Change your framing

Posted February 16, 2023 · 1 min read

I've been trying to get back into the habit of eating more vegetables and fewer sugary snacks. In the process, I've read countless tips about how to eat healthier, but the most influential change I've made has been to reframe my thinking about food.

Previously, I had considered veggies to be less desirable than snacks like ice cream. In this mental frame, eating ice cream was a reward, whereas eating vegetables was a necessity (if not a punishment).

When I thought about it further, though, I realized that veggies were actually more rewarding, because they provided me with essential nutrients and long-lasting energy. My new frame became "I'm treating myself by eating vegetables, which nourish me and make me feel good."

I no longer had the feeling of denying myself what I wanted; instead, I had reframed the situation, and brought my new priorities to the forefront of my mind (nutrition and energy) rather than my old ones (childlike jolt of happiness from consuming ice cream). This reframing has worked terrifically in many areas of my life where I used to begrudgingly do the "responsible" thing instead of the fun thing that I actually wanted to do:

  • Money: instead of telling myself that I should reward myself by spending money, I get excited about saving up for my longer-term financial goals.
  • Transit: whenever I feel reluctant to cycle somewhere instead of taking transit, I remind myself that I'm improving my fitness, saving my subway fare, and probably getting there faster.
  • Cleaning: even something as simple as cleaning my apartment has turned from "I have to tidy up because it's a mess" to "I feel more focused and calm in a space that's orderly."

Maybe someday I'll move past the mental framework of rewards and punishments for my own behaviour — but for now, changing what I perceive to be a reward has been surprisingly effective.


Julia Cooke © 2023