” and then there’s the other people who would suggest, “Just do the best you can, and if you fall off the wagon, don’t worry about it. Don’t beat yourself up. Just get back on again.” But much like everything in life, I think it can’t be polarized so easily, so it’s not like there’s really only those two groups; there’s a whole spectrum in between. And rightly so, because it depends on a lot of different things, like your lifestyle. If you have triplets at home who are two years old and you’re having a crazy day, you might have to have more flexibility than if you’re retired and your whole day can be focused around what you eat. So when you’re making these sort of rules for yourself - if you want to make a rule for yourself - it’s important to pick the right rule. For me, when I did go raw for thirty days in August of 2009, I did have a lot of great things going for me. I had quite a bit of time at that point in time to make and prepare my food; I was working from home, so that allowed me to always have access to my kitchen and all kinds of things. So for me, incorporating that decision-free kind of framework, where I only ate things that were raw, it worked really well for me at that time.
RAW FOOD RULE SUGGESTIONS
But I’m not necessarily saying you need to do that for yourself. If can be very important to look realistically at your life and realize where you’re at and where you want to get to and set the right type of rule to help you meet that goal. You might have heard - it’s a common hashtag I’ve seen a lot on Instagram and Twitter - called “raw until four.” I haven’t actually read up a lot about this. I know quite a few people who have been doing that, and what that basically is is you eat raw for your breakfast and your snack and your lunch and maybe another snack, but then at four you relinquish your rules and maybe have a regular meal with your family at home and maybe binge in the evening after your healthy day. So that is a common rule, but I think one of the main reasons that we incorporate, say, a seven-day challenge or “raw until four” or “I’m 100 percent raw” - whether we realize it or not - is that we are trying to help ourselves and help our decision-making process throughout the day. When you’ve made a mental commitment like that, you help your brain to just have to weigh these very simple decisions like, “Is it raw or not?” or “Oops, it’s before four, so I’m not allowed to eat that.” It’s kind of like a quick and dirty way to make a decision rather than every moment have to think about all the drama regarding each thing you’re going to eat.
So that’s a little bit about decision-free living in terms of eating raw food. I just wanted to introduce you to that concept because, even for myself, as I mentioned when I went raw for thirty days, I didn’t know why it was important for me to have a rule, but that was definitely a main reason for my success - because I wanted to have an easy metric to make each decision. I didn’t necessarily eat the most balanced meals every day, but I certainly always made sure they were raw. And having that was really helpful to me - not only for myself and my own decisions, but sometimes, if I would be at a family function or something, having that rule allowed me to easily explain to my friends or co-workers or family that I was declining to eat whatever they were suggesting or offering to me because I had this basic rule that I was following, and it was a lot easier for people to understand as well.
SETTING REALISTIC GOALS
So, as you know, I have been raw since 2009, and for the first - quite a while - maybe three years, I was very much in that mode of, “Is it raw? Yes or no?” and totally strictly adhering to that rule very, very rigidly. For me that was important because, for a lot of different reasons, there was a bit of fear there. I felt if I went off the raw wagon I would fall way off and not come back, but as I’ve been raw for maybe four and a half years, over the past year or so, I’ve slightly broadened out my rule for myself. So I still consider myself extremely high raw, but occasionally I will allow myself to have other vegan foods that are, in my mind, healthy. I would never have a vegan bag of chips or something, because for me that just wouldn’t work with the basic rule that I have set for myself, but I would allow myself to have some cooked quinoa or some spaghetti squash or that kind of thing. So our rules and our decisions can also change over time, and it’s important for you, when you're setting your rule or your goal for yourself, to think about the really big picture. I know a lot of people, when January 1st comes around and we want to make the best goal we can, who say, “Well, I am very unhealthy right now, but I want to be perfect, so my goal is to be perfect starting 12:01.” That is definitely an admirable goal, but we want to think and set up rules for ourselves that actually are going to be - maybe let’s not say easy to accomplish - but we want them to be realistic and sustainable over time. One of the reasons why “dieting” is often a yo-yo kind of cycle is because people might say, “Okay, I’m going to do the watermelon diet and only eat watermelon,” but that’s completely unsustainable, and of course you inevitably might crash and go back to your normal routine. But if you set a bigger picture goal - something much more achievable like “I will eat one raw meal per day” or - let’s think of another one - “I will eat way more vegetables every day compared to how I used to eat” - something that feels a bit more manageable, then if you have a bit of success with that goal, then you could ramp up that goal and make it a tiny bit harder. For example, let’s say if you started at “I will eat one raw meal a day,” and maybe you accomplish that for a month, then perhaps after that you’ll be motivated and you’ll see some good results and you’ll choose to have eight raw meals per day. So you’re setting yourself up for success and then you can make things a little harder for yourself as time goes on. Likewise, again around January 31st, a common trap that people might fall into is of course we all want to improve in all areas of our life. So we might want to have a better career, spend more time being nicer to our family, eat better, exercise, do yoga and meditation, all these fabulous things. But if we try to make too many habits at once - if you go from being a couch potato to suddenly January 31st you’re going to eat right, you’re going to quit smoking, you’re going to do it all - frequently that does not happen. What you want to do is start with one thing that is manageable, and when you get that under control and it becomes a routine, then you can add smoothing else to it. For me, I started with food, and I feel like I have that under control and I’m in an amazing groove with that, but one of my struggles is exercise. I’m not great at that, and I still struggle with that. But we want to master one thing before we go on to the next. Or we should dabble in everything, but I do think that starting with food is very wise especially if you’re interested in weight loss because I believe it’s like eighty-five percent what you eat and fifteen percent exercise. So what you want to do is shed quite a bit of weight before you start exercising. If we think about it vice versa: if you don’t change the way you eat but you exercise once a day for thirty minutes, you’re not going to see as great results.
So that is a little bit about decision-free living. I hope that has made some sense to you. I think it does. I think the idea is that sometimes these rules help us to make the right decisions and make decision-making easier. So of course if we normally make 35,000 decisions a day, we’re probably not going to get it down to a very, very low number, if you think about how many times a day you think about, “Am I hungry? Should I eat? Should I eat this? What should I eat?” Oh my gosh, that would be very fascinating to have one of those pedometers or one of those little counters on your belt or something and every time you thought about a food decision to click the button! I don’t know what the number is but it would be a very high number. So any little tips and tricks you can do to help make those decisions easier I think is a good thing.
I hope you have found this episode helpful. I think we could all benefit from some tips like that. There’s a few little rules I’ve even made for myself not even related to food. Let’s think. You’ve heard me say before that flossing my teeth - that’s sort of a non-negotiable thing I’ve made as part of my routine. I don’t have to think at the end of the day, “Do I want to floss my teeth? Do I have the energy to floss my teeth? When was the last time I flossed my teeth? Blah blah blah…” No, I’m just like, “I have to floss my teeth; it’s part of my bedtime routine.” I don’t spend a lot of brain power thinking about it. Yes, so that is decision-free living. I think I will leave it there. As always, thank you so much for being with me and listening to the Raw Food Podcast. I also love to hear what you would like to hear about. Stay tuned for the next episode where I’m going to be talking about what is raw and what is not. Thank you, Tony, for suggesting that to me as a podcast topic idea. I really appreciate those ideas because I like to be talking about things you're going to find useful and interesting, so it’s very helpful to me to hear from you. You can certainly email me. I’m Laura-Jane, so it’s firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you so much, and have a wonderful day.
You have been listening to The Raw Food Podcast with your host, The Rawtarian. Be sure to visit me at therawtarian.com where you can browse over one hundred of my absolute favorite simple, satisfying raw vegan recipes that you’ll find pretty quick to make and with just a few ingredients, and that taste amazing. While you’re there, be sure to sign up for my newsletter, and once you’ve signed up for that, you’ll automatically get a PDF copy of eleven of my most favorite, most satisfying, and most delicious recipes including Raw Vegan Alfredo Sauce, Raw Brownies, and a whole host of other delicious recipes that you can make at home that are raw and taste amazing. Thank you so much for joining me, and I hope to hear from you very soon. And until next time, enjoy your raw adventure.
This information is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice. I encourage you to make your own health care decisions based upon your research and in partnership with like-minded, qualified health care professional(s). I wish you success on your raw journey!